Kohima, Oct. 11 (EMN): A consultative meeting of tribal organizations, stakeholders and the committee to review of Nagaland Municipal Act of 2001 held on Wednesday, Oct. 11, at the Nagaland Civil Secretariat failed to find a common base, particularly on reservation of 33% seats for women in urban local bodies (ULBs).
This very issue had, earlier in January and February 2017, sparked off a month-long turmoil in the state, costing lives and destruction of government property, and eventually, a change of guard in the state’s ministry.
On one hand, the tribal bodies are firm on the stand that the Municipal Act should be reviewed based on Article 371(A) of the Constitution of India and that the provisions of the act does not infringe on the customary practices of the Naga people. They also opined that the Nagaland Legislative Assembly (NLA) resolution of Nov. 22 2016 be revoked.
On reservation of seats for women, they insist that reservation is not required as both men and women in Naga society were equals in their respective capacities. They are of the view that instead of reservation, women should be given nomination, with voting rights.
On the other hand, the women group led by the Naga Mothers’ Association (NMA) are adamant that reservation of seats is very important to Naga women. But regarding the amendment of the Nagaland Municipal Act 2001, NMA is of the view that the matter is sub-judice as the Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), an international human rights organization, has ‘impleaded’ the case after the NMA withdrew its special leave petition from the Supreme Court and the court’s interim order stands to hold the elections (to ULBs).
The Naga Hoho, who somewhat chose to play the role of a mute spectator during the February uproar, today put across its view that the opinion of the stakeholders in the society must be considered and that and issues to the amendment of the Municipal Act should be resolved in the interest of the Naga people as a whole.
The GBs Federation expressed that it had no objections as long as the provisions of the Act or reservation of seats for women do not infringe upon the Naga traditional and customary laws.
As for the Nagaland State Women Commission (NSCW), if the Municipal Act is to be reviewed then the stakeholders need to get down to the core area where they actually do not agree and not the entire provisions of the Act. The NSCW is of the view that while protecting and honouring the customary law and practices, some space must be created for women, as without that, the very principle of women empowerment cannot be translated into reality. The commission representative stated that it stands firm on the principle of including women in all decision making bodies starting from the grassroots levels.
Eastern Nagaland People’s Organization (ENPO) is also of the opinion that the Act be reviewed under the purview of Article 371(A). The organization made its stand clear that Nagas (men and women) have always been equal and the Eastern Nagas will stand for “cent percent equality”.
Meanwhile, it has been learnt that on April 12 last, the department of Municipal Affairs had written to all the tribes organizations and other stakeholders, soliciting their views and comments on the Nagaland Municipal Act 2001, to be submitted in written to the state government by April 30. However, it was informed that only four organizations – Ao Senden, Angami Public Organization, United Sangtam Likhum Pümji and Chang Khulei Shetsang- responded. During the day’s meeting, some of the organizations stated that they did not receive the letter, therefore, the committee handed over copies of the letter to those groups during the meeting and asked them to submit their opinions, views or suggestions to the committee within one month’s time.
Consultation group constituted
With the opinions of the representatives of the organizations being broadly divided into two contradicting outlook, committee convener Imchen asserted that there was no way forward if both sides remained rigid on their stands.
For this, he suggested that a sub-committee be formed amongst those present at the meeting to work together towards reconciling the differences, or at least bring them to a meeting point on the issue. He also expressed that apprehension on matters regarding taxation can be resolved with the government’s intervention. However, it was opined, reservation of seats for women was a contentious issue which needs both parties to arrive at a common base.
The house approved for constitution of a committee under the banner ‘Consultation Group’ which would comprise of a representative each from NMA, Naga Hoho, Central Nagaland Tribes Council, ENPO, ENWO, Tenyimia Women Organization, Nagaland Tribes Action Committee (Kohima) and Joint Coordination Committee (Dimapur), while the government will nominate a legal expert to the group.
Imchen also pointed out that the amendment of the Act could not be done in haste, and in this regard, he appealed to the JCC to give the committee more time to have more broad-based consultations and review the Act.
Municipal Act: NMA, tribal organizations lock horns