Over the 33% women quota: Nagaland goes on strike against upcoming civic polls

Over the 33% women quota: Nagaland goes on strike against upcoming civic polls : On Saturday, the state Nagaland shut down after a call by tribal organisations to protest against urban local body (ULB) elections scheduled for 1st February 2017. This strike will continue till election day with a day-long respite on Sunday.

The tribal organisation called the strike in retaliation to the decision of the Nagaland cabinet on Friday night to go ahead with the ULB polls. Due to the 33% reservation of seats for women in the 32 municipal and town councils of the state, Tribal NGOs have been against the polls.

A spokesman of the Joint Coordination Committee(JCC), the umbrella body of several tribal organisation said that though the strike is from 6 am to 6 pm till 1st February 2017, there will be no strike on Sunday. On Sunday, most people in the Christian-majority Nagaland head for the church.

The spokesman of JCC said that we had no alternative but to impose the strike against the ULB polls where quota, and not capability, has decided the candidature of women.

The Nagaland ULB polls have not been held for more than 10 years because traditional tribal bodies do not provide space for women in local administration and were opposed to it.

But the government of Nagaland is determined to hold the polls to convey the message that the state and Nagas as a whole are not against empowering women.

The President of Naga People’s Front(NPF) – Shurhoselie Liezietsu said that the world is moving towards greater gender equality, and there is no reason why women in Nagaland should not be given an opportunity to show their administrative capability starting with local bodies.

Nagaland has had no woman legislator since it became a state in 1963.

People have been armed with catapults, sticks and other crude weapons for a possible showdown with security forces. Groups of volunteers have also been organised by JCC to lay siege to administrative buildings and block key traffic junctions.

By sensing violence, the government has sought the services of central paramilitary forces besides putting the state police and commandos on high alert. Besides restrictions on large public gathering, mobile phone data and broadband services in Nagaland are expected to be down from 5 am of January 29 to 10 pm on February 1, the day of polling.

Meanwhile, JACWR Convenor – Abeiu Meru said that the Joint Action Committee on Women Reservation (JACWR) has appealed to the tribal organisations to let the ULB polls be held without further hiccups. If the municipal polls are held peacefully, we will withdraw the single leave petition (in the Supreme Court, seeking reservation for women).

The interim order of the Supreme Court made the Nagaland government adopt a resolution in the 60-member assembly to hold the ULB polls. The process was started on December 21 last year.

In the face of opposition, intimidation and threat of exile, candidates in only 26 of the state’s 32 civic bodies filed nominations. A total of 535 candidates including 188 women had filed their nominations. But by January 17, 140 of the candidates had withdrawn their nominations under pressure, leaving 395 in the fray. Nagaland election officials have not specified how many of the 140 who withdrew are women.

Of the contestants standing, 17 have been excommunicated. All belong to the Ao community, considered among the most progressive of Naga tribes.