Even as Narendra Modi and Amit Shah go around the world thumping their chests how they completed the unfinished task of fully integrating India by scrapping Article 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution relevant to Jammu and Kashmir, they are simultaneously swearing by the same Constitution, guaranteeing the people of Nagaland, seeking an independent and sovereign Nagaland, that Article 371A identical to Article 370, which guarantees similar special status to the people of Nagaland, will not be scrapped in the same manner as 370.
Nagaland Governor R N Ravi a one-time Special Director in the Intelligence Bureau (IB), implicitly a favourite of ex-IB Director and currently National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval has had a very quick and steady rise in the recent past, since the advent of Modi regime first as chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) and then as the interlocutor for peace talks with the people of Nagaland demanding a separate flag and separate Constitution of Nagaland. This is actually a comedown, a concession to this Government granted by the Nagas after protracted negotiations lasting more than a decade, from seeking secession from India and recognition as a sovereign independent state, adjoining Myanmar. Mindless of that the BJP led government has been negotiating with their most strident and firm representative body the NSCN-IM led by Isaac Muivah and hopes that the Nagas will readily accept the guarantees prescribed under Article 371A.
In the meantime, the BJP led by our hardline Home Minister Amit Shah had already incorporated the Naga People’s Front (NPF) into the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) as a member thereby laying claim of ruling even Nagaland through its alliance partner. But the people of Nagaland have all along been suspicious and sceptical of the designs of the Indian state fearing subsuming of their identity by the mainstream Indian politics. This is not to question the right of any people to decide their fate and future, but just to demonstrate how communally duplicitous the Modi-Shah regime, governing India is, using diametrically opposite standards for the people of Nagaland and those of Kashmir, merely because Kashmir happened to be the only Muslim majority region in entire India and because the whole premise of the BJP/RSS politics and ideology is based on a narrow communal perspective.
Within days of scrapping Article 370 on August 5, the Naga negotiating team expressed legitimate apprehension while on the one hand, they are demanding much more than the people of Kashmir, the Indian state appears to be scrapping even the limited autonomy and special status granted to states under the Indian Constitution.
Naga Hoho the apex tribal body of Nagas in Nagaland had expressed concern over BJP led government’s move to scrap Article 370. Naga Hoho president Chuba Ozukum had said, “We are concerned about the move to scarp the article 370.This is really undemocratic and undermining the minorities. We have apprehension that if the Government of India can scrap 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, it can remove 371(A) in Nagaland.” There were similar protests and apprehensions expressed by the leaders of North East hilly states like Manipur and Tripura but of that later.
That is when Governor Ravi went public giving assurances, swearing by the Constitution. He said, “Dear brothers, sisters and children of Nagaland. Some people have expressed apprehensions over the implications of development in Jammu & Kashmir on Nagaland. I would like to categorically assure you all that you don’t have to worry at all. Art 371A is a solemn commitment to the People of Nagaland. It is a sacred commitment. We are trying hard to conclude the on-going political process at a very advanced stage.”
Meanwhile, the talks with the Nagas are stuck on their persistent demand for having their own flag and Constitution to preserve their distinct identity. Governor Ravi had set a deadline for October 31 to sign the deal with the Nagas, but that date has passed and the Nagas are still dilly-dallying signing an agreement with the Government of India.
It may surprise many Bhakts who keep parroting Modi/Shah/RSS line of uniformity as Unity and lament the fact that they cannot go and settle or buy property or seek government employment in Jammu and Kashmir due to limitations prescribed by Article 370, that Article 371 also grants similar special status to others and has sub sections A to J extending these limitations to areas.
Significantly as has often been repeated by many learned critics restriction on outsiders from seeking employment and settling in Jammu and Kashmir was ordained by the Maharaja of Kashmir much before Independence on the request of the Kashmiri Pandits fearing being overwhelmed by the Punjabis from Lahore and the Indian Constitution makers merely retained that provision under Article 35A on their request.
The explanatory note on Article 371 states that Article 371 is connected to granting special provisions for some states of the Indian Union. Ranging from Article 371, 371A to 371J the various sub sections of this article give special provisions for the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Nagaland, Assam, Manipur, Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Goa and Karnataka. Please note that the main 371 is prescribed specifically for Maharashtra and Gujarat and in Gujarat for the regions of Saurashtra and Kutch to protect the region from becoming a hunting ground for the get rich quick fortune seekers.
And if we go by the word of the Nagaland Governor R N Ravi, Article 371 is a “solemn commitment” and irrevocable, but not 370.