Women reservation cauldron in Nagaland
SIMILAR to the role being played by the womenfolk of Manipur, women’s organisations in Nagaland spearheaded by the influential Naga Mothers’ Association (NMA) have been fighting social evils and serving as agents of peace for years. Ceaseless efforts to root out various social malaises and contributions by the NMA activists in reforming the Naga society could be gauged from the fact that the NMA was awarded the Times of India Social Impact Award for life contribution in 2013. Even though they are considered physically inferior when compared to their male counterpart, NMA members are known to have trekked for hours through hostile jungle terrains to meet leaders of insurgent groups to bring them to the negotiating table. They are also said to be actively involved in campaigns against substance abuse and stigmatisation of HIV positive people. Formed in 1984 in response to the drug and alcohol addiction ravaging Nagaland at that time, NMA constitution mandates that every adult Naga woman is automatically made a member with an annual membership fee of Re 1. Through the 1980s and 1990s, NMA addressed the violence that tore Nagaland apart: atrocities by the Indian army against Naga groups and civilians, and then years of fratricidal killings between various Naga factions. Their campaign to restore peace in Nagaland could also be comprehended from the NMA motto 'Shed No More Blood'.
Regardless of such enviable activities, the current impasse in Nagaland over the issue of 33 per cent reservation of seat for women in urban local bodies indicates that the mothers and sisters in the neighbouring state are far from enjoying their constitutional rights. History is witness to men denying women the so-called equality as is evident from incidents of women deprived of their due rights, suppression and ill-treatment. Discrimination against women is even more glaring in some Muslim countries where they are seen only as objects of sex. However, similar violation of women’s right in Nagaland is unthinkable as it is a state which follows the principle of Christianity, a religion considered most liberal of all faiths. Accepted that even the so-called lucky elite urban women too feel discriminated, since they are not allowed to play a significant role in their offices or in public affairs, but in Nagaland’s context, male-centric tribal organisations fiercely opposing the proposal for implementing the constitutionally granted rights for women’s empowerment seems to have an ulterior motive to suppress the truth that women have certain qualities which can eclipse men`s grandeur. Moreover, the tribal organisations contending that the anti-quota stand is a necessity for protecting custom and traditional practices of the Nagas can also be construed as rustic mind-set on account of democracy upholding the ideals of equality of all citizens. In view of the agitating organisations also decrying fielding of non-native Nagas in the ULB polls, the current impasse in Nagaland has further exposed that there is ill-will against their brethren from the neighbouring states, a concept that belies the campaign for Naga unification.