Considering that the DAN Government is now hell-bent on conducting the ULB election with 33% women reservation at all cost, it is a futile exercise to be carrying out further discussion on the subject. Be that as it may…what needs to be said is being said with all sincerity for the sake of record. So here goes:
It is a great pity that the ‘great’ Naga race has reached a refined level of professionalism in being able to multiply and compound our problems rather than solving them. The present Government seem to be in a great hurry when it should rationally be going slow and do just the opposite when it ought to be in a hurry to right certain wrongs within its management system. The opposition-less Chief Minister has been very wilfully proficient in confusing his Cabinet ‘colleagoose’ with ‘money talk’ advantages for ULB being put in place for future harvest and has successfully reduced their general thinking capability to 33% along with him. Reasoning has gone beyond salvage. The subject of women reservation ought not to be as complicated as it has been made out to be if we simply follow the chronological evolution of our past customary practices to that of the present. A clear dividing line between relevance and irrelevance emerges without confusion. Let us try and take a step at a time:
1. During the headhunting times of our ancestors, their most important subject would have centred on “survival” and “security” of the community. Physical prowess would have then been placed at its ultimate premium and women as the weaker sex, would have necessarily been out of tune or irrelevant within their prevalent circumstance. This however did not in any way imply that women were considered an unimportant part of the community.
Let me roughly qualify the customary status of the importance women occupied during the headhunting era which also cannot necessarily be translated to that of an ‘equal status to men’ yet nevertheless a very important and indispensable part of the social hierarchy. Most tribes would customarily have their warriors honourably adorn themselves only with artefacts acquired by them in warfare or hunting…like the hornbill feathered headgear and such like, magnifying the skill and valour of the wearer. Now all of us notice a small woven basket adorned with long hair hanging from the waistline as part of a warrior’s attire. In our ancestral parlance, that long hair literally represented the real scalps of women proudly being displayed. At the face value of hearing this, the taking of a woman’s head would immediately conjure up a picture of cowardice rather than bravery…but the reality would explain the significance of this honourable distinction. Women and children were the most protected beings of the community and the bravest of the accomplished brave warriors would stand guard for their protection at all trying times including the times of village invasion. Any enemy warrior able to breach this protective shield and get a woman’s scalp had to be extraordinarily talented. See the picture? If this does not also aptly describe the important status of women…what will? Women were left out from the Council of Elders not for any other reason of male chauvinistic discrimination but because a pastime such as ‘headhunting’ was obviously way out of their league by virtue of their physical limitation. Today we are not discussing headhunting. We are talking of “development and progress” which has more to do with brains than brawn. Therefore women are now absolutely relevant to join any kind of Council. The traditional custom or customary ‘law’ of our past is not only redundant but undesirable in the spheres of mankind’s common pursuit for happiness and progress. Our present circumstance therefore logically dictates the need for change of our customary law. Why fight the obvious?
2. This brings us to the question as to whether Article 371 (A), which pointedly provide adequate legal protection for our Customary Law and practices, is being violated or not? On the one hand, the simple logical argument that is bound to follow is that…if we go ahead with the 33% reservation of women in ULB election without amending our prevalent customary law…which has thus far given no space to women in any formal Council in the past…it rightly or wrongly is in contravention of the existing customary law without doubt. It therefore amounts to an arbitrary violation of our own customary law duly protected by Article 371 A by our own short-sighted opposition-less Nagaland Legislative Assembly without due process of legal amendment of our customary law in question. Tomorrow our adversaries would get a valid point of argument to say that the first violation of our customary law did not happen with them but with ‘stupid us’ as the villains and they then will be at liberty to wilfully dilute the essence of Article 371 A when it suits their purpose. On the other hand, if we follow the rational route of FIRST amending our customary law that has become obsolete or out of tune with our present through customary amendment process by nobody else but our customary courts, the Constitutional empowerment of Article 371 A will remain as effective as it was meant to be. If this simple uncomplicated explanation is still not understood…God help us all!
3. I would sincerely believe it is within our control to reset the clock in order even at this late hour. Postpone the ULB election process for a while and have a collective coordinated dialogue with all the Tribal Apex Hohos along with the DB/VC Courts in tandem to first tackle and address the amendment requisites. One has no doubt that all our Apex Tribal Hohos, DB/VC Courts are manned by rational people who would respond to reason when honestly shared.
Time will be involved for such a desired outcome but we would have paved a permanent road for all times to come unlike the present PWD roads. It will be worth the expenditure and the investment for all our future unlike the election expenditures of the present day contesting political candidates. Once this is done…going ahead with what must follow would usher in the real kind of reformation that Nagas sorely need. Why should a minuscule central funding for ULB become the stumbling block of our immediate thinking process that would endanger the ultimate Naga identity for all times?
I feel that I am talking to the wind but I do believe in constructive thoughts being expressed and shared no matter what the outcome…so those in authority…please think about it! Patiently think before we leap!
Khekiye K. Sema IAS (Retd);
Upper Forest Colony; Kohima;