As total shutdown called by tribal bodies in Nagaland continue to affect normal life, chief minister TR Zeliang released an emotional statement aired on the All India Radio on Monday with the aim to clarify his stand on the issue of reservation for women in urban local bodies election. Zeliang once again reiterated his government's obligations to uphold the provision of the Constitution and the reasons that led to its decision to allow reservation for women in the election.
The Nagaland chief minister, whose resignation has emerged as a key demand after his government held the urban local bodies election on 1 February despite opposition from tribal organisations, requested the protesters to call off the strike and allow the return of normal life to the state. He also emphasised on the need for dialogue and that dialogue and not violence should be looked as the way forward to resolve the current crisis in the state.
Here's the full text of his statement:
My dear fellow citizens of Nagaland,
The Government of India has recognised that our expression for self-determination cannot be resolved through military or violent solutions and have embarked on the process for solutions through a democratic process of negotiation, dialogue and settlement.
My government has had a series of discussions with various tribal organisations regarding the obligations of the government to uphold the provisions of the Constitution so long as we are within the Union of India. And holding of elections to the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) with 33 percent reservation of seats for women was one of them. In 2016 alone, the Government had 14 consultative meetings with civil organisations on the issue of elections to the ULBs as amended by the Nagaland Legislative Assembly in 2006. The government also met the recently-formed Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) on 25 January at my office in Kohima and on 30 January at Chumukedima in the presence of the NBCC.
To begin with, I must state at the very outset that the fate and content of Article 371 A was on the verge of being decided by the Supreme Court after the JACWR filed a Special Leave Petition stating that Article 243 T had superseded Article 371 A. And to pre-empt such an eventuality where the Court’s verdict might go against the special provisions we enjoy through the provisions of Article 371 A, the Cabinet decided that holding of elections to the ULBs with reservation for women was the best option and decided accordingly.
When tribal organisations suggested on 16 November 2016 at the Consultative meet at the Capital Convention Hall, Kohima, that certain provisions in the Nagaland Municipal Act, 2001, such as tax on land and buildings, removal of the Scheduled Caste etc should be amended, the Government did the needful promptly. Accordingly, as it stands today, the government will not impose any tax on the land, commercial or otherwise, or on buildings in municipal and town areas. Unfortunately, false propaganda had been spread by few individuals saying that once elections to the ULBs are held, the local bodies would start imposing taxes even on domestic animals, vegetables and agricultural produce!
Not wishing to confront with the protesting organisations, my government has given in to their demands, namely, postponement of polls to the ULBs and declaration of those elections held on 1 February as null and void. And since from the very beginning, organisations such as the Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) had been asking for time so that they can have dialogues and consultations with various tribal organisations to ensure a well-informed election which will promote development and common good of all the Nagas, it is not fair that organisations and individuals are not allowed to come to the consultative meetings convened by the Government.
I can only appeal to all sections of the society to nurture and preserve the good image of our esteemed tribal organisations. As for the government, it has always been open for dialogue and more consultations. The tribal organisations should come forward for interactions and sharing of views and opinions without any bias or hesitation.
Friends, in this current century, mankind is realising that violence only begets violence and force only begets more force and violence. It is being increasingly recognised that violence is no solution and has no place in determining the future of mankind. In fact, nobody wants to talk or discuss war and all the enormous consequences.
What has happened is a great shock to not only the Nagas but also to people all over the world. We cannot allow such a situation to prevail. It is only leading to chaos. We should resolve the present situation through mature appreciation and dialogue. Let us put our heads together to build the Nagaland of our dreams instead of mindless confrontation and more violence.
Keeping this in mind, I wish to appeal to all agitating groups to rise above the immediate present and consider the future – our future and the future of the younger generation. We cannot, we should not, we must not sacrifice the future of the Naga society by confronting each other. After all, the larger benefit for the whole society must be given more importance than the benefit of any individual or a few.
And considering the facts that several thousands of our sons and daughters are scheduled to appear their examinations, I fervently appeal to the agitating groups to lift the bandh, enable the students to appear their crucial examinations and to let the tens of thousands of government employees whose family members rely on their salaries for livelihood attend offices to work and draw their salaries, and at the same time, to allow the business community to carry out their normal trade to sustain themselves.
I also wish to place on record my deepest sorrow at the loss of two precious lives in the unfortunate incidents at Dimapur on 31 January and convey my heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family members. May the departed souls rest in eternal peace.
Thank you, and God Bless Nagaland
NOTE: The speech was aired on All India Radio on Monday.
Updated Date: Feb 14, 2017 07:49 AM