A day after the Presidential Order revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, critics of the government’s move voiced apprehensions about a similar step in the Northeast.
Senior Congress leader and the former Chief Minister of Mizoram Lal Thanhawla posted a “RED ALERT to the people of NE” on Twitter, and the Governor of Nagaland, R N Ravi, issued a statement to “categorically assure” the people that they “do not have to worry at all” about the “implications of the development in Jammu and Kashmir on Nagaland”.
What are these “implications”?
‘Special provisions’ for Northeast
Jammu and Kashmir was not the only state that had special, constitutionally guaranteed privileges. As many as 11 other states too, enjoy “special provisions” under the Constitution. Six of these 11 states are in India’s Northeast — Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, and Sikkim.
Article 370 (‘Temporary Provisions with respect to the State of Jammu and Kashmir’, which has now been modified and rendered irrelevant) is contained in Part XXI of the Constitution: ‘Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions’. Part XXI of the Constitution consists of Articles 369 through 392. Each article among Articles 371, 371A, 371B, 371C, 371D, 371E, 371F, 371G, 371H, and 371J defines special provisions with regard to a specific state or states of India.
Article 371I, which deals with Goa, does not include any provision that can be deemed ‘special’. (Article 371E, which deals with Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, too, is not “special” in the sense of the other states.)
Article 371A: NAGALAND
This provision was introduced in the Constitution by the 13th Amendment in 1962 in order to protect Naga culture and society after a 16-point agreement between the Centre and the Naga People’s Convention in 1960. This agreement led to the creation of the state of Nagaland in 1963.
Under Article 371A, Parliament cannot legislate, without the concurrence of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly, on Naga religion or social practices, Naga customary law and procedure, administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law, and ownership and transfer of land and its resources.
The Article includes a provision for a 35-member Regional Council for Tuensang district, which elects the Tuensang members in the Assembly. A member from the Tuensang district is Minister for Tuensang Affairs. The Governor has the final say on all Tuensang-related matters.
Achumbemo Kikon, spokesperson of the opposition Naga People’s Front (NPF), told The Indian Express on Tuesday: “I hope the Government of India will not attempt any such step (like the one in J&K) in Nagaland; if it does, then it will not go down well.” PTI quoted Merentoshi R Jamir, spokesperson of the ruling Nationalist Democratic Progress Party (NDPP), which is in an alliance with the BJP, as expressing “apprehension” and saying he hoped “the Centre will not make any such move (regarding Article 371A)”.
Chuba Ozukum, president of the apex tribal body, Naga Hoho, said he was “apprehensive of the central government behaving with the same yardstick with Nagas as it did with respect to J&K”. Nagaland Tribal Council Secretary Theja Therieh said “this unilateral approach (of the Centre in J&K) is very disturbing and we are worried”.
Article 371B: ASSAM
Under this Article, introduced in the Constitution by the 22nd Amendment Act in 1969, the President may provide for the setting up of a committee of the state Assembly consisting of members elected from the state’s tribal areas.
Prominent Assam activist Akhil Gogoi said on Tuesday: “Definitely, there are apprehensions for the people of the Northeast. If they can scrap Article 370, then next they may target Articles 371 A-G… They have challenged and attacked the federal structure of this country.”
Article 371C: MANIPUR
This provision was introduced by the 27th Amendment in 1971. The President may provide for the constitution and functions of a committee of elected members from the Hill areas of the state in the Assembly, and entrust “special responsibility” to the Governor to ensure its proper functioning. The Governor is required to file an annual report to the President.
Article 371F: SIKKIM
The 36th Amendment Act, 1975 provides that the MLAs of Sikkim shall elect the representative of Sikkim in Lok Sabha. To protect the rights and interests of various sections of the state’s population, Parliament may provide for the number of seats in the Assembly, which may be filled only by candidates from those sections. The Governor shall have “special responsibility for peace and for an equitable arrangement for ensuring the social and economic advancement of different sections of the population”.
Article 371G: MIZORAM
Under this provision, introduced by the 53rd Amendment in 1986, Parliament cannot make laws on “religious or social practices of the Mizos, Mizo customary law and procedure, administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Mizo customary law, ownership and transfer of land… unless the Legislative Assembly… by a resolution so decides”.
Lal Thanhawla warned in his tweet of “a threat to states like Mizoram, Nagaland & Arunachal which are protected by the Consitution”, and said that “If 35A and 370 are repealed, Article 371G, which safeguards the interests and existence of lesser tribals of Mizoram is under severe threat.”
Article 371H: ARUNACHAL PRADESH
Following the 55th Amendment, 1986, the Governor has a special responsibility with regard to law and order, and “he shall, after consulting the Council of Ministers, exercise his individual judgment as to the action to be taken”. Should a question arise over whether a particular matter is one in which the Governor is “required to act in the exercise of his individual judgment, the decision of the Governor in his discretion shall be final”, and “shall not be called in question…”