After 22-year-long fight with Centre, Naga human rights activist takes back Indian citizenship

Naga human rights activist Luingam Luithui and his wife Peingamla will now return to Manipur from Canada

NH Photo
NH Photo
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Bhasha Singh

This story is no less interesting than a script of an action-packed thriller. But the only relief is that the story ended on a happy note after a struggle of 22 years. Born and brought up in India and working for human rights in India only, 68-year-old Luingam Luithui is extremely happy about the fact that finally he and his wife Peingamla have once again become citizens of this country. Now this couple will be able to celebrate Christmas this year in their home town of Ukhaharul in Manipur. They will finally give up their citizenship of Canada which they had to take under compulsion in a state of despair.

His long and tough legal battle has made one thing very clear that no government can deprive a citizen of his citizenship. No matter whether that person is a member of some organisation or follower of some ideology, if he is a native of the country, then his right to citizenship cannot be taken away.

Luingam Luithui told National Herald that the pain of living away from his people and land for so long haunts him deeply but he is very happy that finally, justice has won. He said, “My faith in the Indian judiciary was re-established. Despite belonging to the state of Manipur and despite being a supporter of the Naga Movement, I won this case with the help and support of my lawyer Shomana Khanna and my young relatives. Now I will peacefully live in India. Living abroad for so many years was uncomfortable for me. I was not at ease and was always under stress lest I did something wrong. Your own country and your own people are after all your own…though I will again have to build my life from scratch…” his voice choked with emotions while saying this.

The suspense in his story still remains. On August 23rd, 2017, the Delhi High Court rebuked the Centre that no citizen can be deprived of his citizenship just like that and the citizenship of this couple was never annulled. The government could not tell the court on what basis and on which decision the government annulled the citizenship of this couple who fought for it for 22 years. It could not present any file in the court related to the confiscation of the passport of Luingam Luithui couple. That means the question why this Indian couple remained deprived of Indian passport for 22 long years still remains unanswered.

Luingam Luithui, who challenged the AFSPA in the 1990’s was always a target of the state and Central government and he was seen as someone connected with militant Naga outfits.

When this couple went to Bangkok to attend a seminar, Luithui’s wife Peingamla lost her passport. So they applied for a duplicate of the same. But they were not given the passport. The government started harassing Luingam Luithui since 1995. He was in Ottawa, Canada, when he was told by the Indian High Commission that their passport was cancelled in 1995 only and he was forced to get out from there.

He started this fight for justice after that. His nephew in India, Chingya Luithui, took it upon himself to help him out. The Central government provided only this much information that because Luingam Luithui was associated with the militant Naga organisations, hence his citizenship has been annulled. When they could get nothing more from the government, they went to the senior lawyer Shomana Khanna in 2008-09. Shomana told National Herald, “In my 23-year-long career in law, I had not seen a case like this. There was no document available. Only this could be seen clearly that the couple was a victim of sheer injustice. For three years information was drawn out only through RTI. For a year, we prepared the petition and from 2013 to 2017, we fought the case.

To what extent the government can lie and how openly it can violate the citizens’ rights - this case presents a live example of it.

Luingam Luithui’s family showed amazing courage. He has no kids of his own but his brothers’ sons fought tooth and nail to bring him back.”

Luingam Luithui’s nephew Chingya Luithui who is also the petitioner in this case told National Herald, “We have received a major relief by this decision of the court. We belong to the Luithui clan, where elders are given a lot of respect. And anyway, a Naga can never tolerate injustice. We have grown up fighting this case only. But now the Centre knows that it cannot do whatever it wants to the people of the northeast.”

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