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Naga system

By   /  April 13, 2017  /  Comments Off on Naga system

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At the creation of the state of Nagaland, the State of Nagaland Act 1962 and the Constitution Thirteenth Amendment Act 1962 provided some very peculiar rights for the Naga tribes, that of making own laws in accordance with the customs and traditions of the tribes. The new state was clearly a step ahead of those areas of the 5th Schedule and the 6th Schedule that were notified for administration of tribal communities in the country and specifically the tribal areas of Northeast states. As a full-fledged state, Nagaland has its own legislature, to make laws, and it also has Article 371(A) that gives special provisions to stop extension of any Act of the Parliament to the state in relation to religion, social and customary laws and procedure prevailing in the state. The state thereafter was given special powers to frame laws to govern especially local self governance according to the various customs and traditional practices. Although not specified explicitly, Clause 8 of the 16 point agreement is an intrinsic part of Article 371(A). The clause states that each tribe of the State will have The Village Council; The Range Council; and The Tribal Council.

However even after 54 years since statehood except for the village council the establishment of the other institutions could not materialise till date. There were failed attempts in some areas and in some cases in lieu of the range councils, area councils were also started but was unsuccessful. The Act passed by the NLA has just the mention of the establishment of these bodies but there was very less clarity and no relevant rules were promulgated along with the Act. The range/area politics also might have had a negative effect in some areas as it is still quite evident. Looking at the present state of affairs, it is the non-constitution of the tribal councils as part of the local self governance which is the main reason for the failure the system in the state. Some of the Naga nationalist leaders who just wrote-off the agreement as a sell-off also might have been deterrents in the establishment of a strong and successful Naga system within the state. Along with the councils, it was also envisioned that there would be tribal courts for all the tribes whereas in the village, the village council also have judiciary powers. So after 54 years, except for the village councils there are no other bodies that are completely part of the local self government. Therefore the tall claims made of Article 371(A) is actually an insult the Act itself since the vision and the objective is yet to cascade down in reality.

In a seminar of Naga customary laws held in 1974, former adviser to the Governor and the author of The World of the Nagas in his paper presentation stated that during the “British period, the entire power of bringing in laws or denying Provincial or Central laws to tribal areas, including Naga areas, was vested in a sole individual; the British Governor”. He further added that the Constitution with its special provisions have made power for bringing in laws regarding social, religion and customary laws passed by the Parliament into Nagaland has been given to the elected representatives of the State. That statement was made 42 years ago and still the State is almost in the same state as then except for providing the village councils with statutory powers. It is time the lawmakers of the state take back the powers they have abdicated for so long.

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