‘However hard they try to deny that this issue isn’t about reservation and try to divert the issue to taxation and interpretation of Constitution, the truth is they can’t stand to see a woman holding political power. Patriarchy is deeply rooted in our Naga society. Things got to change. Our women need some freedom.’ (A Naga fellow via digital forum)
As a Naga feminist, I remain hopeful at a time when Naga society decides to sit for consultation that we are able to resist the money, power, and attractions of authority wrapped in Naga patriarchal and traditional cloaks. Such kind of seductions has devoured numerous Naga tribal councils, politicians, leaders, community activists including the church workers. Albert Camus’s wise words come to my mind. As Camus fought racism and homophobia and joined hands with the African American civil and political rights movement, he noted, “I love my country, but I also love my justice”. I too end this essay by stating “As much as I love my Naga community, I also love my justice” and will continue to join hands with the struggle for gender justice.
Within Nagaland, especially among young people, there is a quiet groundswell of support for women reservation. When the protest against reservation begun, I had been following the discussion on social media and whatsapp. Of course, there are those young men, with their regressive views, who are the loudest even here. Their opposition to the reservation is usually because, in their views, women are premature to partake in decision making, or that it is an open field where both women and men should fight equally. But there are other voices, both men and women, who believe that the existing social structure is highly discriminatory, and that without reservation it is almost impossible for women to take part in decision making. Yet these voices are seldom heard, primarily because of the draconian directives passed by the tribal bodies.
Given that Naga men and their tribal bodies have complete control over both the definition and exercise of what constitutes Naga customary laws, there is no room left for any debate or conversation with other concerned persons. It has now come to a point where customary laws are being used to reinforce patriarchy and legitimize violence, to subject and silence women and to shut down any space for gender justice.
Women’s political representation has been an undying struggle all across the country including the North Eastern states. Mob violence and politically polarised outbursts cannot exclude Naga women from public spaces, political assertion and ecological ecosystems which define their existence.
We, the undersigned women’s organisations and concerned individuals take serious note of the fierce opposition to women’s reservation of 33% seats in Nagaland Municipal Councils by male dominated tribal bodies in Nagaland in the name of protecting their tradition and customary practices that bar women from participating in decision- making bodies.
Reservation for women in Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) has caused a serious unrest in the state of Nagaland in the north-eastern region of India. Women’s groups in Nagaland have been leading a struggle for 33 per cent reservation in the local bodies on the grounds of gender equality. On the other hand, tribal bodies and groups (consisting mostly of men!) including the Naga Hoho (the apex body of all 18 tribes in the state) and the Joint Coordination Committee of tribals (JCC) have been opposed to the demand on the grounds that granting 33 per cent reservation for women would violate Naga customary laws and tradition as protected under Article 371(A) of the Constitution of India. Thus, customary laws and the notion of gender equality have been pitted against each other. This calls for serious examination of customary laws and the demand for reservation.
Easterine Kire, who won the Hindu Literary Prize 2015 for her novel When the River Sleeps, beating stiff competition from heavyweights like Amitav Ghosh and Amit Chaudhuri, among others, talks to Dibyajyoti Sarma about her ‘spiritual’ book, and about being a writer from Nagaland
The decennial census data for the Naga Hills (later, Nagaland) between 1881 and 1981 shows that the most dramatic religious change occurred after 1947, when foreign missionaries had left the field.
As India celebrates the National Press Day and the very freedom of press that has liberated us, we the Journalists, Newspapers and media houses in Nagaland faces a difficult challenge of delivering transparent and free communication and expression to our own people.