Nagaland Year Ender 2020: Challenges ahead in 2021

Staff Reporter DIMAPUR, DEC 27 (NPN) | Publish Date: 12/27/2020 12:19:49 PM IST

As Nagaland steps into the new year 2021, issues that dominated 2020 will spill-over to the new year. 

The issues include: solution to the decades-old the Naga Political Issue; challenges posed by continuing COVID-19 pandemic ; illegal taxation at check gates and business activities and thriving liquor black market and the issue of Registration of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN).

Of all, expectations for solution to the Naga political issue perhaps tops the agenda. There have been over 80 negotiations since 1997 between the government of India and NSCN(I-M) while there have been over 50 negotiations between the government of India with the Working Committee, of Naga National Political Groups(NNPGs) since 2001.

After negotiations were officially concluded by October 31,2019 between the government of India’s Interlocutor R.N. Ravi and two Naga groups-- NSCN(I-M) and Working Committee (WC) of the seven-member Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs)-- people expected solution at least by December 2019. 

While the Interlocutor exuded confidence that solution was on the cards as all issues had been discussed and concluded on October 31, 2019, NSCN (I-M) sprang a surprise by claiming that the Framework Agreement (FA) signed by the representative of the government of India and the collective leadership of the NSCN (I-M) on August 3,2015 included Naga flag and constitution for solution. According to the NSCN (I-M), since the government of India recognised the unique history of Nagas in the FA, it implied that it included Naga flag and constitution.

However, the government of India reiterated that there can be only one flag and one constitution within India. This was echoed by Nagaland Governor and Interlocutor R.N. Ravi in his speech at the 58th Nagaland statehood day when he said “ The Government of India is absolutely clear that there is and there shall be only one national flag and Constitution in India.” Ravi also said “anyone talking anything contrary is peddling preposterous lies” and “trying to confuse and mislead the people.” 

The other negotiating group- WC of NNPGs said it was ready for solution and while reaffirming that flag and constitution would be addressed post-solution. WC, NNPGs said the “Agreed Position” signed on November 17, 2017 declares that the “GoI recognises the right of the Nagas to self determine their future in consonance with their distinct identity...” 

Ravi became the first incumbent to publicly laud leaders of Naga People’s Convention(NPC) for their courage and wisdom in facilitating the creation of Nagaland as the 16th state under the Union of India through the 16 Point Agreement. Ravi also rechristened the durbar Hall at Raj Bhavan as Dr. Imkongliba Ao memorial hall in honour of late Dr. Imkongliba Ao, the first president of NPC who was martyred on August 20,1961 in Mokokchung town.

The year 2020 also saw for the first time, the Governor of the state and the chief minister falling out over the issue of law and order. This happened after the Governor Ravi wrote to the chief minister sometime in mid-June, expressing dismay over handling of the law and order matter. In the letter leaked to media , Ravi said “armed gangs” preying on contractors and firm involved in the 4-lane construction work between Dimapur to Kohima caused delays in completion of the works. The ‘letter-gate’ which was much publicised in the media, became a hot topic as the Governor had said what no other incumbent had said by indicting his own government. 

The other issue that has plagued the state through decades is over illegal collections of taxes by scores of organisations at check gates as well as shops and godowns. This issue was raised by the Public Action Committee (PAC) including ACAUT Nagaland. Many rallies have been held on the issue but it is business as usual. 

PAC had conducted checks at check gates against illegal collections during mid-September 2020 through volunteers. PAC had also demanded revocation of the Lease Agreement for collection of taxes under Dimapur Municipal Council (DMC). The system was removed but was subsequently re-introduced. The other issue is regarding syndication of market and business which has led to manipulation of the market system. PAC had also demanded banning of market syndicates. 

To check the collection menace and check upward spiralling of prices of all commodities, ACAUT Nagaland had demanded enactment of a stringent anti-extortion law like the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA).

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed with the Gauhati High Court Kohima Bench by three petitioners. The Hon’ble court on December 12,2020 issued notices on the state government and the Central Board of Indirect Taxes (Government of India).

The other issue that remains is prohibition which has only created a rising huge black market of illegal distillation, manufacture and distribution of spurious liquor.

Giving in to strong demands, the state government decided to extend the Inner Line Permit(ILP) system throughout Dimapur district.

To implement ILP system under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act 1873, the state framed guidelines known as Registration of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN), to determine who was and who was not an indigenous inhabitant of the state. 

The State government claimed that RIIN was being undertaken to prevent outsiders from acquiring fake indigenous inhabitant certificates for seeking jobs and be beneficiaries of government schemes. 

Even though the state officially has 16 recognised tribes, attempts to arrive at a conclusion is proving difficult. 

The government and NGOs differed on the cut off year for RIIN. While NGOs demanded December 1,1963 as cut off , the Governor in his address to the 13th Legislative Assembly had mentioned the cut-off as November 21, 1979, to distinguish indigenous from non-indigenous inhabitants. 

COVID-19 pandemic has posed serious challenges to normal life in Nagaland. Life has gone online-be it education, conferences, celebrations or shopping. The nationwide lockdown imposed since March 25 was extended and left many jobless and shattered the economy. COVID-19 cases struck the state particularly after a total of around 18,000 Nagas of the state returned home.

COVID-19 cases were recorded only from May 25,2020 when three were tested positive. By the last week of December Nagaland recorded around 11,897 cases and 77 deaths.

As 2020 ends, these issues are likely to spill over to the new year 2021. After wide speculations that political solution would come by Christmas 2019 and then Christmas 2020, now the speculation is that it will be by end of January 2021. However, as the NSCN(K) faction led by Niki Sumi has also expressed willingness to sign cease fire and hold talks, solution could take some time. However, even as people of the state await the political solution, they would have to grapple with other pressing problems which don’t need the Centre’s involvement.


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