Close your eyes, picture the faces of your friends and relatives who are doctors, engineers, IAS, cleared UPSC, SSC etc and have become elites in the society, some of who have contributed immensely to their own community and to the people of Nagaland. Now open your eyes and imagine an India where there is no ‘Reservation’ policy for ST’s and minorities. Most of the people you pictured in your mind will not be where they are today if there was no Reservation in this country. We Nagas will be considered hypocrites if we say that Nagas never enjoyed any form of reservation and never needed reservation to be collectively where we are today.
What is reservation, why is it required?
Reservation is only a temporary method which is introduced to create a balanced society; to achieve a sense of equilibrium, so that those who are less privileged are given a push to climb up to the level of the elite community. In reality, without reservation, only the affluent upper caste highly educated mainland Indians would be doctors, engineers and holding the top positions in the Government with no representation from minorities or ST’s like us. Ideally, we all want to promote merit but practically it is not possible in a country like India where there is a huge socio-educational difference among different communities, tribes and castes. We should accept the fact that because of Reservation, we the ST’s of Nagaland have largely been able to improve our socio-educational level. (‘Economic’ is not inserted because once socio-educational level is at par with the elite category, it depends on the individual to utilize his education to achieve economic progress).
But we Nagas treat our women equally, why do they need reservation?
If there are any capable women let them run for election in a fair manner under our unbiased Constitution. But why this has not happened in the past half a century? How many women MLA’s we had in the past fifty years? We had one lone lady MP in the last century. Out of sixty legislators, how many women in the top decision making body of our State – The Nagaland Legislative Assembly? ZERO! This itself is a solid indicator which shows whether there is gender equilibrium in our decision making bodies. Even a small child will say, Yes women have almost nil representation in Politics – Policy/Decision Making Bodies in the State.
I have seen many people mention in debates on social media that we Nagas do not mistreat our women so they do not need Reservation. One must understand that this entire Reservation issue is about Women in Politics and not about the emotional or general ‘Treatment’ of women in our homes, society or women in administration/bureaucracy(Officers). This issue is about the representation of women within the Political Space only such as Councils (Eg. Town/Village Councils) and Assemblies (Nagaland Legislative Assembly). What do we do in councils and assemblies? We make policies and political decisions for the ‘People’ and ‘People’ includes ‘Women’ and without listening to the voices of ‘Women’, any decision made only by ‘Men’ is not democratic. Even God made both ‘Men’ and ‘Woman’ as human beings, as ‘People’.
So what to do now?
How to push women into politics so that there is a justifiable democratic representation in Town Councils, NLA etc. One way to achieve this is to give them a temporary push. This push can be called ‘Reservation’. We give them a small chunk of our pie with 33% reservation, and we will still eat 67% of this pie, which makes us ‘men’ less greedy I suppose.
Unlike very progressive States and nations where they have ample percentage of women in Decision Making Bodies without reservation, in one of the oldest States in India – Nagaland, we have NIL representation and this is a serious concern.
Women have been blessed with better aesthetic sense than men and I feel this is one among the several qualities in women which will prove to be very important in councils particularly Town Councils whose primary duty is to keep our towns and cities looking clean and beautiful! Men can be very functional in nature but women always bring out more meaning and sense to any project, program or for that matter anything in life.
But is women reservation against Article 371(A)?
Huh? Please show me where this is mentioned in Article 371(A)? I wish people read Article 371(A) before quoting and swearing by it. Our scholars point out that the framers of the Indian Constitution inserted the Sixth Schedule keeping in mind the aspirations of the tribal people that gives us the privilege to have Autonomous Regional/District Councils with power to make certain laws, judiciary powers in some cases, power to impose tax, regulations for trading by non-locals etc. It also has a provision in some cases where any Act of the Parliament or Legislation cannot be applicable in those areas where the autonomous councils are allowed to make laws. We Nagas settled for Article 371(A) which starts with a powerful word ‘Notwithstanding’ anything in this Constitution which gives Article 371(A) supremacy over other provisions in the Indian Constitution but not the freedom to do anything we want to that would infringe upon the most supreme Fundamental Rights.
But where in Article 371(A) is it written that it is against Naga customary law to have women in policy/decision making councils and assemblies? We all know that just like the British Law, Naga Customary Law isn’t codified (Written Law). Naga customary law is based on the verdict of the custodians of this law who decides based on his state of mind at the moment of delivering the verdict/decision. Hence, with multiple customary judges with different personality, state of mind, level of education and wisdom, it is impossible align to a standard law applicable to the entire State of Nagaland. I am a staunch supporter of Article 371(A) and customary law so long as the custodians of our Customary Law protect our indigenous people based on rationality, wisdom and precedence.
Should we oppose or push for women reservation?
After intense debates with the best intellectual minds both online and offline, the real truth behind ‘Why’ our honourable apex bodies and organizations are so aggressively opposing women reservation has become doubtful and unclear to most Nagas like me who seek the truth based on facts and logic without making our conclusions based on propaganda, conspiracies or assumptions. Some people have mentioned that it is because of money that these ULB elections are being rushed but without unveiling the details and facts of which individuals or groups have siphoned which funds directly. Come on! If there is a truth, speak it out frankly with confidence!
It would be immature and rather foolish on our parts to believe in vague unclear statements because if there is any truth, it there is any doubt then only half of it is revealed. Anything hidden from public is hidden because of vested interest. Let us learn to respect and trust those leaders who are honest. It is time we Nagas stop believing in half truths, assumptions, conspiracies and propaganda, but become wiser by believing in the complete truth because only the Truth can set you free! Trying to use Article 371(A) to shield the real intentions and the truth is being felt by many. Be man enough to call spade a spade using real facts and figures then you will earn the complete trust from the people as a true leader.
So do we need reservation for women in politics?
Whether reservation or other methods are the best solutions devised to achieve a sense of equilibrium in society might still be debatable but the simple truth is that Reservation has definitely helped Nagas speed up our socio-educational progress to where we are today. We need capable ‘Women’ to ‘Assist’ us in building the Nagaland of our dreams in our generation at least. Even if Women Reservation is implemented in Nagaland, as long as it is not misused by men with vested interest but used for the purpose of achieving gender equilibrium within the political space starting from our councils and assemblies, we will definitely see outcomes similar to how ST Reservation has accelerated the socio-educational progress of Nagas as a whole. And we being beneficiaries of Reservation should not be hypocrites to deny this socio-educational acceleration provided to Nagas by way of ST Reservation. Reservation is temporary because once an assessment is carried out maybe every 20 years using facts and figures to assess whether a state of socio-educational equilibrium is achieved then only we can conclude that the purpose of reservation is been achieved and may be discontinued.
What would take 200 years or maybe 4 generations for a certain community to reach the level of a more advanced community, Reservation seeks to achieve this equilibrium within a shorter period, hence Reservation is a form of social acceleration for the lesser privileged community/gender.
God made women to be beside men and build our home and family together, not to be under us and be oppressed. We as a Christian State would become worse than radical Muslim States if we do not give women even a small voice to speak her heart and mind in our decision making bodies.
As per Naga customs prevalent 200 years back, maybe the value of women was much lower than what it is today. But times change and customs need change with time to become more relevant without becoming obsolete, regressive or narrow minded in nature. The customs applicable to women 200 years ago during the times of our ancestors cannot be applicable to women today. Women have immensely contributed not just to the family but to the society and nation as well. It is time we also give a little push and encourage more women to participate in our top policy/decision making bodies. How can only ‘men’ build beautiful, progressive towns and cities alone? We need women in our Town Councils and even the State Assembly. Whether we go by way of Reservation or Merit, the ultimate goal is that we need better representation from women better than what we had witnessed in the past half century with nil participation/representation of women in politics in the State of Nagaland. Let there be more logical, intellectual debates at all levels of society because we are not barbarians who rush and act based on ‘Instinct’ without careful analysis of any situation. God blessed each and everyone of us with brains to listen, read, analyse, make decisions and only then act based on wisdom.
I wish and pray our honourable Hoho’s and apex organizations also have this same level of enthusiasm and energy when it comes to raising their voice on very critical issues of development, corruption and our shameful state of affairs. Why only in cases like women reservation have our Hohos and apex organizations become so active? What discourages thousands of young Nagas is why this level of energy not seen in issues where our people are suffering with problems of education, no salary, threat of illegal immigration, corruption, unemployment, horrible roads, extortion, lack of development etc Unless we divert our energy to understand our priorities and act today, Nagaland is already being left behind by other very progressive neighbouring States. It is time our education system create not only literate people but educated beings who can become enlightened souls to lead our Naga society with truth, vision and wisdom driven by strong will power and assertiveness.
For fifty years, men have ruled our Government with no women in the Nagaland Legislative Assembly and please accept the fact that Nagaland is still acting like 50 year old spoiled brat depending on his parents for pocket money. It is time, a few capable women enter the house to knock some sense and meaning into our pathetic state of affairs.
He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org