A consultative meeting convened by chief minister Neiphiu Rio-led government unanimously recommended that the pending elections to civic bodies in Nagaland should be conducted according to the 74th Amendment Act of the Constitution of India, which mandates 33% reservation for women in civic bodies.
The implementation of 33% reservation for women in civic bodies, which has been an “Achilles heel” for the Nagaland government, got a green signal on Wednesday as a consultative meeting convened by chief minister Neiphiu Rio-led government unanimously recommended that the pending elections to civic bodies in the state should be conducted according to the 74th Amendment Act of the Constitution of India.
The 33% reservation of seats for women in the election to urban local bodies (ULB) became a controversial issue in the state with various tribe organisations opposing it, saying Article 371(A), which grants special provisions to Nagaland, protects the state over the 74th Amendment (Clause IV), which mandates 33 percent reservation for women in civic bodies.
Wednesday’s consultative meeting was attended by various stakeholders including mass based civil society organisations, churches, tribal bodies, and political parties.
“Women’s reservation for municipal elections is a progressive step. Even though women are treated equally in our society, they need some handholding areas like electoral politics, where they have not ventured in the past. It has been amply demonstrated all over the world that their participation in leadership and decision-making positions can yield positive results for the society and we should also gain from this,” said chief minister Rio.
This development comes 2 weeks after the Supreme Court gave the Nagaland government 6 weeks’ time to report back on how it proposed to implement a 33% reservation for women in municipal and town councils.
“Today is a red-letter day for Naga women. The long years of fighting for the constitutional rights of women have been worth it. We are grateful to the chief minister, chairman of United Democratic Alliance (UDA), deputy CM, and all leaders of tribes and civil society, political parties who have supported the reservation for women. It has been a long struggle for Naga women. With the support of our men, changes of mindset and equity will come for Naga women in the days ahead,” said Dr. Rosemary Dzuvichu, advisor of the influential Naga Mothers’ Association who spearheaded the cause.
Nagaland enacted its Municipal Act in 2001, under which the first elections were conducted. The Act was later amended in September 2006 to insert the 33% of reservation of seats for women in accordance with the requirements of the 74th Amendment Act.
Contentions cropped up when the state, with Article 371A safeguarding its cultural, traditional, and religious practices, and land and its resources, was exempted from the 73rd Amendment vis-à-vis the Panchayati Raj institutions, but when Parliament passed the 74th Amendment for setting up of municipalities in the same year, Nagaland was not exempted as its town administrations were not part of customary practices.
However, the general elections to municipal towns and councils, which were notified in March 2012, could not be held on account of objections from tribal bodies and subsequently in September 2012, the state assembly passed a resolution to exempt Nagaland from Article 243T of the Constitution relating to women reservation.
Another resolution was passed by the state assembly in November 2016 revoking the earlier resolution of September 2012 and general elections with 33% women reservation to constitute the civic bodies were notified in December 2016. Many continued to oppose the move, largely suspected to be on political grounds, and violence broke out in the state’s commercial city Dimapur and the capital Kohima, which forced the state government to declare the process to conduct election null and void in February 2017.
The state’s elections to civic bodies have been pending for over 12 years now.
Source: Hindustan Times