Nagaland: Tribal bodies call for indefinite bandh escalating tension in North East

The Election Commission is likely to face obstacle in holding Urban Local Bodies election in Nagaland as a number of civil society organisations in the state declared indefinite bandh from 27th January, if the state government does not postpone polls as demanded.

After Manipur, Nagaland is the second state in the north eastern region of the country where the Election Commission is facing trouble in holding election.

A public meeting held in Dimapur by the civil society groups on Monday passed the resolution that indefinite bandh in the state would be followed from 27th of January if the state government does not decide to defer the polls until the Municipal Act is reviewed, as per their demand, reported Eastern Mirror Nagaland.

"The public rally called by the Joint Coordination Committee formed by several apex tribal organisations demanding the government to postpone the civic polls witnessed a mammoth turnout at the State Stadium on Monday and resolved to give the government four more days till 26 January to postpone or else face indefinite closure in the entire state," stated the report.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The civil society groups in Nagaland have been demanding postponement of the polls since the ULB election was declared on 21st December.

The polls are slated for 1st of February.

Civil society organisations in Nagaland view the newly implemented Municipal Act which provides 33% reservation of seats for women, as opposed to the customary laws of the Naga tribes.

Hokiye Sema, the President of Central Naga Tribal Council, which also demands abolishing of the provision of reservation for women in the civic polls, told Firstpost, “In Naga society a woman is not considered to be equal to men. She is not even allowed to speak in Panchayat until and unless she is summoned by it. Providing 33% reservation to women amounts to giving her the same status as men and it gives men inferiority complex.”

He also said that the Naga society has been following the customary laws for more than thousand years and those cannot be just wiped out.

He added that it is the government’s responsibility to protect the rights of the Naga People as provided for in the Constitution of India in the Article 371(A).

The Article 371(A) in the constitution says, “Notwithsatanding anything in this Constitution, (a) no Act of Parliament in respect of (1) religious or social practices of Nagas,(2) Naga customary law and procedure,(3) and administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law,(4) ownership and transfer of land and it’s resources, shall apply to the state of Nagaland unless the Legislative Assembly of Nagaland by a resolution so decides."

The bandh, if implemented, would be another stumbling block for the state trying to hold civic elections to put in place a proper democratic structure.

The bandh could be directly seen as an attempt to avert the implementation of a constitutional mandate to hold elections in a state. The 74th amendment of the Indian Constitution mandates that every Urban Local Body has to have elected representatives in the lines of Panchayati Raj in the rural areas.

Moreover, it could also stall the implementation of the smart city project in Kohima, which is one of the major developmental projects planned in the state. According to the guidelines of the smart city project, a city has to have an elected urban local body to implement the project. The guideline mandates that a Special Purpose Vehicle is to be formed in participation with the Urban Local Bodies. "The implementation of the Mission at the City level will be done by a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) created for the purpose. The SPV will plan, appraise, approve, release funds, implement, manage, operate, monitor and evaluate the Smart City development projects. Each smart city will have a SPV which will be headed by a full time CEO and have nominees of Central Government, State Government and ULB on its Board," reads the project guidelines.

Then comes the threat of detoriarating the law and order situation in an a state where public order implementation is already difficult. The insurgent groups who still are not into the Naga Peace Talks process may also take advantage of the hostile situation in the state — the Centre has been engaging in peace talks with NSCN(IM), another major banned outfit NSCN(Khaplang) continues to be out of the peace process.

The bandh also does not bodes well for Manipur that is already reeling under financial crisis induced by constant blockades placed by local Naga groups, that are protesting against the state government's policies. The centre recently sent 4,000 paramilitary force to Manipur to contain law and order situation erupted by the economic blockade imposed by the United Naga Council. The economic blockade has resulted in acute shortage in fuel and essential commodities. And the Nagaland bandh will further cripple the supply chain as the declared bandh may further obstruct the highways connecting to the state.

Published Date: Jan 24, 2017 21:53 PM | Updated Date: Jan 24, 2017 22:00 PM

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