Nagaland has been hit by protests, bandhs, and disruptions ever since the announcement of local body elections. The contentious issue is the 33 percent reservation given to women for the first time. This has been granted under Article 234T of the Indian Constitution.
The Nagaland Government had announced the civic body elections in the month of December last year. This was followed by the announcement of 33 percent reservation for women. According to tribal groups including, Naga Hobo and Central Naga Tribal group these reservations are against Naga customary laws and traditions. The tribal groups consist of men, who have been dominating the society since a long time. On the other hand, the women represented by Naga Mothers associations have been fighting for gender equality in the state.
This conflict has led to protests and arson in the state. It reached to a violent stage when a bandh was called by the tribal groups in various districts of Nagaland. It caused the death of two people and injured several others. In the month of February, the mob reacted by setting the Kohima Municipal Corporation building on fire. An indefinite curfew was imposed after seeing the violence across the state.
The conflict also has a legal angle involved. The article 371(A) of Indian constitution gives Nagaland a special status. It states that no law passed by the parliament will have direct relations to the social or religious practices of Nagas and their customary laws and procedure. However, it comes under direct confrontation with Article 243 (D) which gives 33 percent reservation to women.
There are reasons why this reservation is important for the women of the state. One shortcoming of Nagaland politics which is clearly visible is the lack of participation by Women. Ever since the state was created in 1963, Nagaland has only seen one Lok Sabha MP. She is Late Rano M Shazia who was elected in 1977. The State Assembly with a strength of sixty members has not even seen one women MLA till date.
On seeing such miserable conditions, the women’s association named Naga Mother’s Association had approached the Supreme Court in 2012. It had demanded 33 percent reservation for women in urban local body elections. The order was in favor of the women’s association and the cabinet had allowed the holding of elections. Naga Mothers Association believes that providing reservation for women is crucial for gender equality.
The Chief Minister of the state, TR. Zeliang has been told to resign along with his cabinet for being unable to handle the law and order situation. The elections have been declared as null and void by governor PB. Acharya. Amongst all these clashes, bandhs and protest the main issue should not go unnoticed. That is the necessity to increase the participation of women in political processes. So that they get converted from being just voters to representatives of Nagaland.