People protesting against the Citizenship(Amendment) Bill, 2016 Credit: Representational image

Kohima: Standing firm on its stand, the ruling Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) has said that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is not applicable to Nagaland as the state is protected under the provisions of Article 371 (A) and the ILP and BEFR, 1873, affirmed under Clause 16 of the 16-Point Agreement.

The NDPP is an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the ruling People’s Democratic Alliance government in Nagaland.

After a deliberate meeting on January 18, the state Cabinet determined the adoption of a resolution to re-affirm all provisions of Article 371 (A) and to strengthen the implementation of the Inner Line Permit (ILP) as per Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, (BEFR) of 1873 which will be discussed in the next session of the Nagaland legislative assembly.

The state Cabinet also decided to refer the Bill to the standing committee on Article 371 (A) under Nagaland Legislative Assembly comprising of members representing all political parties to closely examine the matter.

The Cabinet also decided to further make an appeal to the Centre to have wider consultations with all Northeastern states to ensure that the rights of indigenous people are fully protected.

Subsequently, chief Minister Neiphiu Rio had written a letter to the Union home minister conveying the concern and apprehension of the people of Nagaland clearly stating that even if the Bill was enacted, it “will not be applicable to Nagaland in view of the constitutional ecosystem contained in Article 371 (A) of the Constitution of India that guarantees the Nagas their way of life un-interfered by any Parliamentary enactment, unless the Legislative Assembly of Nagaland by a resolution so decides. This is necessary to ensure that the historic and unique cultural traditions and customary practices of Nagas are protected and safeguarded for which special constitutional provisions under Article 371(A) have also been incorporated in the Constitution of India”.

In a separate statement, the state Cabinet has convened a consultative meeting of all sections, including tribal HoHos, civil societies, NGOs, political parties, prominent citizens and all stakeholders to collect the views, opinions and suggestions of all sections of Naga society.

“The consensus arrived at this meeting will naturally become the stand of the Nagaland government which we will present before the government of India”, it stated. The Cabinet further appeals all concerned to come forward and propose its recommendations in writing or through the consultative meet to the ILP Committee. This committee which has been constituted to look into BEFRF/ILP will produce its final report after it gathers opinions and suggestions from all sections in a transparent and democratic manner.

It added that since the “matter is of utmost importance and will have far reaching repercussions, we need to address the issue in a patient and sensible manner. Therefore, as a government that represents the will of the people, we assure all sections that the recommendations of the ILP committee and the stand of the state government will well and truly reflect the will and desire of the people,” a release issued by the chief minister’s office in Kohima said.

“Naga society is a very open and democratic society therefore in keeping with this tradition of ours, let us all come forward and participate in a positive and democratic manner, while avoiding all forms of negativity, with the sole intension of protecting and safeguarding the rights of our people for now and for generations to come”, it appealed.

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