A few hours after Shurhozelie Liezeitsu met the Nagaland governor and staked his claim to form the next government in the state, the Nagaland Tribes Action Committee (NTAC) announced that it will lift the bandh that has paralysed the state for more than a month.
What is the issue?
Shurhozelie will replace T.R. Zeliang who stepped down after failing to contain the violent protests that broke out after his government decided to hold municipal elections with 33 per cent reservation for women.
What the tribal groups say?
Although the Zeliang government decided to defer the elections to urban local bodies, the Naga Hoho, the body that represents the state’s 16 tribal bodies, was not willing to accept anything short of revoking the decision to reserve seats for women, which it believes violates the safeguards provided to tribal customs under Article 371 A of the Constitution.
Zeliang’s request to the Centre to issue an ordinance exempting Nagaland from reserving seats for women in urban local bodies refused to placate the tribal body.
The core conflict
At the heart of the turmoil that led to Zeliang’s resignation is the conflict between traditionalists, who believe Naga tribal customs must remain sacrosanct, and those who believe Naga society must adapt to change and modernisation.
For a state with a long history of insurgency and ethnic conflict, the Naga Hoho’s anxiety to safeguard tribal customs is understandable. But the obstinacy of Nagaland’s tribal groups even when the demand for change has come from Naga women’s groups can only be ascribed to patriarchal mindsets. The new CM will need to show political imagination to resolve this longstanding contradiction in Naga society.