Nagaland is boiling over women’s 33 per cent reservation in municipal elections costing two lives so far. The elections scheduled for February 1 was deferred indefinitely. Ruling Nagaland People’s Front (NPF) and its ally the BJP are firm on going ahead with the polls in the already-decided format. It is the traditional bodies that are opposing reservation for women citing infringement of customary laws that are protected under Article 371(A).
Problems notwithstanding, the silver lining for the state compared to others in North-east like Meghalaya is that there is no opposition to municipal elections as a whole. Meghalaya is yet to hold its first municipal elections. Attempts made so far to hold the civic body polls were met with violent protests. The state’s elected representatives so far failed to convince the people about the need for holding such elections in a democracy. Only democratically elected bodies deserve to get Central funds. Meghalaya is too far from having such a system. No wonder Central authorities often find loopholes in utilisation of funds for civic amenities.
While at least two parties have agreed for 33 per cent reservation in municipal elections in Nagaland, the parties in Meghalaya have not even taken the courage to unanimously voice for holding the election. Let alone municipal bodies, traditional bodies are still a no-go zone for women in the ‘matrilineal’ Meghalaya. The state ‘proud of’ its system of mother’s lineage is facing the irony of not allowing women into the traditional Dorbar meetings. It’s a long way to ensuring democracy in urban civic bodies and then have women’s representation as per the law in Meghalaya. It’s also high time the elected representatives took lessons from Nagaland and at least convince their voters for holding the civic polls for the sake of transparency and development.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on February 4, 2017)