ST/Indigenous Certificate

The Deputy Commissioner of Kohima’s recent order directing all concerned Area Administrative Officers under Kohima district to not give Scheduled Tribe/Backward Tribe/Indigenous Certificates to children of non-Naga fathers and non-Naga children adopted by Naga parents has been welcomed by many. The Naga Students’ Federation was the first major civil society organization to publicly laud the order. It may be recalled here that the Supreme Court had in 2006 ruled that children born out of a marriage between a tribal woman and a non-tribal forward-class man cannot claim the status of the scheduled tribe and seek employment in the government under the reserved category. The bench held that a person not belonging to the Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes claiming himself to be a member of such caste by procuring a bogus caste certificate is a fraud on the Constitution of India.


It can, therefore, be understood that the Kohima DC’s order is legally sound and does not endorse or promote discrimination on grounds of race, gender, sexuality, religious practice and beliefs. The DC issued the order in pursuance of an earlier notification of the Government of Nagaland and, therefore, it is safe to conclude that the matter is not a new one. However, the order has once again brought to the fore the question of Naga identity. The NSF has stated that the DC’s order is in line with the standing resolution of the NSF that the principle of ‘Nagas by Blood and not adoption’ has to be followed while determining who an actual Naga is.


Many concerned individuals have over the years expressed apprehension about this particular issue of non-Nagas having access to procuring ST/Indigenous certificates. Even tribal bodies and village level bodies have also passed resolutions on this matter. However, the fact that this issue keeps resurfacing time and again proves that there is something inherently problematic. This issue involves human relations and personal choice. As such, it is more complex than it appears on the surface. While it is the right of the ST/Indigenous communities to resort to measures that are in their best interest, it is also equally important to keep in mind that it is not made into a communal issue or the dignity of the ‘defaulters’ violated. After all, those documents are issued by the competent authorities only after the Village Councils and Ward authorities attest the individuals’ identities.


The Supreme Court in its 2006 ruling said the impact of procuring “bogus caste certificate and obtaining appointment/admission from the reserved quota will have far-reaching consequences as meritorious reserved category candidates may be deprived of posts meant for them.” However, in the Naga context, it is to be noted that the ST/Indigenous certificate is not just about getting government sanctioned benefits and job quotas.

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