Recently on 16th of June in a four-page letter to Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio of Nagaland, the Governor of the state RN Ravi expressed his concern over the deteriorating law and order of the state and said that over half a dozen “armed gangs” have challenged the legitimacy of the constitutionally established state government on a daily basis. RN Ravi, who took over the charge as the Governor of Nagaland in July last year has been expressing his dissatisfaction over the law and order situation of the state since then.
The tone of his letter to the CM somehow goes against the democratic values of the Indian union, as he has expressed the desire to take control of many aspects of the state authority. This is not the first time that a Governor has come in conflict with an elected body of a Northeastern state, as there were such instances in the past. The relationship between an elected state body and representative of the Central Government has not been always cordial in this part of the country due to its complex political past. This incident is yet another example of such discomfort between the state and the Union Government. Northeast Today reports.
The controversial letter
According to the letter of the Governor, the state’s law and order machinery have created a “crisis of confidence” in the system due to their unresponsive state. The letter highlighted that “armed gangs” appoint their own “dealers” for every commodity from salt to construction material coming into Nagaland and also levy illegal taxes on every item. “Transporters have complained to me that there is over 200% cost escalation in transportation the moment a goods-laden truck enters Nagaland due to gun point extortions by the armed miscreants,” Ravi wrote in the letter.
The letter further said, the steady slide of Nagaland in all parameters – road connectivity, health and education infrastructures and livelihood – can be attributed to “siphoning off a large chunk of government funds meant for development” by the gangs.“Law abiding citizens – be the daily wage earners, petty vendors, businessmen, shop- keepers, owners of restaurants or government servants are made miserable by rampant extortions and violence by the armed gangs,” Ravi said.
Ravi further said that the situation has deteriorated and that he could no longer abstain from constitutional obligations in the state under Article 371A (1) (b) of the Constitution. He proposed that important functions such as the transfer and posting of officials be done with his approval. Ravi also proposed to periodically review the situation and if required, issue necessary directions.
The Governor’s concern over the deteriorating law and order situation of Nagaland is understandable, but his proposal to take control of some of the vital administrative power may disrupt the ongoing Indo-Naga peace talk.
Governor is indeed, empowered by Article 371A
RN Ravi, in his letter, made citation of Article 371A (1) (b), under which he has proposed to exercise his authority on some of the functioning of Nagaland Govt. It is important to mention here that Article 371 and 371 (A-J) provides special provisions to some states under the Constitution of India, particularly Northeast India. In Nagaland, it is Article 371A, which provides special provisions to the state.
While this article mostly safeguards Nagaland’s customary law and procedure, administration of civil or criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law and ownership and transfer of land and its resources from any interference by any act of Parliament, it also empowers the Governor to take control over state elected body in the matter of law and order.
The Article states that the Governor of Nagaland shall have a special responsibility with respect to law and order in the State of Nagaland for as long as in his opinion internal disturbances occurring in the Naga Hills-Tuensang Area immediately before the formation of that State continue therein or in any part thereof and in the discharge of his functions in relation there to the Governor shall, after consulting the Council of Ministers, exercise his individual judgment as to the action to be taken. Provided that if any question arises whether any matter is or is not a matter as respects which the Governor is under this sub-clause required to act in the exercise of his individual judgment, the decision of the Governor in his discretion shall be final, and the validity of anything done by the Governor shall not be called in question on the ground that he ought or ought not to have acted in the exercise of his individual judgment.
The letter in discussion is a result of such provision of the Constitution, which gives additional power to the Governor of Nagaland. Such additional power is not given to the Governors of Assam and Manipur.
There may be consequences
In a time, when Naga peace talk is in a strategic stage, Governor Ravi’s mistrust with the elected Government of Nagaland may send a wrong message. The present government in Nagaland is a coalition government of Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) where BJP is the partner. Nagaland Government has already disagreed on the Governor’s statement on deteriorating law and order situation of the State.
Ravi’s strong remark “armed gangs running their own Government in Nagaland” is surely making the ruling coalition government uncomfortable. Besides, time to time NSCN (I-M) has expressed its disagreement with the new governor. In March, this year Ravi’s comment on NSCN (I-M) angered the outfit who is in the peace talks with the Union Govt. In an interview, Ravi accused the group of misinterpreting the Framework Agreement with ‘new and mischievous interpretations’ so as to delay solution because it was ‘not prepared for a settlement’. Later in a press statement, the NSCN (I-M), termed Ravi’s statement as ‘immature and malicious’. It seems that not everything is fine with the Naga peace process.