Nagaland has been under strife since the announcement of civic bodies’ poll, the matter reaching its peak in the last week. The Nagaland civic bodies’ elections were announced in December 2016, which has been followed by extensive protests by traditional tribal bodies against the government, also resulting in loss of two lives. These traditional tribal bodies which considered Article 234(T) – providing 33 per cent reservation for women – as an infringement upon Naga tradition and customs as protected under Article 371(A) of the Constitution. Women groups under the banner of Nagaland Mothers’ Association (NMA) and Joint Action Committee for Women’s Reservation (JACWR) on their part have approached the Supreme Court.
WATCH VIDEO | Curfew Imposed In Kohima Following Violence In Nagaland: Find Out What Happened
What are the Nagaland protests about?
The Nagaland government announced civic bodies’ elections in December 2016 followed by the announcement of 33 per cent reservation of seats for women. Various tribal bodies including Naga Hoho, the apex organisation of all major tribes, have been opposing the civic elections, which were due on February 1. Their contention is that granting 33 per cent reservation for women would infringe on Naga customary laws and tradition as protected under Article 371(A) of the Constitution of India. On January 28, the opposition reached a violent stage in Kohima, the capital of Nagaland. An editorial piece in the local newspaper Nagaland Post, however, says that the reservation is not the reason why these protests were happening. The editorial says the protests were in fact against the government for not fulfiling its promise of deferring the elections and giving a period of two months during which the government, the women, and the tribal organisations were supposed to meet to come together on one decision.
What has happened since February 28?
A 12-hour bandh was called in Dimapur by several tribal associations on January 28. The bandh was also called separately in different districts by different organisations. In Kohima district that also covers the state capital, the bandh has been called by the Angami Youth Organisation. In Kiphire district, the bandh has been called by the Kiphire District Joint Co-ordination committee comprising of United Sangtam Likhum Pumji, Tikhir Tribal Council and Kiphire District GB’s Association. In Phek district, it is the Chakhesang Youth Front. The violence escalated further causing death of two people and injured several others. The situation got worse on February 2 as mobs set fire to the Kohima Municipal Council building. The fire spread and damaged the adjoining transport authority office apart from some private buildings. Several government vehicles were also damaged. Indefinite curfew was imposed in the city from 7 pm. The local government, on January 31, postponed the civic elections indefinitely.
What action has the government taken?
The violence and death of two people prompted the Home Ministry to send central forces to contain the law and order situation even as curfew and Section 144 continued to remain imposed in Dimapur and Kohima districts. Union home minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday called up state chief minister TR Zeliang and asked him to patiently convince the people of the state to accept the reality. “Singh told the chief minister that the decision taken by the state government to fulfill the constitutional obligation of holding elections to the civic bodies was not wrong at all, and advised him to patiently convince the people of the State to accept the reality,” an official press release in Kohima said. While the union home minister enquired about the law and order situation in the state, chief minister Zeliang on his part briefed Singh about the unfortunate incidents that occurred on Tuesday evening and also about the decision of the Cabinet to withhold the polls, the press release said. Majority of the candidates have already withdrawn from the election following pressure from the tribal bodies. While the ruling Nagaland People’s Front (NPF) and BJP – both allies – however have refused to withdraw their nominees, the state government has rejected the demand for postponement of the elections.
Zeliang also rejected the demand for his government’s resignation following the violence and appealed to the people to stop violence and not fall prey to rumour mongers. “Making unreasonable and unconstitutional demands such as asking the entire Cabinet to tender resignation when the Ministry has undisputed, unquestionable majority and support of the entire Assembly, is simply unacceptable and non-negotiable,” the Chief Minister’s Office said in a statement.