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Nagaland: Northeast Diary: Nagaland’s dilemma over 33% quota for women in civic bodies | India News – Times of India

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The hype around Nagaland electing its first women legislators seems to be fading fast with the state assembly passing a resolution to repeal a law that provided for 33 percent reservation for women in civic bodies.
The move also exposes what many see as “double standards” of political parties, which promised women’s empowerment in their 2023 assembly poll manifestos. The state has an opposition-less government.
Leading women’s organisations of the state have protested against the move, questioning the Neiphiu Rio-led government’s intent. “Naga women object to the decision to repeal this act and take exception to the fact that this was done without any civil dialogue or consultation with women,” the Naga Mothers’ Association (NMA) said in a statement.
The NMA also claimed the two women MLAs had remained silent during the deliberations on the issue in the assembly earlier this week. The duo — Hekani Jakhalu and Salhoutuonuo Kruse of the ruling NDPP – had created history by being Nagaland’s first women legislators in its 60 years of statehood. The assembly poll results were out on March 2.
So, what was the issue with the Nagaland Municipal Act 2001? It is said there was pressure from tribal organisations and civil society groups on the government to repeal the law. These organisations oppose the Act as it provided for a 33 percent quota for women and levy taxes on land and buildings. They claim that the law is in conflict with the Article 371A of the Constitution, which protects Naga customary laws and procedures.
In February 2017, the state had witnessed violent protests over 33 percent reservation for women in urban local bodies as mandated by Article 243(T) of the Constitution. The Naga Hoho, the apex tribal body of the state, and other outfits had offered the same argument against women’s reservation in local bodies.
However, in March 2022, representatives from across the Naga society unanimously agreed that urban body elections should be held with 33 percent reservation for women.
“This is another case of contradictions that characterize the Naga society today. The Rio government has buckled under pressure from the Naga Hohos and the civil society organisations (CSOs). Those opposing the Nagaland Municipal Act 2001 have some genuine concerns with regards to how the Act might adversely impact the traditional rights of the Nagas guaranteed under Art 371A of the Constitution of India. The government has failed to come up with any substantial clarification to address the concerns raised by the people except stating that it is only following the Supreme Court’s directive,” a young political activist from Nagaland told TOI speaking on condition of anonymity.
Following the assembly resolution on Tuesday, the State Election Commission cancelled the civic body elections, scheduled to be conducted on May 16 after two decades, “till further orders”.
“As regards to the protest by women over the repeal of the Municipal Act, there is some validity in their position, but the 33 percent reservation in the ULB is not the only issue why the Act was repealed. In fact, a number of Hohos and CSOs have made it clear that they are not against women’s reservation in the ULB, but their concerns are broader that includes taxation on land, ambiguity over jurisdiction of urban and rural areas, infringement on Article 371A and so on. So what has happened is that the issue of women empowerment has become a victim of other larger issues of concern,” the activist added.

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