Source: News Bharati English09 Feb 2017 14:04:52

Jagdamba Mall
from Kohima

Nagaland was put in flames by political rivals on the excuse of 33% reservation for women in Urban Local Bodies (ULBs). Two persons were killed and several others suffered serious bullet injuries in clashes between the police/security forces and a mob instigated allegedly by Neiphiu Rio and  his supporters as the groups of people vandalized since 31 January’17 night in Dimapur, Kohima and Longleng even as polling to some Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) in Nagaland were held on February 1. In view of the prevailing explosive situation, all mobile data services have been blocked in the state since midnight of February 1 which still continues (8.2.17) while tribal bodies opposed to holding elections called for a bandh in the whole of Nagaland. The unruly violent mob gheraoed the private residence of Chief Minister T.R Zeliang at 3rd mile Dimapur and a police force tried to stop them around 9.30 pm. In police firing here, two persons were killed and several injured. Another person died on Feb. 6 in Dimapur Hospital numbering the death toll to 3. In Longleng, seven people suffered bullet injuries in police firing in order to prevent the violent mob from entering the Office of Deputy Commissioner.

The mob damaged polling materials for all the 12 polling stations even though there was curfew under 144 CrPC. Cops also fired in the air in Dimapur on the unruly mob. Meanwhile, different tribal organisations were observing in some districts of Nagaland to boycott the elections by not allowing the voters to exercise their franchise during February 2 polling for 12 Councils. Protesters thousands in number in Kohima set ablaze secretariat building, office of Municipal Council, office of the Deputy Commissioner, Regional Transport Office and Excise Department. The govt. shut down urban polls. Now, as per the desire of Neiphiu Rio and his bandwagon, the protesters are demanding no less than the resignation of TR Zeliang and imposition of president rule.

Centre has sent 5000 security forces. Modi government has asked central security force, Assam Rifles known as “Friend of Hill People” in one of the most unprecedented moves of country’s political history to ensure the safety of Nagaland Chief Minister TR Zeliang and his residence who has been Chief minister since 2014 after resignation of Neiphiu Rio and who has been facing several dubious attempts  by Neiphiu Rio for bringing downfall of TR Zelaing govt. so that Neiphiu Rio can again be coroneted. The latter is not able to tolerate TR Zeliang and is avowed to teach a tough lesson to TR Zeliang at any costs, be it peace or the life of Naga Public or murder of TR Zeliang.

The money which these politicians have syphoned off from govt treasuries are presumably being used in funding the uprising and social chaos which is a heinous crime and punishable act which Delhi must take a note of and crush the hood of cobra well in time.

The underground opposition to TRZ govt by Neiphiu Rio and his colleagues are increasing day by day with more intensity and this political crisis is first of its kind which TRZ is facing today. Several subversive and secessionist forces including Nagaland Baptist Council of Churches (NBCC) are involved in today’s crisis. The peace seekers have turned hate preachers against their own people.

The Nagaland man-made crisis has already cost three lives, mutual trust and caused much destruction of public infrastructure. This artificial crisis is a call to review article 371A and the selective use of customary laws and their supposed infallibility.

This is not just in Nagaland but covers most of the NE. In neighbouring Manipur, the 100 days long (Nov. 1.2016 to Feb 8.2017) ongoing blockade along 2 major highways, NH2 & NH37, by United Naga Council ( UNC allegedly over the ground wing of underground NSCN-IM) rests on a similar clash of vision between art 371A plus selective use of customary laws and modern laws. The question is, can there be a reconciliation of the two visions?

The February 1 violence in Nagaland has its roots in constitution’s 74th Amendment in 1993 providing 33% reservation for women in Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) nationwide. This was not immediately adopted in Nagaland. In 2006, the Nagaland Assembly passed Nagaland Municipal (1st amendment) Act 2016 providing 33% reservation for women. The law, however, faced objection as it was felt it violated art. 371A, a clause in the constitution introduced in 1963 while forming Nagaland State stating “ no act of Parliament in respect of....... religious  or social practices of Nagas, customary law and procedure, ownership and transfer of land and its resources...... shall apply to the state of Nagaland unless Nagaland Legislative Assembly by a resolution so decides.”

After this objection, polls to municipal bodies were not held. In 2009 a powerful women organisation, Naga Mothers’ Association  (NMA) took up the issue and formed Joint Action Committee for Women Reservation (JACWR) which filed a writ petition before Kohima Bench of the Guwahati High Court in 2011 challenging state govt’s refusal to hold municipal elections.

The ruling went in its favour and the court directed Nagaland Govt. to hold Municipal Elections before January 2012 with 33% seats reserved for women but the state govt secured a stay on the ground that the order violated art 371A.In September 2012, under pressure from Naga Hoho, a Nagaland Assembly resolution overturned its earlier decision on the reservation. The JACWR, however, moved a special leave petition in Supreme Court and finally got a ruling on April 20, 2016, wherein Supreme Court upheld the High Court’s October 2011 order.

The state govt. now under Chief Minister TRZ, decided to support the cause of women’s  reservation and passed the Nagaland Municipal  (Third Amendment) Bill 2016 which revoked its September 2012 resolution. The state govt also decided to conduct polls in 12 of 32 municipal bodies in the state on January 31 after another directive from High Court.

The street violence and vandalism including the burning of public properties followed. It is rather surprising and ironic that Nagas known for their liberal approach to gender equality and status should have abnormal and extreme structural gender oppression embedded within its customary laws which have today become obsolete due to church influence. However, the close Naga observers feel that the present social commotion is the fall out of sinister political instigation by those pitted against TRZ. Considering the latter’s bitter rival, former Chief Minister and now M.P Lok Sabha Neiphiu Rio has come out strongly against TRZ and those advocating women reservation and apprehension is that more troubles are in offing in days to come. The life of Chief Minister TRZ is in danger.

Present Situation: -The apex tribal bodies along with Joint Coordination Committee (JCC), Naga Hoho and Nagaland Tribes Action Committee (NTAC) joined by 155 members from 14 tribe hoho have directed Chief  Minister TRZ to step down on the moral ground within a period of 3 days w.e.f. Feb 8. They have also resolved not to attend any consultative meeting called by TRZ.

Chief Minister’s stand: -Against the backdrop of the demand by Nagaland tribe organisations for his resignation, TRZ said on Feb, 7, “ My resignation or stepping down is beyond 33% women reservation. I’ll step down if I am reduced to a minority in a floor tests.