GUWAHATI: Patriarchal Nagaland has stood its ground for 54 years since it became a state in 1963. But trouble is brewing these days.
The state government’s December 2015 decision to reserve 33 per cent seats for women in the urban local body elections has irked the menfolk. Several Naga organisations are up in arms against the decision and believe that reserving seats for women will infringe upon traditional laws. The polls are scheduled for February 1.
The Nagas are governed by centuries-old customary laws, protected under Article 371(A) of the Constitution. The men argue that the quota will infringe upon the Article.
Such is the anger that the all-powerful tribal bodies in the state have decided to boycott the polls. They have asked candidates to withdraw their names or face excommunication from their communities. This led to 53 aspirants withdrawing their candidature. The last date for withdrawal of candidature is January 17.
The discrimination is not new. The state has never elected a woman to its legislative Assembly. Late Rano M Shaiza was the state’s only woman Lok Sabha member in 1977.
“We don’t have any issues with women. They can contest the polls and get elected, but we will not accept reservation for them. Under Naga customary laws, there is nothing called reservation for any,” said
Toniho Yepthomi, president of Sumi (tribe) Hoho.
The Joint Action Committee on Women Reservation (JACWR) has petitioned the governor and the state government seeking their intervention following calls for boycott of the polls and “threats and intimidations” issued to candidates by some organisations. The JACWR was formed with members drawn from women bodies Naga Mothers’ Association, Eastern Naga Women Organisation, Tenyimia Women Organisation, Watsu Mongdang and Naga Women Hoho Dimapur.
“We are fighting for our rights as guaranteed under the provisions of 243T of the Constitution, which was enforced in 1993 and ratified by the Nagaland Legislative Assembly to include reservation for women,” the JACWR said.
“The protests are unfortunate at a time the world is moving towards greater gender equality,” said Rosemary Dzuvichu, advisor to the Naga Mother’s Association.
The Opposition Congress has urged the government to postpone the polls till a consensus is arrived. The Central Nagaland Tribes Council has also demanded postponement of the elections, warning of “unprecedented ramifications” if they are held.