Any attempt to force Uniform Civil Code on the diverse communities across the country would be futile and counterproductive and that it would be a “direct threat” to the fabric of a communitarian tribal ethos and values, said MLA & Leader of NPF Legislature Party, Kuzholuzo Nienu (Azo).
By Imna Longchar, TFM Nagaland Correspondent
The 2nd session of the 14th Nagaland Legislative Assembly (NLA) commenced on Monday at the Nagaland Legislative Assembly (NLA) Secretariat, Kohima, where relevant issues were discussed as put by the members.
According to DIPR bulletin, before the start of the assembly business session, the NLA members paid tribute to Late Noke Wangnao and Late Manwai Awang, where Nagaland Chief Minister, Neiphiu Rio made the obituary reference to the passing away of Late Noke Wangnao, while NLA Speaker, Sharingain Longkumer, also made the obituary references to the passing away of Late Noke Wangnao and Late Manwai Awang.
The NLA members also observed a minute of silence for the departed souls. Late Noke Wangnao, a former Minister and sitting member of the 14th Nagaland Legislative Assembly, expired on August 28, Manwai Awang, former member of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly, expired on July 7.
UNIFORM CIVIL CODE (UCC)
Initiating the discussion on matters of urgent public importance pertaining to the Uniform Civil Code (UCC), MLA & Leader of NPF Legislature Party, Kuzholuzo Nienu (Azo), thanked the Leader of the House and the members of the 14th NLA for coming all out against the UCC.
The official bulletin stated that Azo opined that there are two important issues surrounding UCC which according to him are— Rights and equality of citizens on the one hand and on the other, national integration. He said that any attempt to force it on the diverse communities across the country would be futile and counterproductive and that it would be a “direct threat” to the fabric of a communitarian tribal ethos and values.
Azo added that imposing the UCC is betraying the “hope and trust” of the minorities, especially the tribal communities, for whom constitutional provisions, like article 371(A) has been provided to protect and promote the customs, values and practices.
He said that though union home minister, Amit Shah, has given verbal assurance to Nagaland Chief Minister and his cabinet ministers, Azo urged the August House not to rely on verbal assurances and called upon the August House to pass a resolution exempting the bill in toto.
Minister, Power and Parliamentary Affairs, KG Kenye, stated that Article 371(A) was left unused for the past few decades and has been in the lime light only a few years back.
He said that Article 371(A) of the Constitution safeguards social and religious practices and provides constitutional guarantee.
Taking part in the Discussion on matters of Urgent Public Importance, MLA, Dr Sukhato called upon the members of the August House to protect and defend the State and its resources.
He also urged the members to support the Government so that the Uniform Civil Code does not apply to the state of Nagaland.
Advisor, Imkong L Imchen, who engaged in the discussion highlighted that the implementation of UCC carries implications that could potentially lead to inconvenience for the people.
He further pointed out that the verbal assurance from the union home minister, exempting Nagaland from the UCC was greatly acknowledged at the same time commented that the timely decision taken by the Nagaland cabinet on the issue.
MLA, Nuklutoshi, participating in the discussion regarding the Uniform Civil Code (UCC), expressed his concern about its potential impact he contended that the UCC could be seen as a “violation of the 16-Point Agreement” that led to the creation of the state.
Additionally, he asserted that the UCC might infringe upon Article 371(A) and emphasized on the importance of the role of people’s representatives in advocating for the interests and concerns of the public.
He later stressed that as representatives, they should vigorously defend the voices and rights of the people they serve.
MLA, Achumbemo Kikon, said that the uniform civil code governs matters including marriage and divorce, succession and inheritance, adoption including other personal laws, though it is not enforceable in the court of laws.
Therefore, he said that UCC should not come to the state for whosoever reasons.
MLA, Dr Neisato Mero, said the idea of Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is “one nation one vote” while it is also a threat to Nagas’ social, religion, customary laws, and direct indulgence to Nagas personal laws besides contradicting Article 371 (A).
MLA, Jwenga Seb, said UCC would have negative implications on Nagas personal laws and traditions though its protection is clearly incorporated in the constitution of India therefore, UCC be exempted for the state of Nagaland by passing a resolution in the NLA.
Advisor, Labour, Employment Skill Development and Excise, Moatoshi Longkumer, who participated in the debate, said that the state government should oppose the introduction of UCC as it not only overshadows the tenet of regulation but it also threatens the pluralistic society.
As such, he opened that a resolution be passed to oppose the introduction of UCC by the NLA. Advisor, KT Sukhalu, and MLA, Er Picto also took part in the discussion and in support for exemption of the Uniform Civil Code.
In his concluding remarks, Nagaland chief minister and leader of the house, Neiphiu Rio thanked all for the productive debate, offering different views and opinions.
He said the cabinet had discussed and deliberated the issue of UCC at length and brought the matter to the Assembly for thorough discussion and deliberation after which a consensus has been arrived to pass a resolution for its exemption in the case of Nagaland by the Nagaland Legislative Assembly.
Rio termed the UCC as single law which deals with all matters relating to marriage and divorce succession and inheritance, adoption including personal laws and practices and mentioned that the UCC should be exempted for the state of Nagaland on the ground of BEFR Act 1873, 9-Point Agreement 1947, and the 16-Point Agreement 1960.
FOREST CONSERVATION ACT 2023
On the Matters of Urgent Public Importance pertaining to the Forest Conservation Act’2023, KG Kenye, actively engaging in the discussion concerning the Forest Conservation Act of 2023, articulated his perspective.
He stressed that the primary purpose of the Act is the preservation of forests and that it holds particular significance for the welfare of tribal communities and those residing along international borders while also emphasizing the importance of directing focus and attention towards the stance of the central government regarding the Act.
Kenye pointed out that Article 371(A) serves as a protective measure for the Naga community and urged the house to unite in passing a resolution unanimously, advocating for the exemption of the Act in the context of Nagaland.
Minister, Higher Education and Tourism, Temjen Imna Along who participated in the Authority debate sought for exemption of the State from the Act by passing a resolution in the Nagaland Legislative Assembly.
MLA, Achumbemo Kikon, said that the act would not affect our land and its resources, but also the villages bordering the international boundaries.
Advisor, Agriculture, Mhathung Yanthan, mentioned about the importance of Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning (CAMPA), wherein, there is a provision for compensation on the properties damaged or destroyed such as land, forest and its resources.
Minister, G Kaito Aye, and MLA, Jwenga Seb, also participated in the discussion and extended their support for exemption of the Forest Conservation Act, 2023 in Nagaland.
Participating on the Forest Conservation Amendment Act 2023, MLA, Dr Sukhato stated the Act should be applied only to Government reserved forest, wildlife sanctuaries, and National Parks, which covers around five percent of the state’s geographical area.
He also said that the forest owned by private individuals and communities measuring approximately 95% should not come under the purview of the Act.
MLA, Nyamnyei Konyak, opined that the Act should be exempted for the state of Nagaland as the State is being protected by 371 (A) in the constitution of India, and he also reiterated that a resolution be passed by the NLA in the form of a written document for posterity.
MLA, Dr Neisato Mero, said the Forest Conservation Amendment Act 2023 would jeopardize and undermine the landowners of the Nagas though protected by Article 371 (A).
After passing the Act, it would be a threat to the Nagas as they depend mostly on forest products such as flora and fauna for livelihood. He also said that if FCA is enacted, it may affect the economy of certain percentage of people. Therefore, he also opined that a resolution be passed by NLA for the exemption of the state from the Act.
MLA, Kuzholuzo Nienu said that it is important for discussion on the issue of FCA for protection of social, culture and traditions, identity, natural resources for the future generation.
He also said that it is a direct threat to our history and this act instead of preserving the forest, it will become more vulnerable to further damages. He appealed to all the members to act on it and pass a resolution in support for exemption of FCA.
Leader of the House & Chief Minister, Neiphiu Rio, in his concluding remarks said that the Nagaland Legislative Assembly would pass a resolution on the matter as discussed and suggested by the members and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the consultative meeting.
He said that land and its resources belong to the people in the case of Nagaland, however, Rio also said that the state government as well as the people of Nagaland should cooperate with the central government if the acquisition of land is for development or security related matters.
Rio also mentioned the importance and necessity to have proper legislation on Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning as it provides compensation to property loss or damaged while making development.