Neiphiu Rio (Morung File Photo)
Morung Express News
Kohima | February 23
The contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 (CAB) continued to dominate the ongoing session of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly (NLA) on Saturday even as the ruling People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA) moved a government resolution opposing said Bill.
The afternoon segment of the day’s sitting saw an extensive debate between the ruling and opposition benches on Article 371A of the Constitution of India and the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR) Act of 1873 vis-a-vis CAB.
However, the government resolution could not be adopted as the debate prolonged till 5.30 pm and Deputy Speaker Zhaleo Rio announced that further discussion would continue on February 25 and adjourned the House accordingly.
Earlier during the session, Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, who moved the resolution in the House stated that the CAB is being pursued by the central government for enactment despite opposition and rejection by governments, political parties, tribal organizations, civil societies and others in north east India including Nagaland with deep concern over the protection and preservation of indigenous tribes from being demographically overwhelmed by conferment of citizenship on illegal immigrants as envisaged by the Bill.
The opposition MLAs contended that the House should come together unanimously against the Bill, and registered their objection that the resolution moved was termed ‘government resolution’ and not ‘NLA resolution’. They also expressed dismay over the references of Article 371A and BEFR in the resolution.
According to NPF MLA Yitachu, there are different kinds of issues where some could be taken up as ‘government and opposition’ and there are those where partisan attitude should not come in between but be discussed and resolved in the interest of the people. He said the government should not make decisions on emotions for the sake of power when things were going wrong and the people were faced with an issue such as the CAB.
“In the first, second and third decisions of the cabinet, they (PDA) were not in favour of opposing it (CAB) but when they realised and turned around on 28th January 2019 in their last cabinet meeting, they said they want to oppose it. We were happy because it is not an issue that we should fight alone,” he stated. But he said the opposition was putting up the amendment as the PDA was trying to club Article 371A and BEFR Act with CAB which only indicates that it was asking the central government whether it has any power to exercise in this aspect. “The issue before us is we do not agree with the CAB that has been brought forward. That’s all. No justification is required to bring in whatever we have with us,” Yitachu said. He asserted that Article 371A is the only power that the Nagas of Nagaland have and they could not afford “to keep on firing with that” with every issue that came their way.
He also questioned as to why the resolution at hand was made a government resolution, leaving the opposition and not giving a unanimous voice to it by calling it a NLA resolution. He pointed out that even Article 371A talks about four supreme powers that were given to the Naga people and it does not say that the government should pass a resolution but mentions assembly resolution.
Senior NPF MLA Imkong L Imchen stated that though the CAB is yet to become a law as it was lapsed in the Rajya Sabha, the spectre of its threat hovering around the indigenous inhabitants of the north east is so threatening and nightmarish. Citing several legal and political luminaries including former chief ministers Dr. Hokishe Sema and Dr. SC Jamir and even the present Chief Minister Rio regarding the vulnerability of Nagaland and the north east region to infiltration of illegal immigrants, Imchen strongly put forward that the very origin and the basic idea of the CAB goes against the very existence of the Naga people in making themselves to be the second-class citizens in their own land.
Therefore, he expressed that the 13th House of the NLA has consciously every right to go against the CAB and settle for nothing short of scrapping of the Bill.
Opposition MLA Moatoshi was less subtle in his participation in the discussion as he sardonically appreciated the PDA partners ‘for making a sudden u-turn on CAB 2016’ after the people started agitating. He reminded that the chief minister had stated on several occasions that the PDA will not oppose the Bill as Article 371A protects the Nagas.
“Now all of a sudden, they want to oppose the Bill by invoking Article 371A. I’m shocked and surprised,” he said and retorted that the members sitting in the opposition bench were not ‘nursery students’ and they understand the CAB 2016 and Article 371A is not ‘rocket science’ and needed no one to lecture them on the matter. “BEFR Act 1873, Article 371A and CAB are poles apart,” he asserted and asked the ruling MLAs not to preach about the subjects and talk as though opposition members were all out to demean or to get rid of Article 371A.
“The people of Nagaland and the north eastern states would have appreciated and applauded our honourable chief minister had he gracefully admitted that his mistake in declaring not to oppose the Bill in the first place before the people’s movement had started in the state,” Moatoshi stated. He also demanded that since the PDA is a conglomeration of five political identities, every member of the respective party should make their stand very clear on CAB 2016 in the floor of the House.
He also drew the attention of the BJP in Nagaland that if they agreed to oppose the CAB, but after the Lok Sabha elections, if the BJP comes back to power and CAB is enforced as committed by BJP president Amit Shah at Lakhimpur, whether the members of BJP Nagaland dissociate from the central BJP as is happening in Assam, Mizoram and other north eastern state. To this, the BJP president Nagaland replied in the negative.
BJP Nagaland to oppose CAB in its present form
Participating in the discussion, BJP Nagaland unit president and minister Temjen Imna Along while acknowledging what the national BJP president Amit Shah said in Lakhimpur on February 17 that the CAB would be raised if his party came back to power, asserted that BJP legislators from the state will surely approach the leaders in Delhi not to bring the Bill in its present form.
Don’t be critical of Article 371A: JD (U) legislator
The lone JD(U) legislator in PDA, G Kaito Aye is of the view that the government of the day understood that the CAB 2016 needed a rethink after the widespread protests and also the resentment shown by the people of the north east. He feels that the approach to this matter should be that the people of north east or that of Nagaland should be exempted or certain relaxation should be given when it comes to CAB. “I think it will be wrong on our part if we fight for the entire nation,” he said.
On Article 371A, he was of the view that the members of the House should not be critical of it even though they opposed the CAB in totality. The article should not be referred very critical in the eye of the nation, he stressed. He pointed out that even the national workers in the ongoing political negotiations would be making special references on land and its resources, customary practicesin line with the provisions of Article 371A . Aye said the NLA should be careful that it would not be healthy on the ongoing political dialogue if it did not tread carefully as everyone was aspiring for an early solution to the Naga political issue.
Lone independent member of the House Tongpang Ozukum is of the view that as far as the CAB is concerned, he feels the Nagas are protected by the Article 371A as well as BEFR Act of 1873 as anyone coming from outside to the state has to produce ILP. Stating that staging demonstrations will not attract the attention of the centre once the Bill gets passed except through the constitution, he advocated that the pillar to protect the Nagas from CAB was article 371 and BEFR and appealed to the opposition bench to fight in re-strengthening the constitutional provision.
NPP MLA stands with high command
Lone National People’s Party (NPP) legislator Imnatiba Ao stated that he stood by his party’s stand on the matter, however, he expressed apprehension over the context and time of the eruption of the CAB issue. He said contextually that this was taking place at a very crucial time for the Naga people as the Indo-Naga political dialogues were going on. He asserted that he was supportive of the decision of the ruling PDA of which his party is a constituent and hoped that the entire House would come to a point of concurrence on the issue of CAB.