Why does Nagaland want to draw up a list of all indigenous inhabitants?

The Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland, seen as a localised version of the National Register of Citizens in Assam, will be the first official master list of Nagaland’s indigenous inhabitants.

Updated - July 06, 2019 10:16 pm IST

Published - June 07, 2019 09:51 pm IST

The story so far: The Nagaland government is initiating an exercise to prepare a master list of all indigenous inhabitants of the State. This list, called the Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN), is seen as a localised version of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) that Assam began updating four years ago and is scheduled to complete by July 31.

What is RIIN? How will it be prepared?

Civil society groups in Nagaland have often conducted house-to-house surveys for listing non-Naga and IBIs (Illegal Bangladeshi Immigrants). The RIIN will be the first official master list of Nagaland’s indigenous inhabitants. Its objective, as stated in the Nagaland government’s June 29 notification, is to prevent people from acquiring fake indigenous inhabitants’ certificates. The list will be based on an extensive survey besides digging into official records of indigenous residents from villages and urban wards. The entire process under the supervision of the district administration would be completed within 60 days from the start on July 10. The notification also said designated teams of surveyors would be formed within a week from the date of its publication. These team comprising sub-divisional officers, block development officers, school headmasters and other nominated members, would visit every village and ward to make the list. Apart from Nagaland’s Chief Secretary and Home Commissioner, nodal officers of the rank of a Secretary will monitor the implementation without involvement in the adjudication process. The nodal officers are required to submit monthly updates to a permanent committee set up under the Home Department.

What are the steps of this exercise?

The survey teams have been tasked with noting each family’s original residence, current residence and documents such as Aaadhar. Hard copies of the provisional list thus prepared will be provided to all villages and wards, and published on government websites by September 11. Claims and objections — a page taken from the NRC book — will be entertained till October 30. Based on official records and evidence produced, a district’s Deputy Commissioner will adjudicate on the claims and objections from respondents. The deadline for this process is December 10. Post-verification, the RIIN will be finalised and hard copies placed in all villages and wards while electronic copies will be stored in the State Data Centre. Everyone figuring in RIIN will be issued a barcoded and numbered Indigenous Inhabitant Certificate (IIC). The process will be dovetailed with the online system of Inner Line Permit (ILP). No IIC will be issued after RIIN is finalised except to babies born to indigenous inhabitants of Nagaland.

What is this permit?

The ILP is a temporary travel document an Indian citizen has to possess to enter ‘protected’ areas of the Northeast. The Central government issues the ILP under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873, which restricted the entry of ‘British subjects’ or Indians into these areas primarily to protect the British interest in tea and oil. The restriction continued for ‘Citizens of India’ after Independence to protect tribal cultures in the northeastern region and to regulate movement to certain areas near the international border. Apart from the entire State of Nagaland barring its commercial hub Dimapur, the ILP is applicable in Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram.

Who is an indigenous inhabitant?

Nagaland has 16 recognised tribes — Angami, Ao, Chakhesang, Chang, Dimasa Kachari, Khiamniungan, Konyak, Kuki, Lotha, Phom, Pochury, Rengma, Sangtam, Sumi, Yimchungrü and Zeliang. The Kachari and Kuki are non-Naga tribes while the Zeliang comprises two Naga communities — Zeme and Liangmai. Entry in RIIN is virtually guaranteed for people belonging to these communities. Others such as the Gurkhas living in Nagaland prior to statehood (on December 1, 1963) have been recognised as indigenous. But the definition of ‘indigenous inhabitant’ has been elusive because of issues beyond the tribal-non-tribal divide. There have concerns over Nagas from other areas such as Manipur getting jobs by claiming to be indigenous besides IBIs (Illegal Bangladeshi Immigrants) “taking over” large swathes of agricultural lands. Another worry is the Naga custom of adopting new communities such as Sumiya – children of Muslim men and Sumi Naga women – who own large swathes of cultivable land. Organisations such as the Naga Students’ Federation have called for accommodating ‘Nagas by blood and not by adoption’. Some political parties have asked whether or not the “adopted non-Nagas” will be given indigenous rights. A pressure group called the Joint Committee on Prevention of Illegal Immigrants sought to end confusion and “prevent inconsistent enumeration” by suggesting December 1, 1963 as the cut-off date for considering people other than the recognised tribes of Nagaland as indigenous inhabitants.

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