Chief minister Neiphiu Rio had earlier said that Art 371A and ILP under BEFR 1873 are only weapons to protect the Nagas Credit: File image

Kohima: Chief minister Neiphiu Rio on Saturday justified his stand on the usage of the phrase “anti-Naga” during the discussion on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019, on the floor of the 13th Nagaland Legislative Assembly. Rio’s statement comes after Leader of Opposition (LoO) TR Zeliang protested against the usage of the word and appealed the Speaker of the House to expunge the word.

Although a statement spoken by the chief minister on the same issue was expunged by the Speaker, the word “anti-Naga” remained in the records of the Assembly proceedings. As reported, Rio had earlier called the Opposition as ‘anti-Naga’ if they cannot suggest any ‘alternatives’ and ‘mechanisms’ for protecting the Nagas. Rio clarified his statement on the last day of the fifth session of the 13th Nagaland Legislative Assembly.

Justifying his statement, Rio said: “On the issue of CAA and the debates that took place, I had used the word anti-Naga” because of our strong and correct opinion that Nagas are protected by Article 371A and the ILP Regime of the BEFR 1873. These provisions and protections have come to the Naga people after unexplainable sacrifices and sufferings of the Nagas as a result of our political movement. As elected representatives and political leaders it is our bounden duty to always stand by the view that Nagas are well protected by these provisions.”

“If we do not firmly stand on such a view, then who will speak out in favour of the Naga people? It is for our adversaries and those who want to weaken the Nagas to say that Nagas are not protected, but we the Naga leaders have to forthrightly stand firm on the fact that Nagas are protected protect. If this is not the case, then surely it is against the interest of all Nagas and it is in this context that I used the word anti-Naga,” he added.

He said that his query raised to the opposition bench on what solution and alternative, other than Article 371A and ILP under BEFR do they have to protect the Nagas, is also valid. Seeking the ‘provision’ and ‘alternative’ from the opposition, Rio said that there is nothing wrong in raising such question which is “valid and legitimate”.

As he continued to answer the questions raised by the Opposition in regard to the CAA, Rio challenged the allegation made by the LoO which stated that the resolution passed by the Assembly on February 25 last year was “only a government resolution and a PDA Cabinet resolution”. Rio said that the resolution was adopted as it was based on the unanimous resolution adopted by a consultative meeting of civil societies, tribal hohos and NGOs on January 31 last year which was boycotted by the NPF.

“It was unanimously agreed that Nagaland is protected by Article 371A and the ILP regime under BEFR 1873,” he said. Rio said that despite the walk-out protest by the opposition Party – Naga People’s Front (NPF) — the House adopted the resolution by a majority and therefore, is “clearly a resolution of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly”. He then said that a resolution adopted by any House by a majority is considered a resolution of that House, which is a common fact.

“Let me also remind him [LoO] that we are running the affairs of the Government because we are blessed with a majority by virtue of the people’s mandate. It is ridiculous for him to say that it was only a Government resolution”, he added.

Rio goes on to say that Zeliang had also “welcomed and appreciated the commitment of the Centre to exempt Nagaland from the purview of the CAB” as he had demanded it was the collective voice of the entire Nagaland delegation, following which both NPF Members of Parliament in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, voted in favour of CAA.

With the extension of ILP to Dimapur, bringing the whole state under ILP regime, Rio said: “The overall fact of the matter is that, we have emerged stronger and our protections under 371A and BEFR 1873 are now much more firm. We will now move collectively with other states of the north east, in the event of any eventuality, as they too have come on common ground with ILP regimes similar to us.”

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