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Nagaland Cong for special status

K.V. Pusa

Kohima, June 4: The Congress today said Article 371(A) of the Constitution, which protects rights of the Naga people, was an instrument of accession of the Naga people to the Union of India and any attempt to alter or abrogate the agreement would harm the state.

Reacting to reports of a possibility of abrogation of the article by the BJP-led NDA government, former president of Nagaland PCC and candidate in the Lok Sabha elections, K.V. Pusa, said Article 371(A) is an article of faith and accession of the Nagas to the Union of India. Any attempt to rewrite or abrogate the article, which protects certain rights of the Naga people, would be tantamount to abrogation of statehood agreement signed in 1960 and known as 16-Point Agreement, he said.

Under this article, no act of Parliament can be implemented in Nagaland without the consent of the Assembly.

According to Article 371(A), Nagaland is a sovereign state within the Union of India. The state was also placed under the ministry of external affairs but later brought under the ministry of home affairs without the consent of the Naga people, he alleged.

There are also some clauses which are yet to be implemented, like integration of contiguous Naga-inhabited areas under one administrative unit. The special financial assistance under the 16-Point Agreement has also been stopped since 1989.

The Naga people are unhappy with the way the Centre has overridden Article 371(A) over the years and are apprehensive that they would be hesitant to sign any pact in future with the Centre. The Centre has also not implemented the Hydari Ali Agreement or nine-point pact of 1948 and Shillong Accord of 1975 with the Naga National Council which spearheaded the Naga national movement.

Over the years, the privileges have been overridden by various constitutional orders by the Centre. Chief minister T.R. Zeliang also cautioned that abrogation of the article would amount to cancellation of Nagaland’s statehood. He said his government would activate the Assembly committee on Article 371(A) and strengthen the article.

Former Nagaland Speaker and ex-adviser to chief minister Z. Lohe said Article 371(A) provides quasi-sovereign status to Nagaland on land and its resources and that Nagaland’s constitutional status is higher than any other states in the country. “Therefore, when any political solution is evolved, it must enhance the existing status of Nagaland be it political or economic,” he said.

According to him, a political solution without political promotion but with a mere economic package as a temporary measure may not be branded as honourable.

Pusa suggested that the parties engage in dialogue to hammer out a solution to the protracted Naga political problem to find an honourable and acceptable solution which would be “above” Article 371(A).