The attempt by the T.R. Zeliang led-DAN government to get the nod from tribal hohos to assent to certain modifications to the NagalandMunicipal Act 2001 failed, as the hohos suspected that the exercise was mainly to get their nod to revoke the 2012 assembly resolution in the house to clear the decks for civic polls with 33% women reservation.
The consultative meeting held at the Capital Convention Hall began with state chief secretary Pankaj Kumar making his opening remarks to inform that the meeting was called to discuss the Nagaland Municipal Act 2001 vis-à-vis tax and landholding issues and not about 33% women reservation.
However, most of the tribal representatives objected to it and nearly staged a walk-out as they wanted it to also include 33% women reservation issue. Chief minister T.R. Zeliang intervened after which it was agreed to discuss the contentious quota issue. The chief minister focussed on suggestions on issues of tax and land holdings raised by Ao Senden and also APO to omit or delete the provision for reservation of seat for Schedule Caste. However these were overshadowed by the handling of 33% women reservation by the state government.
According to DIPR, on the 33% women reservation, the chief minister said a series of meetings were held with the Naga Mothers’ Association and other women organizations but they have decided to wait for the verdict of the court. It reported that the chief minister reiterated that in view of the 33% reservation for women, unless the petitioner (the women organization) agreed, there was no question of a compromise and therefore, the cabinet decided to agree with the reservation of women.
It may be noted that the September 22,2012 assembly resolution tabled by T.R. Zeliang as then minister of parliamentary affairs and introduced by Dr Shürhozelie, then urban development minister, was adopted by the house to make inoperative Clause IX A from the amendment made in 2006 on 33% women reservation.
Nagaland Post spoke with prominent members of several tribal hohos over phone and all of them said they stood firm with regard to both the tax and landholding issues including 33% women reservation. They said the issues needed wider, proper and lengthier deliberations and cannot be rushed otherwise it would result in eroding the principles of tribal customary laws and practices that were welded to Article 371A.
Naga Hoho president P. Chuba Ozukum said the Hoho stand was that there should be no reservation but nomination with voting rights. He said such a formula could be worked out for the nod from the assembly only after a wide consultation with all stakeholders in order to avoid controversies.
Ozukum reiterated that NH supported equality of rights among men and women but if the issue infringed Article 371 (A) then the Hoho will have to defend it.
The apex bodies at the meeting suggested nomination for women in the civic bodies, while some suggested nomination with voting rights. However, the apex bodies at the same time made their stand clear that they would vehemently oppose any move that would infringe upon Article 371(A), which may arise out of such matter.
APO president Dr. Vilhousa Seleyi said the issues could not be discussed properly during the consultative meeting as many issues raised could not be properly addressed. On the 33% women quota Dr. Seleyi said he shared the same opinion with all tribal hohos that there was no difference in status between men and women and therefore, there was no need for any reservation.
According to another tribal hoho member, T.R. Zeliang’s stand were less defensive and instead revealed inherent contradictions between his argument on the 33% women reservation and Lotha Hoho PIL.
The chief minister defended the government stand to support 33% women reservation since the SLP filed by NMA in the Supreme Court would take a long time and for which the state exchequer would incur heavy expenditure. He also speculated that the apex court’s ruling would be more or less in favour of the Joint Action Committee on
Women Reservation (JACWR). Zeliang said this was also the opinion of some “senior lawyers in Delhi”.
However, on the issue of fighting the PIL filed by Lotha Hoho on the oil issue, the chief minister said the government has engaged senior Supreme Court lawyers for the case.
One of the tribal leaders wanted to know from the chief minister, the difference in fighting the Lotha Hoho PIL by hiring expensive lawyers and then justifying backing out from the case on the 33% women reservation citing heavy legal expenditure. Any court matter would take a long time and definitely money would be spent in the process, the tribal leader said.
Another tribal hoho leader further pointed out that both PIL on oil and 33% quota imbroglio raised by various organizations/government was in connection with Article 371(A). He said when the government was literally against Lotha Hoho’s PIL– citing reasons that it (PIL) would weaken Article 371(A); what was its stand on 33% women reservation, when majority of the tribal bodies were voicing its concern that women quota would have ramifications on Art. 371(A)?.
One of them pointed out that the government was over keen to give up the 33% women reservation case mainly due to the fund (over Rs.200 crore) that it would get from the centre if it held poll to ULBs.
He also cited parliamentary secretary, Geology & Mining, Dr. Imtiwapang’s statement cautioning people that the verdict on PIL may go against Article 371(A).
Now, which way would the government like to exercise its wisdom, he wondered. On one side they say they are spending too much money fighting in the court and on the other hand the government is ready to fight tooth and nail (PIL on oil filed by Lotha Hoho) by hiring expensive lawyers.
The tribal leaders said if the so called “Consultative meeting on Municipal Act, 2011” was held as an eye wash just before the upcoming Assembly Session to make it look as if all was well, the government would be wrong, as no one would allow the tribal bodies/stakeholders to be taken for a ride.
A senior tribal hoho leader also disclosed that if the government attempted to go ahead with an assembly resolution to push through civic polls with 33% women reservation, then the hohos will not remain silent.
One of the vocal members claimed that many were not given adequate time as the entire process was sought to be steam rolled. “This cannot be called a consultative meet as the very word consultation was not present throughout” he said.
Those who spoke include members of the Naga Hoho, ENPO, Ao Senden, APO, Konyak Union, Chakhesang Public Organization, Lotha Hoho and Rengma Hoho and among the legislators PHE minister Tokheho Yepthomi. However, Zeliangrong Baudi Nagaland, Sumi Hoho and Pochury Hoho representatives were not present.