For the past few months, largely away from the cameras and attention of the “mainstream” or national media, the north eastern state of Nagaland has been rocked by protests marked by violence, loss of life and changing Chief Ministers.
Reservation for women in civic body roles was what triggered the present protests
The protests started in Nagaland in December 2016 after the government announced civic body elections with 33% reservation for women. The truth is that Naga society is traditionally patriarchal. Nagaland has had no woman legislator since its inception and Naga women have been fighting for their rights for a long time, finally seeking help from the Supreme court.
The law for reservation for women was passed years ago under the former CM Rio. However, his government had indefinitely delayed local body elections correctly anticipating that doing so would create a law and order problem. However, the new government under T R Zeilang (Congress) was adamant to hold elections and this led to the situation getting out of hand. Some suggest that the CM should have held another round of talks between women’s groups and the Naga Hoho leaders before announcing elections.
The protests turned violent as government forces clashed with protestors
The protesters targeted government institutions and burnt as many as 20 government buildings. 2 people were killed in the police firing following the protests. The scale of protests was so large and widespread that the central government dispatched additional forces to curtail the situation.
Article 371 a was one of the major reason for the protests
However, there’s more to these protests than pure patriarchy. Chief among them is article 371a.The article grants a “special status” to Nagaland which was given as a concession when Nagaland was included in the Indian Union. Under this provision, no law passed by the centre is applicable to Nagaland if it is against the cultural practices of the Naga community. The protesters see the reservation for women as against the Naga culture and a step towards diluting article 371a.
CM Zeilang was accused of trying to merge his party with the BJP
It is also important to know that Nagaland has a Christian majority population with English being the official language. Some have accused the Zeilang of trying to merge his party with the BJP and further a Hindu agenda with the help of RSS. This was another major reason for the unrest.
As a result, Zeilang resigned but was reappointed as CM as his ‘proposed’ successor Liezietsu didn’t show up for the floor test
The protests had massive political repercussions as well. The protesters demanded the ouster of CM Zeilang. He eventually relented and resigned as CM.Following this Shurhozelie Liezietsu, also from the NPF was appointed as CM. However, Liezietsu was not an elected member and was to contest a by-poll from the north Angami from a seat vacated by his son Khriehu Liezietsu. However, there was more drama to follow as the MLAs rebelled against Liezietsu and Zeilang wrote to governor P B Acharya claiming support of 41 MLAs. The drama ended when Liezietsu was absent on the day of the floor test and Zeilang was re-appointed as the CM.
But the protests have resurfaced
The Naga People’s Front is protesting for the ouster of the Governor for reinstalling the T.R Zeilang government and creating a constitutional crisis.
Looks like stability is unlikely to return to Nagaland anytime soon.