The Big Picture: Understanding Nagaland Crisis
Despite the presence of paramilitary troops in all sensitive pockets and Section 144 imposed in both the districts Kohima and Dimapur, the violence has continued for long now. The Home Ministry has asked the CRPF to send more troops to control law and order situation and also Assam Rifles to provide more security to the Chief Minister Mr. TR Zeliang. Protests began a few days back when Naga groups protested against Urban Local Body polls which were held recently with a provision of 33% reservation for women. Despite the Government declaring the polls null and void now the protesters have refused to back down and want the Chief Minister and his Cabinet to back down.
- The agitation started because of the reservation granted to women in the election. The agitators are giving the logic that Nagaland is a special status state under Article 371-A which gives them the provision to safeguard their traditional laws. Implementation of municipal elections and women reservation would impinge upon Article 371-A of the Constitution of India according to the protestors.
- The Nagaland Government went ahead with assembly resolution and issued notifications for elections and women’s reservations despite the mass majority appealing to the Government not to do so. This has worsened the situation further.
In the North East, tribal societies are traditionally very strong and have enjoyed supremacy in their own areas. Democracy prevails there even at the village level as the village boards are very effective. What is evident at present is a transition from male dominated society to an open society. Though, socially these societies have been very open in terms of women participation but conservatism is still there when it comes to public life. They don’t want women to look powerful. The State Government passed a law with 33% reservation for women in ULBs but did not have the courage to implement it. Now, this has become law of the land and many of the groups are finding it contradictory with their customary laws. But the demand for resignation of Chief Minister and Council of Ministers is unfair because they are doing what High Court has asked them to do. Now this law can either be renegotiated or repealed but this requires a lot of courage because the Sate Government might lose the credibility that they passed a law and later repealed it.
Ever since the state of Nagaland came into existence in 1963, not a single woman MLA has been elected except one. The women’s body went to the court which gave an order for equality. Now, this cannot be challenged so easily by any State Government. This is an issue at the state level. A negotiation is not a one stop business but is a continuous process. The Government and people of different groups and civil society have to talk together. The failure of negotiation is the key issue in Nagaland. There are some groups which are not interested in final resolution of problems which are present in the state. These groups have to be identified and dealt with.