“This is a part of the country where women are educated, employed and contribute to economic development. This is really shameful,” a Bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M M Sundresh had observed.
The Supreme Court was hearing a plea filed by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and others seeking the conduct of polls in all municipalities and town councils in the tribal majority state in accordance with Section 23A of the Nagaland Municipal (First Amendment) Act, 2006 and the notification of the state government.
While the tribal societies in the Northeast are usually perceived to be gender-inclusive and more egalitarian than those in mainland India, the situation on the ground is different.
In February 2017, Nagaland witnessed violent protests over the issue of 33 percent reservation for women in ULBs. Male-dominated groups, including the Naga Hoho, the apex tribal body, had objected to the women’s quota on the grounds that it would be in conflict with Naga customary laws. Later, these orgnisations softened their stand and the state assembly also passed a resolution allowing women’s reservation in local bodies.
Ahead of the 2023 assembly polls, Nagaland’s youngest political outfit, the Rising People’s Party (RPP), has announced its full commitment to the issue of women’s empowerment as it talks about a corruption-free alternative model of governance.
It says women in Nagaland constitute almost half of the population and “they deserve to be heard but their representation is almost nil in policy-making discourses, particularly in the state legislative assembly and the ULBs. Not even a single woman has been elected to the state assembly since the formation of the state in 1963”.
“The RPP is of the view that these historical aberrations need to be rectified with hard decisions, and it’s incumbent upon the UDA coalition government to take into consideration the recent hard-hitting view of the Supreme Court of India on the issue…For good governance, women empowerment at all levels in imperative. Only an adequate representation of women in the constitutional and statutory bodies will bring the much-needed balance and dynamism in governance,” the RPP, which was formed on October 2, 2020, said in a statement shared with TOI.
The party promises to give “opportunities for women to participate in the coming assembly elections slated for 2023 as we believe in putting in place an inclusive approach to women empowerment that goes beyond legal quotas”.
RPP vice-president Dr Abeny Khuvung is a former beauty queen and a licensed homeopathy doctor. “The public should start believing in the capability of women and not just in the perceived feminine role of women,” she said at a press conference in Dimapur last year.
According to Joel Naga, the RPP president, women and youth in politics will help in curtailing corruption in the state. The party recently launched an online signature campaign demanding President’s Rule in Nagaland, which it said is the “worst performing state under 6 parameters (poverty, health, affordable energy, sustainable cities, industries and infrastructure) as per SDGI index of NITI Aayog 2021”.
A Population Commission for Manipur?
Six student organisations in Manipur staged a demonstration on Thursday, demanding the setting up of a Population Commission and the formulation of a policy to promote the Manipuri language.
They claim there is a demographic imbalance in the state because of the continuous influx of illegal immigrants from neighbouring countries, especially Bangladesh and Myanmar. A Population Commission and a National Register of Citizens (NRC) are the need of the hour to address this problem, they stressed.
Earlier, several tribal outfits had raised similar demands. The Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI) and the United Naga Council (UNC) recently urged the state’s legislators to pass a resolution in the ongoing monsoon session of the assembly for setting up a Population Commission.
They reiterated their demand for deportation of illegal migrants and checking the mushrooming of what they called “unrecognized villages” in the hill areas of the state. The two groups also demanded updating the NRC in respect of Manipur with a fixed cut-off base year to identify illegal immigrants, according to reports.
A research paper ‘Influx of Immigrants in the North Eastern States of India’ by Manipuri scholar Bishwanjit Singh Loitongbam examines why the immigrants do not move to industrialised and metropolitan cities rather than NE states. It suggests that, “although it is a mixture of economy, social and political motives, the main reason for their stay in Manipur is politically motivated rather than looking for employment…In other words, the reason behind the unabated influx of immigrant population in NE states seems that the socio-political reasons far outweigh the economic reasons”.
It further says that the promise made by the BJP’s top leadership “before the 2016 Assam elections to stop the problem of immigration from Bangladesh in the NE looks like it was only for the purpose of rhetoric!”