Post Mortem

RIIN and Dimapur

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 10/4/2019 11:47:50 AM IST

 Will RIIN really work? After having gone through many articles given by the state government, civil organisations and individuals about Registry of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland, it appears that the main intention of initiating RIIN is to deal with the fast changing demographic face of Dimapur. RIIN, according to my understanding, is important only for two reasons: one, to prevent outsiders (including the Nagas from outside of Nagaland) from grabbing the share of the Nagas in Nagaland in state government’s welfare schemes (including scholarship, PDS, etc) and secondly to prevent outsiders from getting state government’s job. But there are already available mechanisms such as adhaar card, residential certificate, driving licence, etc., to recognise genuine inhabitants of the state. Why all these available mechanisms are not working is simply because of corrupted and opportunist leaders.  It is for this same reason why even ILP has become a toothless law. Today our society is infested with the problem of maintaining many civil organisations and many laws. We haven’t realised yet that any good law or organisation with good intention ‘cannot be good’ if it is in the hand of ‘bad people’. In this context, whether framing a new law such as RIIN will solve the problem of Nagaland becomes a million dollar question. 

RIIN and Dimapur: At present, Dimapur is a land flowing with milk and honey. It is because of this reason hundreds of people poured in every month/year to live here. Apart from the pouring in of hundreds of immigrants (miyas) from mainland India (even from Bangladesh?), there is also the influx of Nagas from outside of Nagaland especially from Manipur that changes the demographic face of Dimapur.  Thousands of Nagas outside of Nagaland have bought land, constructed houses, and permanently settled down. They survive with their daily earnings majority of them involving in manual labour. In addition to the fear caused by the increasing number of outsiders in Dimapur, there is also the issue of settlement of Intangki Forest by a particular Naga political group (which a particular Naga intellectual expressed his strong resentment in the newspapers). With what measure RIIN will use to distinguish and treat between these two distinct groups of outsiders: Nagas outside of Nagaland and miyas/mainland Indians will be interesting to watch. 

To my reading, allowing the Nagas from outside of Nagaland to settle in Dimapur is beneficial for both the Nagas of outside and of Nagaland. I am sorry to use this analogy but it may be helpful in understanding the issue at hand. In 1980s many state government’s offices were shifted from Tadubi (7 km from Mao Gate) to present Senapati District Headquarter, Manipur. The then MLA late Soso Lorho who took initiative to shift the offices was heavily criticised by many people. Only at present, people realised that he was a farsighted man who knew the danger of migrating Kukis occupying Senapati district headquarter area. With shifting of many offices to Senapati District Headquarter, thousands of Poumai, Mao, Zeliangrong and Maram started to come and settle down in this area preventing the Kukis to come and settle in Naga’s land. Without this move, the land of Maram and Thangal in Senapati area could have been completely taken over by the Kukis. Likewise, Dimapur can be protected from the invasion of outsiders (miyas/mainland Indians) if all Nagas irrespective of regions/states is allowed to settle. Land boundary issue with Assamese may be even dealt better if all Nagas speak and work together. Therefore, the Nagas outside of Nagaland may not be barred from buying and owning land in Nagaland under RIIN. 

The fear of the Nagas in Nagaland that allowing too many Nagas from outside of Nagaland to settle in Dimapur will cause problem in the future could be a misconception. The attraction of Dimapur as a commercial hub may lose its present strength sooner than later. With railway line connecting to Imphal from Silchar most probably to be finished by 2020, only negligible number of Manipur trucks will come to Dimapur to pick up goods. Passenger vehicles will also greatly decrease. With Trans-Asian Highway passing through Senapati and Chandel district (Naga Districts) and international market at Moreh and Ukhrul, the commercial activity is likely to shift to Manipur. There is International Airport and reputed educational institutions (especially medical institutes) at Imphal. With all these developments taking place, many Nagas from Manipur may stop migrating to Dimapur. 

RIIN, Nagas and 1978: Land becomes very pricey in Dimapur mainly because of selling to and buying by Nagas of other states. Majority of them bought land and settled in Dimapur only after 1980s. Many villages were set up and many churches built. If RIIN strictly follow NLR Act of 1978 (as suggested by some Organisations) in which ‘land bought by Nagas outside of Nagaland will be deemed illegal and confiscated’, the social fabric of Naga’s brotherhood will be irreparably damaged. Many poor people have sold their land, field and forest in their own village and invested in buying land in Dimapur. Will the land owners (or state government) pay back the money (with interest) to the buyers if land is to be confiscated? Let’s consider this case. Mr. X (Naga of Nagaland) had sold out his land to Mr. Y (Naga from other state), worth lakhs of rupees in 1979. With that money, Mr. X’s children got education and later on fat job, constructed pucca building and bought vehicle. Now after more than three decades, if Mr. X is going to take back his sold out land as directed by RIIN, is that fair? Confiscation of land may be quite right under the law but from humanitarian ground it is quite unfair.  Even if possessing of land in Nagaland by outside Nagas is to be declared ‘illegal’, it should be done only after/in the year RIIN is implemented and not dating back to 1978 as the base year.  However, the traditional practice of ownership of land of the Nagas will be affected if RIIN is implemented.  The freedom to sell one’s private land with good price to fellow Nagas outside of Nagaland will be restricted affecting thousands of villagers living at the borders. Parents will not be even able to give land as gift to her daughter who is married to a Naga of other states. A Naga of other states willing to establish a school or medical institute in remote areas of Nagaland will not be possible. In Naga inhabited areas of Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam, there is no law prohibiting the Nagas of Nagaland to buy land and settle down. Rather they are welcomed with opened arms even with free gift of land. Such generous reciprocal attitude should exist among all the Naga tribes. 

RIIN, Nagas and 1963: If 1963 is taken as a cut off year to define ‘a person as indigenous’, then it will definitely disqualify thousands of Nagas who are living as an indigenous people in Nagaland for more than 50 years. According to customary practice, Nagas accept one another especially someone migrating from one village/tribe to another for various reasons. This migrated family or families are accepted by and integrated into a particular clan on humanitarian ground. Therefore among the Nagas, there was and is always flexibility of citizenship where one has the privilege of migrating and settling anywhere with equal freedom and privileges. Naga tribes thus are always a mixture of different people from different villages and tribes beyond state boundaries. For instance, there are Chakhesangs, Angamis, Zeliangs, etc. who have migrated to Poumai & Mao villages and enjoying full citizenship. I am sure there will be hundreds of Nagas from Myanmar, Arunachal or Manipur, who have migrated to different villages in Nagaland and living with full rights and privileges for decades. The imposition of RIIN with 1963 as the cut off year is likely to destroy this invaluable customary practice of accepting one another.  

It is time that Naga intellectuals and state machineries seriously think beyond Dimapur before implementing RIIN. Nagas should not be divided by geographical location. We all are one under NSF and Naga Hoho. Once we go out from our own state, we all worship together under Naga Christian Fellowship be it Shillong, Guwahati, Bangalore, Chennai, or any part of the world. If RIIN is imposed and the land bought by Nagas outside of Nagaland confiscated and chased out, or the Nagas of other states are prohibited to buy land and settle, then there could be big backlash against the Nagaland Nagas. I still believe that RIIN is helpful only to safeguard the indigenous people of Nagaland for ST scholarship and government job. But if it is going to mix up with land issue, it will become too complicated to deal with leading to destruction of the harmonious coexistence of all Naga families. Or is there hidden agenda between the NNPGs and few Naga leaders that RIIN will be implemented along with the signing of final Naga peace talk where Nagaland State will have more power and the Nagas from other states chase out especially from Dimapur? Isn’t that intentionally commiting a historical blunder? Dimapur is not the whole of Nagaland. RIIN need to seriously study and understand the Naga’s customary practices, rights of individual’s private ownership of land and the (im)possibility of land confiscation under the present situation. At this juncture, if any decision is taken and new law passed from the perspective of ONLY DIMAPUR there is possible fallout of clash among the Nagas (within and outside), which will lead to a colossal irreparable damage and breaking down of the timeless oneness of the Nagas. 

Z. K. Pahrii Pou,

BTC, Pfutsero, 

(zkpahr@gmail.com)

 

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