At pretty much this same time last year, Nagaland was erupting in explosive protests over women’s reservation in urban civic bodies. Now, a full year later, we’re seeing some promising developments in the state.
Five women, Awan Konyak, Rakhila, Dr K Mangyangpula, Wedie-U Kronu and Rekha Rose Dukru, have filed their nomination papers for the upcoming state assembly election. Which means that this year will see the highest number of Naga women registered in assembly elections in “at least the last 20 years”, according to chief electoral officer Abhijit Sinha in an interview to The Times of India.
If elected, they will become the first women representatives to ever be part of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly since its creation in 1963.
Women’s participation in politics has been a hot-button issue for a while in Nagaland. Last year, the issue of 33 percent women’s reservation in overwhelmingly male civic bodies led groups like Naga Hoho (comprising of representatives from 16 tribes) to take to the streets and call for a boycott of the elections, ostensibly because the Naga Mothers Association had filed a case in the Supreme Court demanding the reservation of seats for women without consulting “Naga society” beforehand.
These protests grew so violent that two people were killed and 21 government buildings set on fire, and Chief Minister TR Zeliang was finally forced to resign. The state cabinet also decided to submit a memorandum to the Prime Minister, asking him to amend the Constitution through an ordinance, thereby keeping Nagaland out of the purview of the states required to give 33 percent reservation to women. Yes, they thought amending the Constitution would be wiser than allowing women to have representation in government, and this negotiation is still in the works.
So, it’s against this really rather alarming backdrop that we’ve received the heartening news of five women filing nominations in the upcoming Assembly elections, and they could really be on the brink of making history at a charged time.