The traditional tribal bodies have threatened to boycott the civic polls in Nagaland unless the government guarantees that reserving 33% of the seats would not violate the provisions of Article 371A of the Constitution of India.
Article 371A says no Act of Parliament shall apply to Nagaland with respect to Naga customary laws and procedures and ownership and transfer of land and its resources.
The Hohos (traditional organisations) of all Naga tribes organised a consultative meeting in the State’s capital Kohima on March 27 to discuss the State government’s decision to hold the elections for the urban local bodies (ULBs) on May 16. The date was fixed following a Supreme Court direction to hold the long-pending elections.
The Hohos adopted a seven-point resolution topped by the demand for reviewing and rewriting the Nagaland Municipal Act of 2001, which vested in every municipality the power to acquire property and levy taxes apart from paving the way for the reservation of seats for women.
Describing the Nagaland Municipal Act of 2001 as a “borrowed” piece of legislation, the Hohos said any part or Section of this Act infringing upon the provisions of Article 371A should be overhauled “in complete consonance with the voices of the Naga people.”
The Hohos said the reservation of the office of the ULB chairperson for women would deprive the rightful candidate and was thus unacceptable. “A democratically elected person, male or female, should be the chairperson,” it said.
The Hohos asked the government to give a guarantee to the people of Nagaland that the reservation of 33% of the seats for women would not violate the provisions of Article 371A. They assured cooperation in the conduct of the ULB polls if their demands are fulfilled in time.
Threatening to boycott the polls if the government goes ahead with the ULB polls without fulfilling the demands, the Hohos said action would be taken against anyone found violating their resolutions.
Earlier, the Isak-Muivah faction of the extremist National Socialist Council of Nagaland objected to May 16 as the date for holding the ULB polls in Nagaland.
The organisation pointed out that May 16 marks the day in 1951 when the Naga plebiscite was held “to reaffirm the sovereign will and aspiration of the Nagas” as declared on August 14, 1947, “to live as a free and a sovereign nation”.
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 warranted such quota. The State government put the 2017 ULB polls on hold after opposition to the reservation of 33% of the seats for women led to large-scale violence and the death of two persons.