When the final draft of National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam was published on July 30 last year, many citizens of Nagaland sought a similar mechanism, arguing that the demography of the state had changed drastically due to unchecked influx of illegal immigrants over the last few decades. The government of Nagaland has now come up with its own version known as the Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN). The names of the projects may be different but the purpose is the same – to identify the indigenous inhabitants of the two states. Surprisingly, the decision of the PDA government has evoked mixed reaction with most civil society organisations welcoming the move while some political parties responded with a heavy dose of scepticism, casting doubts on the manner in which it will be implemented and hinted at the possibility of misusing information by producing documents like Aadhaar card, job cards etc. for identification. Some have sought clarity on the modus operandi saying that the government’s notification didn’t define who the indigenous inhabitants of the state are and the cut-off date for eligibility. They also warned that the exercise could complicate matters instead of delivering justice.
While the concerns raised by some political parties are genuine, casting doubts from the very outset can confuse many. The state government has just issued the notification, highlighting how it will be implemented within certain time frame in a nutshell. It has informed that RIIN, the master list of all indigenous inhabitants of Nagaland, will be set up on July 10 and publish the draft within 60 days, that is by September 11 this year. It went on to say that the draft would be prepared after an extensive survey with the help of people from various villages and wards under the supervision of district administration. The process will include door-to-door visit to find out the family tree of each individual and then village and ward authorities will have to authenticate the people in the list. It is going to be a massive exercise, something that the state has not done before. If the state needs such a step to protect the interest of the people and to ensure that Indian citizens are not mistaken for illegal immigrants, thus avoiding unnecessary harassment, the citizens should work together cutting across party lines and differences to make the project a success. Lawmakers, civil society organisations, intellectuals and concerned citizens can sort out issues like criteria to make it to the list of indigenous inhabitants, possible areas where individuals as well as officials can manipulate the process etc. before the actual exercise begins instead of politicising it at the very mention of the plan. A project of such magnitude requires active participation from stakeholders. In fact, the outcome of the exercise will be determined by the participation of the masses, and if it derails, it will cost them dear. The government too should welcome positive criticism and suggestions. Its focus should be to do it right even if it has to extend the deadline by months.