Kohima, July 2 (PTI): The Nagaland government’s decision to draw up a register of indigenous inhabitants has evoked mixed response from civil societies, political parties and tribal bodies in the state, with some of them welcoming the move and others seeking clarity on its modus operandi.
According to a notification issued by Home Commissioner R Ramakrishnan on Saturday, the exercise to prepare the Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN) will commence on July 10 and is scheduled to be completed in 60 days.
The list will be put together after an extensive survey of village-wise and ward-wise list of indigenous inhabitants, based on official records, under the supervision of district administration, he said.
Merentoshi R Jamir, the spokesperson of the ruling Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), said his party “fully supports” the government’s move.
“This is what we have been pushing for… The exercise will ensure proper identification of indigenous inhabitants of the state,” Jamir said.
Opposition Naga People’s Front (NPF), however, did not approve of the manner in which the notification was issued by the Neiphiu Rio-led government and sought clarity on the status of eligible inhabitants.
“The RIIN notification has failed to define who are the indigenous inhabitants of the state. It also did not set any cut-off date (for eligibility),” NPF spokesperson Achumbemo Kikon said.
He claimed that the survey, if carried out on the basis of official records, would give room for misuse of information as one can produce several documents for identification, such as the Aadhaar card, job cards and photo identity cards.
“No accuracy can be expected without any explicit or implied reference records,” Kikon added.
Echoing similar sentiments, Nagaland Pradesh Congress Committee (NPCC) president K Therie said the government seems to be in haste to complete the process.
“It may not deliver justice but further complicate matters. After Nagaland attained statehood, no rules have been set up for identification of indigenous inhabitants. Only one notice has been issued so far based on the 1963 electoral roll,” he said.
Therie also said that the exercise at this point of time might derail the Naga political dialogue, which is currently underway.
“The matter is very sensitive and needs a thorough discussion with stakeholders,” he said.
Among the civil societies, the Joint Committee on Prevention of Illegal Immigrants (JCPI), formed under the aegis of Nagaland Tribes Council, has extended its support to the government’s move, maintaining that the RIIN must include “names of only those who were Nagas by blood”.
Theja Therie, a core member of JCPI, said Nagaland, unlike its western neighbour Assam, cannot afford to prepare National Register of Citizens (NRC) for now, but indigenous identity should be upheld under all circumstances.
“Everyone, including the genuine non-Naga indigenous inhabitants, should be happy and extend support to the exercise of the government. The exercise must be conducted in real time to ensure that ineligible candidates do not make it to the list,” Therie said.
The notification issued by the government has stated that teams would be visiting each house in the state and make a list of the indigenous inhabitants residing there.
Each family member will be listed in the place of their original residence and mention will be made of any member living elsewhere, it said, insisting that no fresh indigenous inhabitant certificates will be issued.
In case someone is left out of RIIN, he/she will need to file an application before the home commissioner, who will get the matter verified and take necessary action for updating the RIIN, if needed, the notification added.
Hailing the decision, Kachari Tribal Council president Ramesh Hasnu said the members of his community will abide by the government rules.
“We appreciate the idea as it would protect the interests of bona fide indigenous inhabitants of the state,” said Hasnu.
Naga Hoho, the apex tribal organisation of the state, however, questioned the government over alleged lack of clarity in the process.
“The matter needs to be properly debated on an appropriate platform and civil societies taken into confidence before implementation,” K Elu Ndang, the federal assembly secretary of Naga Hoho, said.