One day after the state government conceded their basic demand to call off the election to urban local bodies, agitating groups in Nagaland on Saturday demanded resignation of Chief Minister T R Zeliang and his Cabinet, warning they would hold a bandh against government offices and vehicles till they stepped down. The main groups also said that they were not opposed to women contesting elections but that they should do it without reservation or quota.
Volunteers of the Nagaland Tribes Action Committee (NTAC) and Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) blocked entry to government offices and prevented government vehicles from plying in Kohima and Dimapur on Saturday. The NTAC convenor, K T Vilie, claimed that volunteers had also blocked entry to the Secretariat.
However, the overall situation remained peaceful, after the past few days of violence led to burning down of over 20 government offices.
“We will intensify our agitation and extend the bandh to all districts of the state from Monday. It will continue till the CM and his colleagues step down,” Vilie told The Sunday Express on Saturday.
He added that while the agitating groups had three main demands in the wake of the police firing that led to two deaths on January 31, the government had conceded only one, of cancelling the elections. “Two other demands — resignation of the entire ministry, and suspension of the Dimapur Police Commissioner and dismissal of the jawans who shot the two youths — remain unfulfilled,” he said.
In Dimapur, Vekhosayi Nyekha, the co-convenor of the JCC, too said there was no going back on the bandh till Zeliang resigned. “From Monday, we will also launch a campaign with the help of Hohos of each tribe to press for the resignation of MLAs from their respective tribes. This way the Zeliang government will collapse sooner or later,” Nyekha said.
The NTAC and JCC justified their stand opposing 33 per cent reservation for women in the urban local body elections. “We have no problem if women contest elections, but that cannot be at the expense of Naga traditions and customs. No Naga is opposed to women contesting elections but there cannot be any quota, especially by invoking Article 243(T) of the Constitution (which provides for 33 per cent reservation for women in local body polls). Once this is done, it will infringe upon traditional and customary rights of the Nagas as protected under Article 371(A) of the same Constitution,” Vilie said.
Nyekha warned that “apart from infringing upon Naga traditions and customs”, reservation for women would create “social problems, including political instability and corruption”. He added that protection of the Naga traditions, customs and culture under Article 371(A) was a “hard-earned right” which no Naga would like to forfeit. “It is not a gift from the government of India… A study of Naga history will clearly show how this Article was inserted into the Constitution of India,” Nyekha said.
Vilie said their bandh would not inconvenience common people. “Schools and colleges, shops and bazaars, banks and post-offices, private vehicles and business have been all exempted,” he said.
Unlike the NTAC and JCC, the Naga Hoho, an apex body of traditional organisations representing over 12 Naga tribes, has expressed satisfaction at the government cancelling the urban local body polls. “Our basic demand has been fulfilled. It is now for the state government to start a sincere dialogue with the people in order to resolve the long-pending issue,” Chuba Ozukum, the Naga Hoho president, said.
Pointing out that they had held talks with the government on the vexed issue of quota for women earlier too, Ozukum said, “After so much bad blood, it is best for the government itself to initiate dialogue with the Hohos of each tribe to find an amicable solution. At the same time it should also resume discussions with Naga Hoho, the Eastern Naga People’s Organisation and other groups.”
He warned that unless talks are begun soon, “Nagaland will, god forbid, have to face another flare-up in the near future”.