Representatives of five political parties, including CM Nephiu Rio and 15 civil bodies posing after the consultative meet. Credit: EastMojo image

Kohima: The consultative meeting held between the government of Nagaland and civil society organisations on Thursday decided to unanimously oppose the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

Invoking article 371 (A), which provides special protection and safeguard to the rights and privileges of the citizens of Nagaland, the meeting asserted, “No act of Parliament shall apply in the state of Nagaland unless the Nagaland Legislative Assembly by a resolution so decides. No non-indigenous person can claim rights and privileges as Nagaland stands protected under the provisions of Article 371 (A) and the Inner Line Permit (ILP) mechanism as per the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 which has been reaffirmed as Clause 16 of the 16 Point Agreement.”

Further opposing the Bill, the resolution passed by the various stakeholders at the meet reasoned, “Any person who acquires Indian citizenship through the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill will be ineligible for acquiring property or settling down in Nagaland as any other non-Naga including Indian citizens are presently.” As article 371 (A) also ensures that no non-indigenous inhabitant of Nagaland can acquire property or settle down in Nagaland.

The meet was attended by representatives of several political parties including Chief Minister Nephiu Rio led Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), National People’s Party (NPP), JD (U), BJP, and NCP, as well as influential student and civil bodies including Eastern Nagaland Peoples Organisation (ENPO), Naga Students’ Federation (NSF), Eastern Naga Students’ Federation (ENSF), Naga Mothers Association (NMA), Nagaland University Teachers Association (NUTA), Angami Public Organisation (APO), Ao Senden, Chang Tribal Council, Lotha Hoho, Phom People Council, among others.

Expressing his dissent against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, Rio urged the people of Nagaland to reject the Bill which violates the privileges mentioned in clause six of the 16th point agreement. He said, “There is nothing more to discuss, now we have to strengthen our voices by taking appropriate decisions and by passing a resolution in the Assembly.”

With the Naga People’s Front (NPF) not showing up at the crucial meet, Rio termed its absence as “unfortunate”, as the issue needs to be deliberated upon in unison. NPF has been boycotting several important state events including Republic Day celebrations and Hornbill Festival.

Interestingly, the state unit of the BJP, which has been pushing for the bill at the centre, was part of the meeting.

Opposing the bill, Imna Along, president of the state unit of BJP, said, “The party has decided to send a party representative to Delhi to apprise central leaders to safeguard the indigenous rights of the Nagas and the people of the northeast as a whole.”

Apart from discussing the bill, the meeting also decided upon discussing the enforcement of ILP regulations all over the State including the district of Dimapur in the state assembly. It also approved on constituting a high-powered committee on the ILP and related regulations.

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