The Nagaland Municipal Act of 2001 was abolished on March 28 by the Nagaland administration under Neiphiu Rio. The State Election Commission’s March 9 notification to hold elections for Nagaland’s 39 urban local bodies (ULBs), with 33% of the seats designated for women, was subsequently cancelled as a result.
The majority of the traditional tribal and urban organisations are against allocating 33% of the seats to women, claiming that doing so would violate the special rights provided to Nagaland by Article 371A of the Constitution.
The State administration erred, according to the Naga Mothers’ Association (NMA), in not consulting or listening to women’s organisations before deciding to repeal the Municipal Act.
Points to ponder
The only state in India where women are not guaranteed seats in urban local bodies (ULBs), as required by clause IV of the 74th Amendment to the Indian Constitution, is Nagaland.
Tribal and urban organisations’ opposition: The majority of Nagaland’s traditional tribal and urban organisations are against the 33% reservation of seats for women, claiming that doing so would violate the special rights provided to Nagaland by Article 371A of the Constitution.
Article 371A: This Article grants special provisions to Nagaland, such as exemption from the application of Acts of Parliament relating to religious or social practises of the Nagas, Naga customary law and procedure, administration of civil and criminal justice under Naga customary law, and ownership and transfer of land and its resources under Naga customary law.
Hohos’ criticism The reservation for women in ULBs is contrary to Naga customary law and practises, according to the hohos, or top tribal bodies, because historically women have not participated in decision-making bodies.
Recent developments: The Neiphiu Rio-led Nagaland administration met many stakeholders and announced ULB elections with 33% reservation for women in March 2022 under pressure from the Supreme Court. However, until the Municipal Act was reviewed and amended to guarantee it did not violate Article 371A, tribal organisations and civil society organisations opposed the elections. Under pressure from the people, the government revoked the Act, which caused the elections to be cancelled.
Demands made by rival groups: The groups opposed to women’s reservations urged that the position of chairperson not be allocated for women and demanded assurances that the 33% quota would not violate Article 371A. They also suggested capping the duration of the reservation at two terms. The government was criticised by the Naga Mothers’ Association (NMA) for not consulting them before repealing the Municipal law
Opposition to ULB polls
The traditional tribal and urban organisations claim that the 33% seat quota for women in ULBs would be a violation of the specific provisions given to Nagaland by Article 371A of the Constitution.
The reservation of seats for women is against their customary practises, according to the hohos (apex tribal bodies), because women have traditionally not participated in decision-making bodies.
Fear of losing power: Some members of the traditional tribal bodies worry that the reservation of seats for women may result in a loss of authority for the tribal leadership, which is now controlled by men.
Exemption from reservation: The State Assembly adopted a resolution in 2012 to exempt Nagaland from the provisions of Article 243T of the Constitution, which deal with the reservation of seats for women. In November 2016, this decision was overturned, sparking extensive demonstrations and violent outbursts.
The Nagaland Municipal Act of 2001, which established a 33% reservation for women in ULBs, was abolished by the Nagaland government in March 2022. Women’s organisations and civil society organisations objected to this decision, claiming that repealing the Act will restrict women’s ability to participate in decision-making.
Guarantee of non-violation of Article 371A: The organisations opposed to women’s reservations demand a “guarantee” that the 33% quota will not contravene Article 371A’s rules. They asked that the position of chairperson not be reserved for women and proposed capping the number of tenures for reservations at two before “rushing to conduct” the ULB elections.