Article 371 A (1) (b) is a dead letter: Naga Rising

Dimapur, June 30 (MExN): The Naga Rising group on Tuesday questioned the ‘relevance’ of certain provisions of Article 371 A of the Constitution, following Governor RN Ravi’s letter to Nagaland Chief Minister on June 16.

In a letter to the Chief Minister dated June 16, the Governor, who is the Interlocutor to Naga Peace Talks, observed that law and order in the State has “collapsed” and  he could no longer abstain from his “Constitutional obligation for law and order under Article 371 A (1) (b) of the Constitution of India,” while proposing that certain “important law and order decisions” be made only after his approval.

In this regard, The Naga Rising contended that “The reference to ‘internal disturbances’ (as mentioned in Article 371 A) has lost its meaning since the Government of India (GoI) entered into a ceasefire with the Naga groups and rolled out a peace process.”

“The Naga Rising would like to state that the relevance of the said clause in the statute book needs to be relooked in the changed political context,” the statement read.

It also claimed that the reference to internal disturbances in the Naga Hills Tuensang Area ‘immediately before the formation of that State’ does not exist anymore and that the conditions of today that the Governor refers to—large scale systemic corruption and extortion, parallel governments etc.—“are different from the ‘internal disturbances’ occurring prior to statehood.”

“If there is ‘internal disturbance’, it is largely the sum of post-1997 architecture for which the GoI is equally accountable,” it added.

The Interlocutor should know that “the GoI is equally answerable for the present state of ‘armed gangs’ roaming and operating under the watchful eyes of the ceasefire regime,” it said.

It also sought to know who authorized the setting up of designated camps of the ‘armed gangs’ and wondered whether they are the same groups currently engaged in the peace process. 

“Although Article 371 A (1) (b) remains in the statute book, The Naga Rising takes this public stand that this clause should be treated as a dead letter,” it added. 

It reasoned that continuing with this provision under Article 371 A (1) (b) and taking resort to such power is “undemocratic and amounts to delegating police powers to an office that is unelected and not accountable to the people.” 

The Naga Rising will continue to oppose such policy and action through peaceful and democratic means, it said.

“Though Article 371 A (1) (b) is a dead letter, there is no guarantee that this relic will not be invoked again in future and, therefore, The Naga Rising is of the strong view that the said clause should be deleted from the statute book,” it added.