GUWAHATI: Beleaguered Nagaland chief minister TR Zeliang went live on All India Radio on Monday in an attempt to reach out to the people and the protesting tribal organisations and assert his government’s position on the urban local bodies’ (ULBs) election, which triggered widespread violence and a standoff between him and the protestors.
He appealed to the protesting organisations to lift their indefinite statewide bandh which began on Monday. The bandh poses a serious threat to the holding of class X and XII board examinations beginning on Wednesday.
“…My government has had a series of discussions with various tribal organisations regarding the obligations to uphold the provisions of the Constitution as we are within the Union of India. And holding of elections to the ULBs with 33 per cent reservation of seats for women was one of them,” Zeliang said in his address on radio.
The tribal bodies, which had earlier set a deadline to Zeliang to resign and enforced the bandh after he failed to do so, are opposed to quota on the ground that it will infringe upon Article 371(A) which commits to protect Naga customary laws and rights.
The chief minister said: “…The fate and content of Article 371(A) was on the verge of being decided by the Supreme Court after the Joint Action Committee on Women Reservation (JACWR) filed a Special Leave Petition stating that Article 243(T) had superseded Article 371(A). And to pre-empt such an eventuality where the court’s verdict might go against the special provisions we enjoy through the provisions of Article 371(A), the Cabinet decided that holding of elections to the ULBs with reservation for women was the best option and decided accordingly”.
It was under Article 243(T), in force since 1993, that the government provided 25 per cent reservation to women in village development boards.
Zeliang said his government had decided not to impose any tax on land, commercial or otherwise, or on buildings in municipal and town areas as demanded by the tribal organisations but “false propaganda were spread by a few individuals saying that once elections to the ULBs are held, the local bodies would start imposing taxes even on domestic animals, vegetables and agricultural produce”.
Stating that the government is open for dialogues, he appealed to the protestors to come forward for talks and lift the bandh in the interests of the students, who would appear in their exams, and government employees who had not been able to attend offices following the protests.