Almost a decade now since Nagaland has been delving with the issue of 33 percent women reservation in the Urban Local Bodies (ULB) electionthat attracted hue and cry from all the Tribal Hohos and in the process, precious lives have also been sacrificed due to mishandling of the issue by the State government. The reason for our failure to find a solution to it was due to shallow and irrational approach to it. To my mind, the prime hurdle arose from our short-sightedness to grasp theinherent incoherency of the idea of “reservation”with the concept of women’s status in our society.
We are all aware thatin Naga society and culturally, our women are held in high esteem with exception to stray unfortunate incidences of violence against women or undue dehumanizing comments about women committed by narrow chauvinistic minded individual men who may have low esteem about women out of ignorance. Militating this stray narrow comments, some unmindful women while claiming equality with men cite traditional inheritance not given to them as a reason for inequality. But this reasoning is absolutely flimsy for the fact that as long as they live in their parental home, both boys and girls, enjoy equal rights to the property and when a girl is married she marries to an inheritance of that man. So women crying foul on inheritance is not only thoughtlessness but a failure to understand the plight of their brothers who have to divide among them the little or nothing that they have inherited from their father. By traditional land holdingpractice, traditional land is not given to women not because they are considered unequal to boys but it is by default of Naga land holding system which in itself is self-explanatory. Excepting traditional land, other lands or properties purchased by parents are given to girl child as well wherever possible.
In contravention to Naga women status, the word ‘reserve’ or ‘reservation’ from sociological or political application has demeaning connotationslike inferior, primitive, backward etc. Hence, the idea of women reservation in our society is not acceptable as it is against our culture that maintains high esteem for women unlike many other societies. By this logic, we may also conclude that there are no backward or inferior tribes in Nagaland as of today which invariably imply that the tribes tagged as “backward” half century ago, must be done away with. To be blunt, we cannot call or consider Chakhesangs or Konyaks, with what they are today, as backward or inferior? If they are then all tribes are because no tribe, as we see, is better than the other and for this circumstance Nagaland Assembly must immediately revoke this demeaning “backward” label. Even otherwise, its review is long overdue.
Reservation, in question, implies disparity. It demeans our women as if they are worth only some percentages in relation to men. It may be noted that Naga Women Leaders, realizing the ramification of the reservation issue, has decided to reject the reservation provisioned under ULB. The 33 percent women reservation that is in doldrums is rightly and sensibly rejected by both men and women because it is against the Naga value of equality among men and women which is also enshrined in the Article 371 (A) of the Constitution as demanded by our pioneers during the formation of the State of Nagaland.