An eery silence prevails over Nagaland that remains on edge as the as the bodies of two youths killed in police firing on Wednesday night were buried on Friday at 4 pm after the Governor PB Acharya assured the tribal bodies that appropiate action will be taken against the state government as per constitutional provision.
Dr. Vihusa Seley, the President of Angami Public Organisation told Firstpost, “After much pursuasion from the civil society organisations, the volunteers carrying out the protest against municipal polls agreed to bury the bodies of the slain youths.” He also said that though the bodies were finally buried at a public place in Kohima, it does not mean that agitation will come to rest
“Indefinite bandh called by tribal bodies will be in force in Kohima until our demands are fulfilled,” he said. He further informed that he does not yet know how the protest will be carried in the other districts of Nagaland.
Nagaland Tribes Action Committee on Thursday laid a three point demand charter for the Governor of the state.
The memorandum submitted by the committee demanded resignation of the Chief minister and his cabinet. The other two demands were: declare the ULB election process null and void and suspend the police officials involved in the firing that led to the death of the two youths .
Following this, the Chief Minister on Thursday issued a letter to the Kohima Youth Organisation stating that the election has been declared ‘null and void’ and ‘Commissioner of Police Dimapur and DCP Zone (1) Dimapur has been transferred immediately to "facilitate an impartial Judicial Inquiry which has already been ordered."
The irate mob went out of control as the letter did not mention anything about the resignation of the Chief Minister and his Cabinet and buildings of government offices were attacked.
The Nagaland Post reported, “Rampaging mobs literally took over the streets in Kohima in the face of total breakdown of the law and order machinery. The state government machinery in the state capital was totally paralysed and the Assam Rifles had to be called in to aid the civil administration in containing further worsening of the situation.”
The newspaper further mentioned that the office of the Kohima Municipal Council, which was also was known as Old Secretariat building, was set ablaze and many of the government office buildings were attacked by the frenzied mob.
“Kohima burned when mobs torched the more than 50-year old complex which housed the office of the Kohima Municipal Council (KMC) and flames spread and engulfed the nearby Superintendent Excise Office and Regional Transport Office within no time. The mob stoned the DC office but were prevented from doing further damage due to intervention by some people. The crowd also stone pelted the PHED office.However, the State Information Office and Old secretariat were burned while NPF office was reportedly vandalised and set on fire,” the report said.
The tribal groups had also decided not to hold the burial of the two people who were killed in police firing until the government resigned.
The slain youth identified as Khriesavizo Metha and Bendangnungsang Ao were killed on the streets of Dimapur on 1 February when they along with other volunteers of various tribal groups resisted holding of ULB election with 33% reservation for women, which the tribes believe to be against customary laws of the Nagas.
The latest incidents of unrest in Nagaland have several implications not only in the state itself but also in the neighbouring state of Manipur that is reeling under economic blockades imposed by United Naga Council.
Change in leadership ?
The unequivocal demand for resignation of the Chief Minister in a state that only recently saw itself on the verge of a constitutional crisis thrown by ruling dissident NPF MLAs, is seen as a sign of further political trouble.
Only last year the ruling NPF suspended it’s lone Member of Parliamment and former Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio for backing the dissidents, asreported in The Morung Express at the time.
Now, Rio has been issuing press statements criticising the recent stand off between ‘state’ and the people.
In one of his recent statements, Rio criticised the state government for holding ULB election contravening customary. He said, “Despite the advice of the apex tribal hohos and mass based civil societies, the state government went ahead and passed a resolution in the Assembly which was against customary practices and wishes of the people.”
It remains to be seen whether or not the loss of public trust on Chief Minister TR Zeliang will stage a comeback for Rio’s
The ULB election debate in Nagaland has raised a serious questions regarding it’s applicability in Nagaland. Though the tribal bodies have been repeatedly stating that 33% reservation for women is against the customary laws of Nagaland and infringement upon the rights of the Nagas conferred by the Article 371(A) of the Constitution, the Chief Minister states that it is a Constitutional obligation.
In a press statement the Chief Minister said, “holding of elections to the Urban Local Bodies in Nagaland with 33% reservation for women is a constitutional obligation that the state government cannot escape from, since reservation for women in ULBs was not brought about by any enactment of the Parliament or the State Legislature but is a Constitutional Provision as provided by Article 243 T of the Constitution of India.”
Despite the Chief Ministers repeated appeal the election of ULBs had to be declared null and void amidst tremendous public pressure.
If the state government faces continuous resistance to ULB election in the state, and it decides to buckle down to puublic pressure, then perhaps a new constitutional amendment will be required to exempt Nagaland from this ‘Constitutional mandate’ of reserving 33% seats for women.
Kohima is selected as a prospective venue for building smart city by the Government of India. To lift the city to the status of a smart city, elected ULBs are a policy mandate. 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.
If this deadlock about the ULB elction continues, it remains uncertain how the government will implement the smart city project in Kohima.
The stand off over ULB election in Nagaland has seen swelling of Naga nationalism which is likely to impact Manipur the neighboring state which is also reeling under crisis on account of economic blockade imposed by United Naga Council on demand of Naga unity in the state.
Professor Bimal Akoijam of Jawaharlal Nehru University told Firstpost that Assembly election slated on the 8th of March may not be held free and fair in the Naga inhabited areas in Manipur.
“UNC is challenging the very concept of Manipur. It is likely that NSCN may throw challenge the 10 to 12 Naga dominated constituencies to the government in holding free and fair election,” he said
Milan Shimray, a leader of the UNC told Firstpost, “Election is not our priority, but the issue of Naga ancestral land is.” What happened in Nagaland ULB election is prior indication to what could happen in Manipur in Assembly election
Updated Date: Feb 03, 2017 23:24 PM