The Naga tribes who are opposed to 33 percent reservation for women in civic body polls have allegedly protested against the government, the consequence of which was the death of two protestors in the police firing on 31st January 2017. The Kohima Municipal Council office and the office of the Directorate of Transport were set on fire by over a thousand Naga Tribals and went on to destroy government property and cars. Police had to allegedly open fire to stop the protesters from throwing stones at the Chief Minister’s house. But what started this violence?
In 2012, the Naga Mothers’ Association had appealed to the Supreme Court to request the state government to implement 33 percent representation for women in the urban local bodies, like many other states. The judgment was ruled in their favour in 2016. On receiving the Supreme Court’s verdict on the reservation, the state cabinet allowed the urban local body elections, which had not taken place in Nagaland in past 16 years. However, a few powerful tribal bodies were dissatisfied with the government’s decision. Henceforth, the Nagaland tribals joined hands together under the umbrella of the Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) and called for bands and protests to oppose the elections. The civic polls which were scheduled to be held on Feb 1, were delayed due to these protests.
The protestors took to the streets, burning any government property, setting ablaze government buildings and storming to the residence of the Chief Minister. The police tried to control the situation by enforcing lathi charge to disperse the crowd. The crowd retaliated with stones and destroyed government vehicles after which the police started firing, killing two tribals and leaving several injured. Though the Nagaland Baptist Church Council brokered an agreement between the JCC and the state government to call off the bandh and postpone the polls by two months, this incident not only ignited the fire even more but the Naga Tribals demanded the Chief Minister and his cabinet to resign, remove the Dimapur Commissioner of Police, suspend all policemen and declare the election process as null with an ultimatum of 4 PM.
After the incident, a curfew was imposed in Dimapur. The government has also decided to withhold the elections of 12 local bodies. The Chief Minister has refused to step down and requested the protestors to end the violence and agitation. According to the Article 371(A) of the Constitution of India, the Naga people have the right to frame their own laws as per local customs. They believe that the reservation is against their cultural beliefs and an infringement of the constitutional rights. They believe that a woman is not considered equal to man and not even allowed to speak at a Panchayat until and unless summoned for it. Hokiye Sema, the president of Central Naga Tribal Council, a tribal body, says that the reservations give men an inferior complex than women. The laws have been followed for a thousand years and cannot be just wiped out.
The ancient traditions are still being carried forward which restricts women to have their own voice and represent the society they cared for all of their life. Women have every right to be treated and valued as equal to men. Development of a nation will start only when there is an improvement in the smaller sections of the society. The government is taking necessary steps to hold the elections and come at peace with the Naga Tribes.