Rio-Zeliang
File photo of Neiphiu Rio and (right) TR Zeliang. Image credit - www.india.com

It seems the war of words between the ruling Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) and Opposition Naga People’s Front (NPF) over the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) would never end.

On Saturday, the NPF said the NDPP instead of accepting its shortcomings on the Bill questioned what the then chief minister T.R. Zeliang was doing in 2016 when the state was under his guard.

The press bureau of the NPF in a release said to set the record straight, the NDPP must understand that the said Bill was proposed in the Lok Sabha on July 15, 2016 and referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on August 12, 2016.

Also read: Nagaland: NDPP fires salvo at NPF for its attack over CAB

The Bill was referred to the JPC when the present chief minister, Neiphiu Rio, was the Lok Sabha MP representing NPF party from May 2014 to February 2018.

“This fact cannot be denied by anyone,” it said.

When Rio himself was the lone Lok Sabha MP representing the NPF party at that point of time, how can be the blame shifted to the NPF party today, the Opposition party asked.

Also read: Nagaland: Opposition NPF ask ruling NDPP to highlight its achievement

It questioned, “If not for facilitating such affairs between his people and the Parliament, what otherwise was the purpose of Rio representing the Naga people at the Lok Sabha?”

On Thursday, the NDPP said union home minister Amit Shah reiterated in Aizwal on October 5 that the northeastern states will be protected through provisions in the proposed citizenship bill and that the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system in force in the states will be incorporated in the proposed Bill.

It said Shah’s statement vindicated the stand of the People’s Democratic Alliance government in Nagaland that the ILP regime and Article 371(A) will protect Nagaland.

It pointed out that Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland are protected by the ILP regime and that it was because of such provisions that the home minister had specifically mentioned about these states.

The NDPP also asked, “What was the then chief minister T.R. Zeliang doing when the proposed citizenship bill was being formulated in Parliament in 2016 while the state was under his guard?”

“What was the ruling NPF party doing that they have suddenly decided to become the guardians of the Naga people against the proposed bill when it was actually drawn during their reign?”the NDPP asked.

The NPF said it was Rio’s bounden duty as the MP from the NPF party representing Nagaland, to have consulted the state government back home while taking into confidence the voice of the Naga people since the said Bill was referred to the JPC which took over a year.

The NPF alleged he (Rio) failed to do this because he was ignorant of what was going on in the Parliament during his tenure and spending sleepless nights masterminding crisis, one after another, to topple the then NPF-led Democratic Alliance of Nagaland government in the state.

The party said the Mizo Accord was followed by special provision of Article-371(G) and Assam Accord gave birth to NRC to safeguard the interest of the indigenous people of Mizoram and Assam.

Likewise, it added, the 16-Point Agreement leading to the birth of Article-371(A) is intended to safeguard the interest of the indigenous people of Nagaland.

The NPF pointed out that despite all the provisions and measures, many leaders in the Northeast, including Meghalaya CM Conrad Sangma, Mizoram CM Zoramthanga and Manipur CM N Biren Singh, protested against the CAB.

Three Asom Gana Parishad leaders resigned as ministers in Sarbananada Sonowal government in Assam over the issue, it said.

It said despite all the hue and cry, Nagaland Chief Minister Rio stubbornly refused to budge from his naïve belief that Nagaland was protected from CAB under Article 371(A) and ILP.

The party said, “If we really mean to uphold Article 371(A), we should raise our voice before any contentious Bill is passed so that exemption of the Bill can be incorporated in the said Bill.”

Bhadra Gogoi

Bhadra Gogoi is Northeast Now Correspondent in Nagaland. He can be reached at: bhadragogoi@yahoo.com

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