Nagas and Article 371 (A)
There was a time when the Indian Parliament was not able to transact any business throughout a session after the Opposition and allies protested against certain bills tabled in the house. But in the just concluded budget session, a total of 36 bills including some controversial ones were passed, taking advantage of the toothless opposition. Lok Sabha Speaker said that it was the most productive session since 1952. Though clearance of bills paves the way for developmental works and implementation of policy decisions, the manner in which it was passed in the just concluded session has raised many eyebrows. Through one of the bills, the government has scrapped Article 370, which means Jammu and Kashmir will no longer enjoy special status as mentioned in the constitution of the country from now on. Union Home Minister Amit Shah also introduced the Jammu and Kashmir (Reorganisation) Bill, 2019, bifurcating the State into two parts — Jammu and Kashmir into a Union Territory with a legislative assembly, and Ladakh into Union Territory without a legislative assembly. The move shook the country, especially the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The tremor was also felt in a few northeastern states that enjoy special status.
Article 370, which was included in the Indian Constitution in 1949, is a ‘temporary provision’ and could be repealed if the constituent assembly of the State recommends for such a move. But the Indian government has hastily scrapped the article by taking advantage of the window given in clause 3. The clamour against the bill will not be this loud if prior consultations were held with the stakeholders, but the government undermined the parliamentary democracy by failing to do so. Such moves can create insecurity among the citizens. In fact, it has triggered a big debate among the Nagas with many expressing apprehension if the Indian government will also revoke Article 371 (A) the Jammu and Kashmir way. The fear was so visible that the governor of Nagaland and interlocutor for Indo-Naga peace talks, RN Ravi had to issue an official statement assuring the people that Article 371 (A) will not be revoked and that it is a sacred commitment to the people of the state.
But why should the Nagas worry about Article 371 (A) in the first place? Nagas want much more than the provisions enshrined in this Article of the Indian Constitution which is why the government of India and Naga insurgent groups are holding talks for more than two decades now to settle the issue. The framework agreement was signed between the Indian government and NSCN (IM) on August 3, 2015 though the final deal is still not arrived at. It’s time the Centre seal the final deal that supersedes Article 371 (A).