Escape Route?

The news report about the Nagaland State government turning down the proposal for setting up of a State Commission for Women (SCW) is likely to generate a wave of opinion on whether such a mechanism is at all necessary for a State like Nagaland. For those who have been closely following the stated positions of political parties on the issue of women’s empowerment, the stand taken by the Neiphiu Rio government should come as no surprise and it follows a similar decision taken by the then SC Jamir led Congress government which had similarly rejected 33% reservation of seats in the State. The flow of arguments are likewise similar, which is, that the status of its women is much better off and does not conform to the general perception of women’s status in India. 

To be fair and square it has to be said that the argument given about the enviable status of Naga women is itself ill conceived and completely negates the true picture and something that official statistics have tended to muffle either intentionally or for want of more in-depth study. The State government would do well to come closer to reality while drawing its premise on women specific policy initiatives.   

While it is accepted—though it cannot be ruled out completely—that dowry system, child marriage and caste distinction are absent in Nagaland, can the government also vouch that other social evils such as domestic violence, rape, prostitution, sexual harassment, gender discrimination are not present? But to make a sweeping claim that “Atrocities against women are relatively unknown in the state” is nothing but absurd and the letter written by the State government to the NCW Chairperson Dr Girija Vyas is itself misleading.

Similarly Article 371 (A) for all its pretensions has more often than not being both used and misused by political parties to wash their hands off  on public interest issues which the political elite may find it uneasy to deal with. On hindsight it has to be said that Article 371 (A) has done more harm than good because it has been used as an easy escape route for those in power to accept transparency and responsibility in governance. It would not be out of place to recall a time when some sections of the Naga public were demanding a CBI inquiry into cases of political corruption during the previous Congress regime but then such well intent voices were drowned out by those who wanted to safeguard and impose provisions of Article 371 (A)!!

Coming back to the specific issue on whether to have a SCW or not it will be interesting to see if women groups like the Naga Mothers Association had been consulted by the State government. It would also be good on the part of the NMA if it could state its position on this issue.