DIMAPUR, Feb 23 - Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio has asserted that the Nagas are fully protected by Article 371 (A) and the existence of Nagaland as a State is not in question.
Replying to issues raised by the Opposition Naga People�s Front (NPF) members on Article 371 (A) and the Naga issue on the second day of the State Assembly session on Friday, Rio made a specific mention of point No. 16 of the 16-Point Agreement which was incorporated in Article 371 (A). As per the agreement, he said, the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act, 1873, remains in force in the State.
The Act protects the social practices, religion, customary law, civil and criminal justice, ownership and transfer of land, he said. Rio agreed to the suggestion of NPF MLA Imkong L Imchen to hold a special session for discussion on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
Rio said, �The Supreme Court will protect the integrity of the country and not the Nagas. Even in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, the Nagas do not have the numbers. Therefore, we all need to come together and protect ourselves and fight for our rights,� he said.
The Chief Minister pointed out that six resolutions for integration of contiguous Naga areas were taken in the Assembly in the past years. �So, there is no issue of questioning the integration,� he said.
He claimed that the Government of India is also with �integration�. As per the Centre, the �integration� has to go through a democratic process, he added.
Rio urged all concerned to participate actively and voice their thoughts during the forthcoming meetings with the Centre�s interlocutor for Naga talks, RN Ravi. He also appealed to the House to create a congenial atmosphere for expediting the political talks.
Opposition leader TR Zeliang said the Opposition party is ready to give unconditional support to the State Government to protect the rights and future of the Nagas. However, Zeliang added: �As a responsible Opposition party, it will also point out and vehemently oppose any government activity which hampers the future of the Naga people.�
Zeliang accused the State Government of making big statements with regard to strengthening the 16-Point Agreement, Article 371(A), etc. The senior NPF leader contested Governor PB Acharya�s statement in his address where he mentioned that solving the Naga political issue was the top priority of the State Government.
�If we look at the ground reality, the present Government has done nothing other than the conventional practice of setting up the Joint Legislators� Forum on Naga Political Issue,� Zeliang alleged.