Organisations in three major urban areas of Nagaland have opposed the State government’s decision to hold the civic polls on May 16 with 33% of the seats reserved for women.
These organisations are the Association of Kohima Municipal Ward Panchayat, All Ward Union Mokokchung Town and Dimapur Urban Council Chairman Federation.
In a letter on March 10, these organisations reminded Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio of Article 371A of the Constitution of India that says “no Act of Parliament would apply under the Legislative Assembly of Nagaland by a resolution decides in respect of Naga customary laws and procedures, administration of civil and criminal justice, ownership and transfer of land, land and social practices”.
They pointed out that Naga customary laws do not allow women to participate equally in the political and socio-economic decision-making bodies.
Rule 23A was inserted in the Nagaland Municipal Act of 2001 for the reservation of one-third of the seats for women as mandated by Article 243T of the Constitution of India but this led to violent protests and the death of two people in 2017, forcing the State government to withhold the civic polls through a Cabinet notification, the organisations said.
Demanding an amendment to the Nagaland Municipal Act “to fulfil the aspirations of the Naga people”, the organisations said they would not compromise on their stand of not allowing or participating in the elections of the urban local bodies (ULB).
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Instead of reserving seats for women, the organisations advised the Nagaland Government to formulate a policy to nominate women with voting rights in the urban local bodies.
The organisations also sought an amendment in certain provisions in the Nagaland Municipal Act relating to the ownership of land and buildings and associated taxes. They asserted that the demands are to ensure the rights guaranteed by Article 371A are not infringed upon.
On March 8, the State Election Commission issued a notification announcing May 16 as the date for holding the elections to 39 ULBs across Nagaland with 33% reservation of seats for women. This elated women’s organisations such as the Naga Mothers’ Association, especially after Salhoutuonuo Kruse and Hekani Jakhalu created history on March 2 by becoming the first women MLAs in the State.
The last and only election to Nagaland’s ULBs was held in 2004 without any reservation for women although the 74th Amendment to the Constitution of India in 1993 had paved the way for such quota.