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Naga women and their constitutionally guaranteed rights

Since the time the Nagaland Municipal (First Amendment) Act in 2006 was  enacted  by the Nagaland government, all-male tribal bodies have protested against the 33% reservation for women in urban local bodies (ULBs) in Nagaland. Such reservation, they insist will violate Article 371(A) of the Constitution and infringe on Naga traditions, culture and customary laws. Due to this opposition, for over 10 years, the government of Nagaland did not conduct elections to local bodies.

On June 26, 2011, Naga women led by the Naga Mothers  Association (NMA) filed a writ petition challenging the State government s refusal to hold municipal elections. The Gauhati High Court  directed the government  to hold elections  on or before January 20, 2012 but an appeal  was filed which stayed the previous order. Later on, the Nagaland State Assembly rejected women s reservation in  urban local bodies and adopted a resolution to the effect laying their basis on infringement on the social and customary practices of the Nagas.

A Special Leave Petition was moved by  the Joint Action Committee on Women Reservation  in the Supreme Court in 2012 which upheld  the Naga women s petition and so the Nagaland Municipal (Third Amendment) Bill 2016 was enacted  revoking  the September 2012 resolution.

The announcement of Nagaland government  that elections to the ULBs would be held on February 1 was protested by the tribal bodies who threatened  ex-communication from tribes to the candidates who intended to file nominations.

The elections were declared  null and void  by the Nagaland government. More alarming is the decision of state  government to write to the Centre to exempt Nagaland from Part IX A of the Constitution.

It is on the Centre now to protect the rights of Naga women guaranteed  constitutionally.

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