The ruling Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) on Friday contended that no Act of Parliament shall apply to Nagaland unless the State Legislative Assembly by a resolution so decides. The NDPP, the major partner of People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA) Government of which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is a part, issued a statement to allay confusion in the minds of the people of the State with regard to the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.
The party said if the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill did become an Act; the Nagaland Legislative Assembly has the provisions of Article 371 (A) not to implement it in Nagaland. “This will also not be the first time that the Nagaland Legislative Assembly will be referring to the provisions of Article 371 (A) in not implementing an Act of Parliament as there has been precedence in the past,” the NDPP said.
The NDPP referred to Article 371 (A) in the Constitution as it guarantees special provisions to Nagaland. As per the special provisions, no Acts of Parliament, despite of what is in the Constitution, with regard to religious or social practices of the Nagas, Naga customary law and procedure, administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law and ownership and transfer of land and its resources shall apply to Nagaland unless so decided by the Nagaland Legislature.
The NDPP maintained that determining whether a person was a Naga citizen, along with his or her rights and privileges, rests upon the village institutions such as councils in the present context. It said village institutions were the keepers of traditional and customary laws, practices and procedure, not the Government.
It said such customary practices of Nagas were there since time immemorial and added these have been further strengthened and protected by Article 371 (A) of the Constitution. The party further stated that the Centre gave further protection to Nagaland by bringing the State under the purview of the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act (BEFRA) 1873 under which the Inner Line Permit (ILP) is issued in order to safeguard the Nagas, their citizenship along with their rights and privileges from being diluted and to maintain the sanctity of the Naga identity.
The NDPP said the BEFRA was one of the pillars to safeguard the Naga citizenship through the exercise of the ILP. Saying that the foundations of the Naga customary law was to preserve and protect the rights, privileges and the citizenship of the Naga people, which has been protected under the gambit of Article 371 (A) in its totality, the NDPP said, “It will definitely not be wise in viewing Article 371 (A) on a microscopic point of view but rather it should be viewed on a much wider perspective since the Article is a special provision given to the State of Nagaland by the Government of India….”.
Also, stating that only Dimapur was not covered by the ILP, the party said it would endeavour to impress upon the Government to ensure that BEFRA and the ILP were implemented in toto in the entire State of Nagaland, including Dimapur, and to ensure its strict implementation.