GUWAHATI: Tribal organisations on Saturday effected a bandh in Nagaland protesting against the state government’s decision to conduct the February 1 urban local body elections.
The Joint Co-ordination Committee, that consists of influential tribal bodies, is boycotting the polls as the government has reserved 33% seats for women in the civic bodies.
According to reports, there were sporadic incidents of violence in the commercial hub Dimapur. The protestors pelted stones at vehicles and also limited the movement of ambulances.
The district magistrate had convened a meeting with the election officials at the Dimapur Government College but the protestors laid siege to the institute not allowing the officials to enter it. Except for some places in eastern Nagaland, the bandh was effective everywhere else.
The State Cabinet on Friday decided not to defer the polls as demanded by the tribal organisations and the opposition, Congress.
“…Adequate arrangements may be taken by the administration and police for smooth conduct of the elections. However, the State government is ready for dialogues with the tribal organisations to explain its position,” the chief
minister’s office said in a statement.
The Nagas are governed by customary laws, which are protected under Article 371(A) of the Constitution. The tribal bodies argue that quota will infringe upon the Article since the customary laws do not endorse quota. They insist that
Article 371(A) provides full authority to the Nagas to decide their fate.
“The Municipal Act infringes upon Article 371(A). If we protect the power of 371(A), no law of India can disturb us,” said Vilhousa Seleyi, president of Angami Public Organisation.
“We won’t mind if women contest the elections and get elected but we won’t accept a quota for them,” said Toniho Yepthomi, the president of Sumi Hoho.
Nagaland has 16 recognised tribes and each has its own apex organisation. Any decision taken by these male-dominated bodies are final and binding on people. At the village level, the Village Councils wield such powers.
Now that the polls are lined up, there is a perception people may not turn up fearing the wrath of such organisations.
Earlier, some apex bodies of the tribes had asked the candidates to withdraw from the polls or face excommunication. Subsequently, 140 candidates of various political parties and tribes pulled out. There are 395 candidates in the fray contesting 26 town and municipal councils.
Six others recorded no nomination at all. Of the 395 candidates, 17 belonging to the Ao tribe, have been “stripped of their social and customary rights/status and ex-communicated from the Ao citizenship for 30 years” by their apex organisation Ao Senden. Action against the remaining candidates is likely if they do not fall in line by January 31.