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Nagaland unrest: Feminist leader says neither the Church nor the Congress were responsible

Were Church and the Congress behind the protest against 33% reservation for women in Nagaland, that gripped the state crippling the state machinery last month? This is a new question that has surfaced after a section of opinion writers propounded the theory that Church institutions and the opposition Congress actually incited violence against reservation for women, that finally resulted in the state government declaring the election null and void to douse public anger. But Monalisa Chanklija, a Naga journalist and a feminist leader, told Firstpost in an interview that it could hardly be the case.

 Nagaland unrest: Feminist leader says neither the Church nor the Congress were responsible

Representational image. AFP

Chanklija said, “I really do not think that it can be attributed to them. I saw those articles and they seem to be politically motivated. Nobody, who knows the dynamics of Naga society would come to this conclusion, because in this society there are so many factors involved.” She also said that there was noway how the Congress party or the Church could have benefitted from the unrest.

“Congress party in Nagaland is totally marginalised, as all its MLAs had already joined the ruling Naga People’s Front led government. So I do not think if the Congress could have benefitted from the unrest opposing 33% reservation for women.”

She added that the Congress party had fielded only four candidates in ULB elections throughout the state, whom it made to withdraw nomination after the agitation picked up momentum.

“One or the other way the Congress has reduced itself to a footnote in the political history of Nagaland. So such situations can hardly benefit the party now,” she added. She also said that to impose the nearly month-long bandh so as to cripple the political machinery thousands of volunteers were mobilised with facilities of food and transport. “I do not think the Congress party in Nagaland has such a huge pool of resources now,” she said.

Regarding the involvement of the Church in the protests, she said that though it was unlikely for the religious institution to go to the extent of inciting violence, but it could have prevented all this from happening. “It is true that like many other religious institutions, the Church is also very patriarchal. It may not be for reservation for women but I doubt that it will go as far as to create a month-long political crisis in the state,” she said. But adding that the Church could have staved off the perils caused by the agitation she said,“The opposition against reservation for women started from last year and gathered pace from January this year. The Church could have attempted to broker peace at the very beginning. Why did it have to wait for the nick of time to broker peace?” she asks.

On 30th January, the Church brokered peace between the government and the agitating tribal bodies when the government decided to postpone the polls, but had to reinstate its earlier decision to hold election given an order passed by the Gauhati High Court.“On account of the delay, the last minute effort made by the Church seemed half-hearted,” she said. In Nagaland, that has been following the ancient system of village republic for ages, there is a different understanding of democratic values such as truth, equality and justice which is responsible for such situations more than any political party or religious institution.

But a question still remains as to who spent the money to mobilise thousands of volunteers to give effect to the bandh that lasted for nearly a month. “If any one benefitted out of the protests against 33% reservation for women, it was not the Church or the Congress. Even the present Chief Minister Shurho also cannot be seen as a beneficiary, as he had been the ruling party Naga People’s Front supremo and he could have become the chief minister long before, had he wanted. But, there could be forces within the ruling party itself who might have wanted to dislodge the then Chief Minister T R Zeliang,” she said without naming anyone.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Only last year, the NPF suspended former chief minister and present Member of Parliament Neiphiu Rio for alleged anti-party activities. The suspension order came after Rio threw his weight on the side of a dissident group of MLAs who wanted a change in the party leadership in the legislative Assembly. Even as a second attempt to dislodge Zeliang was expected by many, Nagaland went through a political crisis regarding reservation of seats for women.

When asked if she suspects Rio to be behind the protests, she said, “He has the required kind of clout and connections to execute such a programme.” Nagaland saw violent protests on its streets from 31st January after the state government decided to hold ULB election with 33% reservation for women which led to death of three persons in police firing. The deaths resulted in statewide bandh in demand of the Chief Minister TR Zelaing’s resignation. The protest demanding the resignation of the chief minister gained such vehemence that the State Secretariat remained closed for 18 days due to statewide bandh.

On 7th February, the Nagaland Tribes Action Committee gave a three days ultimatum to the chief minister to resign. “Chief Minister TR Zeliang should step down on moral ground within the period of 3 (three days) with effect from 8th February 2017,” a statement issued by NTAC said.

Though he did not resign within three days, on 19th February the chief minister resigned and the ruling Naga People’s Front MLAs elected Dr Shurhozelie Liezietsu as the new leader of the legislative party the very next day. Soon after Liezietsu took over, opinion pieces published in few media platforms that the entire episode of Nagaland unrest over reservation for women was a conspiracy hatched by the Church and the Congress.

Journalist Sudeep Chakravarti in an article published in the said about this new theory, “Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party, an NPF ally, has for several weeks had proxies in right-wing media vehicles and public affairs decry the alleged role of the Congress and massively influential church entities in Nagaland, in the fracas.” He opines that biggest medium term gainer of the fracas is Neiphiu Rio and his cabal.

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Updated Date: Mar 08, 2017 18:07:14 IST