Kohima, 9 August (MTNews): Kezhokhoto Savi, an Asst Professor in Kohima Law College and a social activist, has called attention to the plight of Indigenous Peoples and the challenges they face in preserving their distinct cultures, identities, and ways of life. Savi, while attending the celebration of International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples’ at Kohima Law College on 9 August specifically talked about the Nagas of Nagaland and emphasized the importance of safeguarding their rights, especially in the face of potential threats to their self-determination and cultural heritage.
He also advocated for the protection of the rights and identity of the Nagas of Nagaland as Indigenous Peoples and emphasized the significance of Article 371A and cautioned against any actions that might weaken the position of the indigenous inhabitants.
Right to self-determination
Savi suggests that the right to self-determination of Indigenous Peoples could be ‘materially’ affected by ‘later-arriving ethnic groups’ or colonial powers that arrived later. He pointed out that in many countries, indigenous populations have historically suffered marginalization, exploitation, and oppression by these dominant groups.
In this regard, Savi acknowledged the initiative of the state government to promulgate Register Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN). However, he urged the “original inhabitants of Nagaland” to carefully consider the implications of this initiative. He emphasized that the right to RIIN should only be entitled to the Nagas of Nagaland and cautioned against any mechanism that could exploit their rights.
“The dateline of the year of settlement must not qualify a non-Naga/non-indigenous for the proposed registration. Every citizen has its own origin and he/she is the indigenous of the origin or ancestral land and, therefore, any citizen who come to settle in another land temporarily/permanently may not claim the title of ‘indigenous’ as he/she continually holds ‘indigenous’ of his/her original land,” Savi stated.
In order to avoid holding indigenous certificates by wrong people, he advised the village councils and town wards/colonies to take precaution in issuing documents such as residential certificates, etc to the non-entitled persons. Savi also discouraged the practice of adoption especially the non-Nagas or non-indigenous person or child.
Protection of Article 371A
Savi also stressed the importance of Article 371A in the Indian Constitution and underscored the need to preserve and strengthen this article despite potential challenges from the government or other entities.
“The Naga indigenous people cannot afford to lose nor weaken in any manner the Article 371A of Indian Constitution as long as we are under Indian Constitution,” Savi stated.
In dealing with article 371A (iv) ownership of land and its resources, Savi quoted the Nagaland Land and Revenue Regulation (Amendment Act) 1978 section 2(2) which states, “Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in any Law, usage, contract or agreement, no person other than the indigenous inhabitants of Nagaland shall acquire or possess by transfer, exchange, lease agreement or settlement of any land in any area or areas constituted into belts or block in contravention of the provisions of sub-section(1).”
According to him, the Nagaland Land and Revenue Regulation (Amendment Act) 1978 provides that “only the Naga indigenous inhabitants of Nagaland shall own land and not the non-indigenous inhabitants of Nagaland.”
“We have Nagas from Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, etc., but they are not indigenous inhabitants of Nagaland and they are indigenous inhabitants of the State they reside respectively. So, as per the Nagaland Land and Revenue Regulation (Amendment Act) 1978, the Nagas of non-indigenous inhabitants of Nagaland cannot own land in Nagaland,” Savi said.
In this regard, he urged the Naga indigenous inhabitants of Nagaland to strengthen Article 371A of Indian Constitution despite arbitrary dictates by the Government of India and others.
In conclusion, he said, “The celebration of International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is an occasion to protect our land and its resources, culture, identities, traditional practices, ways of life, etc.” The event was celebrated with the theme “Youth as Agents of Change for Self-determination.”