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Rongmei tribe recognition: Cabinet withdraws Aug 2012 notification

Rongmei Nagas with their traditional dresses
DIMAPUR: Nagaland government, in pursuant of the decision of the cabinet at the meeting held on April 25, 2017, has withdrawn with immediate effect, the August 4, 2012 notification regarding recognition of Rongmei tribe as one of the indigenous Naga tribes of Nagaland.

Further, as per the Office Memorandum of the cabinet secretariat dated April 26, 2017 it stated that “the 1313 people belonging to the Rongmei tribe, already identified by Nagaland government through special enumeration process as having permanently settled in the present territory of Nagaland prior to 01.12.1963, along with their legitimate descendants, may continue to enjoy the status, privileges and entitlements of indigenous inhabitants of Nagaland...” 

The cabinet at the meeting, discussed at length the various issues connected with the implementation of the earlier cabinet decision dated July 23, 2012 regarding recognition of Rongmei tribe by the state government.

The decision for revocation/ de-recognition by the cabinet has finally put to rest the pending conflict with various Naga tribes of Nagaland over giving such status to one tribe as there were fears that it would legitimise similar recognition to other tribes from other states. This apprehension was as its height during 2012-14.

Since 2012 when the DAN-II government, on the eve of the 2013 assembly election, notified Rongmeis as an indigenous tribe of Nagaland, it led to strong opposition  among various tribes of Nagaland for which, Nagaland Tribes Council (NTC) demanded revocation of the order. The demand also has the backing of various other tribes of Nagaland. Later the issue was taken up in earnest by Central Nagaland Tribes Council (CNTC) during 2016.

In a recent representation to Nagaland chief minister, Dr. Shürhozelie Liezietsu, NTC had also stated categorically that the land and people are synonymous and cannot be separated. “Records are clear that Rongmeis have no ancestral land in Nagaland, and therefore they cannot be given indigenous Naga tribe status in Nagaland,” the representation stated. The organisation urged the chief minister to “heed and respond positively to bring the issue to a logical conclusion”.

Central Nagaland Tribes Council (CNTC) had also issued a 30-day deadline in 2016 on the state government, to revoke recognition of Rongmei as an indigenous tribe of Nagaland and also resolved to demand that the endorsement by the Naga Hoho submitted to the government in September 22, 2008 be “withdrawn”. CNTC warned the state government that it would resort to own course of action if the demand was not met.
NTC had been on loggerheads with past and present chief ministers over the issue when the state cabinet had purportedly overruled its own expert committee against granting status of scheduled tribe of Nagaland on Rongmeis. 

The NTC had also pointed out that the expert committee maintained that granting entitlement to all 1313 Rongmeis and their descendents who had settled in the state prior to 1963 for availing benefits of reservation to pursue employment and education “will not make them an indigenous Naga tribe of the state”.

The DAN-II government had maintained that recognition of Rongmei as a tribe of Nagaland was in lieu of some 1313 enumerated as Rongmeis in the electoral list. 

However, the state government’s own Election department had nullified the claim when it stated that “Rongmei is not found/not available” in the electoral roll under Kohima district since 1963.

In July 2014 the Angami Public Organisation (APO) had also agreed with various other tribes of Nagaland and decided to urge upon the chief minister to derecognise Rongmei as a recognised indigenous community of the state. 

The APO at its executive meeting in April 2014 opined that opening of the door for recognition of other Naga tribes from other states (or country) would lead to demand by other Naga tribes of similar background such as Maos, Poumais, Tangkhuls, Hemis etc and added that if similar demands by other Naga tribes for recognition was denied then it would again amount to discrimination.

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