The Naga People’s Front (NPF) has rejected the Forest Conservation Amendment Act of 2023, labeling it as “anti-tribal and anti-constitutional.” NPF’s Leader Kuzholuzo Nienu has recommended that the state government take immediate action, utilizing Article 371(A) of the constitution, to pass a resolution nullifying the amendment. He also called for a special legislative session or the inclusion of the matter in the upcoming Assembly session to counter the Central Bill.
Nienu argued that the amended act poses a significant threat to tribal lands, potentially subjecting them to commercial exploitation or militarization under the guise of national security. He highlighted how the amendment undermines the authority of the state government, granting the Central government exclusive control over forest-related matters.
Despite the Act’s provisions exempting projects near international borders, Nienu warned that it could lead to encroachments on protected and unclassified forest areas, potentially compromising both national security and local livelihoods. He cautioned against unchecked infrastructural and industrial activities that could harm precious forest ecosystems.
Furthermore, Nienu highlighted the historical context, referencing the attempted eviction of forest-dwelling tribes in 2019 and the limitations of the Forest Rights Act of 2006. He argued that the current Act aligns with a growing trend of politicizing forests and wildlife for broader national and commercial interests.
Nienu observed a contrasting approach in Mizoram, where the Forest Rights Act was extended in accordance with Article 371(G) of the constitution. In Nagaland, however, the Legislative Assembly has yet to decide on adopting the same legislation, despite years of committee evaluation under Article 371(A).