Nagaland: A Sorry Saga


What happened after the announcement for elections to the Urban Local Bodies (UBLs) last month in Nagaland ~ the sorry saga still continuing till the time of writing this Editorial, albeit the tapering off already commencing ~ clearly establishes that Naga men are yet to fully realize the potency and potential of power, which emanates only from intelligence, judiciousness, prudence and perspicacity but most importantly from knowledge and wisdom. And these do not come with the package of being born male. So today the ULB elections may have been deferred but Naga men have to little option but to go back to the drawing board in their anti-women’s reservation fight. And this has to start with what exactly Article 371 (A) of the Indian Constitution says: “no Act of Parliament in respect of – religious or social practices of the Nagas, customary law and procedure, ownership and transfer of land and its resources- shall apply to the State of Nagaland unless the Legislative Assembly of Nagaland by a resolution so decides”.

Nothing is mentioned about municipal bodies, which are not Naga traditional institutions ~ for that matter, nor is the state Legislative Assembly. But perhaps what is required more is a comprehensive and meticulous study and scrutiny of the entire Constitution of India ~ because we cannot ignore it and focus only on Article 371 (A). Moreover, no citizen of India can violate anyone’s rights while claiming one’s own rights ~ and denying the constitutional mandate of reservation for women in elected bodies is just that, which further underscores the patriarchy and misogyny in Naga society. Secondly, Naga men had a field day out in the streets bringing the entire state to a standstill, reversing our tottering economy, destroying Government/public property, causing irreparable loss to man-hours, students, etc., so it is hoped that they would now audit the gains of the “bandh” they imposed ~ although they seem to be unable to discern between a bandh and a curfew.

But the biggest loss they have caused to Naga society is exposing to the entire world the “real” Naga culture ~ denying democratic rights to women and resorting to violence to keep women suppressed and oppressed. Anyway, are bandhs and curfews integral to Naga culture ~ if so, since when? A peaceful protest or a hunger strike may have yielded better and more results ~ but to envisage positive results and strategize for that, it takes sagacity. Thirdly, while the schisms among and between the numerous Naga bodies, which mostly emerged in the 1980s and thereafter ~ and are not really Naga traditional institutions, were apparent much before the 33% women’s reservation issue arose, with the formation of the Central Naga Tribes Council, Nagaland Tribes Council and with most Nagaland tribes disassociating from the Naga Hoho, which is also not a Naga traditional institution, the schisms among the tribal bodies are more conspicuous after they called for the “bandh” from January 28 last. The violence unleashed, especially at Kohima, and to a lesser extent at Dimapur, seems to underscore that.

The differences and disagreements between the elders and the youth of the tribal bodies are also telling. The public also has the right to know whether mayhem and destruction of Government/pubic property and the responsibility thereof were a part of the plan of the “bandh” called by the tribal bodies. Fourthly, thanks to the “bandh” called by the tribal bodies, Government employees are enjoying a long paid holiday ~ as it is, it is difficult to get Government employees in offices and their places of posting, now they have a valid reason not to work ~ and their mobility is hardly restricted since almost all of them have private transport. Fifthly, unless Naga tribal bodies are rolling in money ~ the source of which the public has the right to know ~ who really has that kind of money to fund and sustain over a week’s “bandh”? And, who stands to gain from disrupting the Government machinery ~ in fact, bring down the Government? After all, it was obvious even before the “bandh” that the women’s reservation became a non-issue as Naga tribal bodies moved on to taxes, land ownership, etc. and then finally focused on ridding the present Government.

Sixthly, our state Government has unambiguously exposed its weaknesses ~ indecisiveness, failure to gauge the mood of the tribal bodies and their vulnerability to influences of numerous shades of political in the name of Naga culture, customs and traditions, failure to maintain the rule of law by strengthening an ineffectual civil and police bureaucratic machinery totally marked by its failure to keep contact and connectivity with the people ergo failing to advise the Government, act decisively to maintain law and order, etc. The Chief Minister also needs to direly reconsider getting rid of some of his Advisors and hiring more competent persons and shake up the state bureaucracy from its stupor. It is clear from what happened in the past week and continues to happen, the state Government and the tribal bodies have lost the plot but then it also doesn’t look like they had a plot in the first place, which has cost three precious lives.

Monalisa Changkija is Editor of Nagaland Page.