Based on the idea of a unique ethnicity and culture, Nagaland stands out, as far as the framework of India is concerned. Excluding a festering political issue, a general portrayal of the people, as romanticised in tourism brochures, would include hospitable, friendly and outgoing, with an uncanny knack for coalescing the antique with the modern.
Rumour also has it that the Northeast state is famous for according equal status to women. As claimed by a Central Minister from Delhi, “Nagaland is famous for its culture, its ethnicity and of course the way they treat their women with uniformity.” The celebration however is to be found only in the realm of the populist.
The reality is anything but romantic when it comes to actually introducing democratic ideals in a men’s only club. It calls for a reality check when universally accepted democratic ideals finds no place among a people, who, contrary to popular belief, has a flawed notion of gender egalitarianism.
The opposition to women’s representation in decision-making bodies, in the current context— 33 percent reservation of seats for women in the Urban Local or Municipal bodies, would attest to it.
It is understood the resistance draws legitimacy from the venerated and prevailing customary practices, which were shaped by the challenges and requirements of a past the people lived in. But the situation then and now are different. The issue today is about civic body elections which has no relation with village administration.
There are values in the customary practices that are relevant even in this time and age, and there are also beliefs that are repressive in nature, of which the opposition to women’s participation in decision-making is one. The Nagas cannot afford to exist, insulated from change; while the rest of the world marches on, adopting and inculcating the best the present could offer.
Reservation is not the be-all and end-all but it is being implemented with the belief that the move would serve as a spark for change, gradual it may be.
Another issue that defies logic is the hostility towards taxation, which is an essential element of state administration. The clause on taxation on land and buildings in the Nagaland Municipal Act may have been “omitted” by the government but it would be prudent on the part of all Nagas to reflect on the importance of revenue. Taxes, when used properly, enable governments, including Municipalities, in sustaining administration, besides providing public amenities.
The writer is a Principal Correspondent at The Morung Express. Comments can be sent to [email protected]