By Maya Palit
Nagaland has been erupting in protests, arson, and violence over the issue of 33 percent reservations (Article 243) for women in the civic bodies’ elections (which were initially scheduled for February 1st, but then deferred because of protests). After the Naga Mothers Association made legal appeals in favour of the reservations, it resulted in court rulings ordering that the reservations be introduced.
In a shocking new development on Thursday, the Nagaland chief minister TR Zeliang was almost forced to step down after the Nagaland Tribal Action Comittee and the Naga People’s Front (NPF) demanded his resignation. Reports say he has has requested for a few days to transition his powers, and has left to meet central leaders in Delhi.
According to reports by Naga women, life in Nagaland was entirely disrupted by an indefinite bandh instituted by men’s tribal bodies, with social media being censored as well. In the meantime, the issue has led to conflicting views amongst women — from those fiercely advocating it, to others suggesting that the quota violates traditional Naga customary laws and constitutional rights. Several women have also voiced their disillusionment, confusion, anger with the level of harassment they’ve faced, and disappointment with the protests against reservations for women.
An article by two Naga women on the Shillong-based webzine Raiot, for instance, insists that the issue of imperialism cannot be conflated with the demand for reservations, particularly as it is Naga men that have complete control over the decisions regarding customary laws: “It has now come to a point where customary laws are being used to reinforce patriarchy and legitimize violence, to subject and silence women and to shut down any space for gender justice.” It’s unclear what direction the situation will move in now, but it is still looking grim for women who hoped to contest in the elections.