Nagaland civic polls: State faces shutdown as govt to hold elections with 33% quota for women

Nagaland saw a shutdown for the second day on Saturday as the state government decided to go ahead with Urban Local Bodies election despite demand from the tribal organisations to postpone it until the Municipal Act is reviewed.

The indefinite shutdown called by the Joint Co-Ordination Committee of the tribal bodies that became effective Friday is likely to hit the ULB elections slated on 1 February.

 Nagaland civic polls: State faces shutdown as govt to hold elections with 33% quota for women

Nagaland Chief Minister TR Zeliang. Image courtesy PIB

The state government on Friday had a cabinet meeting that decided to go ahead with its decision to hold municipal election despite protests, said a report by the Nagaland Post.

The report quoted a press communique issued commissioner and secretary to chief minister, Himato Zhimomi as saying, "While deliberating on appeals made by various organisations, the cabinet decided that elections cannot be deferred and shall be taken to the logical conclusion as per the provisions of law."

Meanwhile, as precautionary measures, the state government on Friday night put in place police personnel across Dimapur district to tackle any kind of eventuality during the bandh period, said the report.

The JCC decided to postpone the indefinite bandh from Friday to Saturday, responding to the state government's request seeking a day's time to halt the implementation of the shutdown until the cabinet meeting was over, but few districts followed with the shutdown.

Vichutolie Mere, president of the Chakhroma Public Organisation, which is also a part of the JCC told Firstpost, "The chief minister asked for one day's time. His request was accepted, but finally, the cabinet decided to go against our demand."

Adding that the Nagaland government is behaving like a communist government he said even though the government has decided to go ahead with the polls, a free and fair election will not be possible, on account of the shutdown.

"The polling booths will be blocked and no one will be allowed to cast votes. Even if any candidate is elected he will not be allowed to function," Mere said.

Earlier 140 intending candidates out of 536 withdrew their nominations, as tribal organisations opposing the election threatened to ex-communicate them.

Seven municipal bodies did not see a single nomination filed due to poll boycott declared by the tribal organisations, said The Indian Express.

On the other hand, the government is stiff in its decision to hold the polls at any cost.

The Nagaland Post reported quoting home commissioner Abhijit Sinha that the state government has directed district administrations and police to take all measures to ensure that those candidates remaining in the fray were not harassed nor forced to withdraw by any individual or organisations.

Civic polls in Nagaland has been boycotted by tribal groups in the state, on account of the government’s decision to reserve 33 percent seats for women in it.

Hokiye Sema, the president of Central Naga Tribal Council, a tribal body, 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 percent reservation to women amounts to giving her the same status as men and it gives men inferiority complex."

Sema said that the Naga society has been following these laws for more than thousand years and those cannot be just wiped out. He said that Article 371(A) of the Constitution of India provides the Naga people with the right to frame their own laws as per local customs.

Chakhasang Public Organisation, another tribal body that has joined hands in the agitation, has a different view on the issue.

Maintaining that 33 percent reservation of seats is not the only issue with the Municipal Act, president K Lea said, "The Municipal Act passed recently was not deliberated upon properly before bringing it into force. It infringes upon the rights of the Naga people to develop their own land. After this Act is brought into force we will have to take permission from the municipality to develop our own land, whereas the Article 371(A) of the Indian Constitution provides us with the right to decide upon to what to do with our resources."

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Updated Date: Jan 28, 2017 20:21:25 IST