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By Moa Jamir
Observing the events unfolding after the announcement by the State Government to hold election to Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) in Nagaland, one is acutely reminded of the following observation by the prominent 18th century English scholar Samuel Johnson that, “There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified and new prejudices to be opposed,” (The Rambler ).
Once again, it brought direct confrontation between male-centric civil societies and tribe organisations, and the Nagaland State Government. Most of them, barring one or two have opposed the government’s move, taking refuge in constitutional provisions and seeing the impending election as an infringement against the time-tested traditions and culture of the Nagas.
Such singular display of unanimity and unequivocal decision is seldom found in other issues. A cacophony of rhetoric and assertion of an ‘egalitarian’ Naga society, since then, have had adorned the news dailies as well as various social media platforms.
In fact, their high-pitched opposition to the women reservation in its current form is inversely proportional to their deafening silence on several maladies inflicting the state of affairs in Nagaland.
Ditkat and bandh accompanies the opposition and may escalate further. Women reservation is ridiculed as a neccessity in “curse caste system” prevalent in Indian society, not in inherently egalitarian Naga society, ironically opposing a policy mechanism to enable level playing field for active political participation of women.
While the progressiveness of the ruling dispensation is driven largely by monetary factor coupled with castigation from courts, it was nevertheless, a welcome step, though roughly inconsistent with its dealing of other issues.
“We have not been able to get the grants for urban local bodies recommended by the Finance Commission, and we are losing every year valuable funds, much needed for improvement of our urban infrastructure and facilities,” Chief Minister TR Zeliang lamented addressing the Central Executive Council (CEC) meeting of Naga People’s Front (NPF) in August, 2015. This has been a consistent stand of the State Government which affirms the notion.
Consequently, it also went an overdrive to inaugurate a number of town councils. By the end of 2016, there were three municipal councils and 29 town councils, almost double the numbers to the then existing urban local bodies.
It also explains the extension of nomination date of January 9 and an appetite for direct confrontation which itself could prove self-defeating to the whole process.
Yes, there are concerns and rightly so. What would happen if sufficient empowerment does not occur in time frame? What if it is hijacked by tokenism? Can there be other ways to enable participation? Does it interfere with idea of free and fair elections? What would happen if one is elected this time and ready to fight the election next? Will it creates antagonism between sexes? There are many other concerns.
But infringement Naga identity is not one. Culture is not simply reliving the past and reducing it to a static entity. It should evolve pragmatically in tune with to prevent itself from becoming an anachronistic entity.
Does equal parameter exist between male and female in Naga society to negate demand for reservation? As consistently asserted in this column, if we rationally analyze the matter, there is only one reality – that women are not represented in decision making and political arena and the existing mechanism does not provide any platform to correct this reality.
A progressive state’s policy is imperative and is pertinent to facilitate unrepresented entities to participate positively in the progress of the society and correct an inherited inequality.
Going back to the Johnson’s quote, one could say, ‘There are existing errors to be rectified, and existing prejudices to be opposed in Naga society.’
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