Women legislators – Kruse & Jakhalu first participation in Assembly discussion
KOHIMA, SEPTEMBER 12: The Nagaland Assembly today referred the newly tabled Nagaland Municipal Bill 2023 to the Select Committee for consideration and also bringing about a consensus with all stakeholders before passing it as a law.
This was an outcome of the members deliberating on the Urban Local Bodies Election (ULBs) during the Discussion on matters of urgent public importance under Rule-50 on “Urban Local Bodies Elections” initiated by Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, KG Kenye and supported by Advisor for Printing & Stationeries and Jails, Kropol Vitsu and Independent MLA Dr Neisatuo Mero on the second day of the ongoing Assembly session.
In his opening remarks, Minister Kenye said even after 21 years of framing the Nagaland Municipal Act there has been not being able to resolve the issue but the present Government has taken the initiative to listen to the people and bring about consensus on the issue of women reservation and also do away with tax on land and properties following the complete repeal of the principal Act of 2001 with the determination to bring a new law.
He said that in the September 1 consultative meet all civil societies and tribal bodies had agreed but some backtracked. Nevertheless, a majority decision has to prevail and the Government will not hesitate to bring about a new Act, he said.
“We have stood the ground on repealing the Act and the highest Court (SC) has recognized the Article 371 (A) and asserted the customary law of the Nagas will not be infringed”, he said.
After 21 years, under the leadership of Neiphiu Rio, a bill was being introduced in the House and the Department tried to accommodate whatever was necessary, he said.
Deputy Chief Minister and BJP Legislature Party leader, Y Patton welcomed the decision to grant 33% women reservation in the ULB elections.
First time women legislators ~ Minister Salhoutuonuo Kruse and MLA & Advisor Hekani Jakhalu ~ also participated in the discussion and expressed gratitude to Naga men for accepting women reservation.
Kruse thanked the Central leaders who framed the reservation policy for women and also thanked the Naga Mothers Association as well as the first Sumi lady who had gone to the court for implementation of women reservation in the State.
Acknowledging the women groups on their role fighting for the rights of the women, Kruse also acknowledged the men of the State, especially the legislators to implement 33% women reservation in the ULB elections.
On the other hand, Jakhalu, while terming their entry into the State Assembly as historic, said “it is historic because one man has the audacity to give tickets to two women for the 2023 election.
On behalf of the Naga women, she saluted the CM for not only giving them a chance but also making sure that they get elected.
“History was created because of our men of 3-Dimapur A/C and 8-Western Angami AC. Men who not only voted but believed that women can represent their constituency”, she said.
On women reservation, she said history was created because Naga women organisations and leaders have been fighting for almost two decades. “It has been a very strenuous, tedious and very stressful two decades for not only the women leaders but for the entire State and to the people in general, because they never gave up but they fought it till the end”, she said.
It was not about men versus women like at times it may appear, but it was something that needed to be changed and it was important that a lot of sensitization and awareness had to be created, and took almost two decades because of the relentless work of the women leaders, and today women are accepted to be in this August House, she said.
She thanked the civil society organizations, tribal leaders and State Government under Rio for ‘beautifully and patiently’ coming to a consensus and also for tabling the new Municipal Bill in the Assembly.
She said 33% reservation is not just because of the Supreme Court ‘fixture’ but it is the right thing to follow.
Nagas are indigenous community and we have to understand that indigenous communities are not unique to Nagas alone, she said. UN statistics shows that there are about 476 million indigenous people worldwide and indigenous people are governed by their own customary laws.
She said Naga customary law is something that has been passed on by the forefathers and is not codified, it is not a uniform law, it is something that is fluid, flexible and throughout the years adapted to times.
Maintaining that customary laws have to change according to times, she cited that during the head hunting times, Naga men were proud and their bravery was measured by how many heads they brought home from the enemy camp.
But today, she said Nagas don’t talk about head-hunting because over time we realised that we have to move on and that doesn’t apply to us anymore.
She also expressed that not giving rights to women in the decision making body is against the universal Human Rights and against equality but that is one thing the indigenous communities all over the world have faced.
Since Naga women were never allowed to take part in the customary institution of decision making then, this alone is a sufficient reason to give reservation, she quipped.
Naga women may have advanced in many unrestricted fields but have not been able to overcome the perpetual denial of their right to participate in the decision making body and hence reservation is the only reasonable means to help women to participate as of today, she said.
“Today during our time, let us make history by passing this bill, so that our children and our children’s children will have a secured future and a beautiful life that our future deserves”, she pleaded.
Minister for Higher Education, Temjen Imna Along, Advisor for Urban Development and Municipal Affairs Zhaleo Rio, and Minister for PHED and Cooperation Jacob Zhimomi also spoke in support of reservation and passing the Bill.
NPF MLAs Kuzholuzo Nienu and Achumbemo Kikon also were in favour of the Bill but they opined that the final draft should be given to the Select Committee and also made public to bring about consensus.
Apprehensions were also raised on the objections raised by Ao Senden and the 3 Municipal Ward Panchayats of Dimapur, Mokokchung and Kohima.
Giving the concluding remarks, Leader of the House, Neiphiu Rio said several attempts by the Government over the years to conduct the elections to ULBs to fulfil the obligations thrust upon it by the 74th Amendment Act of the Constitution, as well as to adhere to the directions of the Court were unsuccessful.
“The Tribal Bodies and the people always viewed the attempts for holding elections with suspicion and there was stiff and vehement opposition”, he said.
Given the long history of opposition to the conduct of ULB elections, and also serious questions being always raised about the provisions of the Nagaland Municipal Act, 2001 being in contravention of Article 371 (A) of the Constitution, the State Assembly repealed the Act of 2001 in toto in the interest of the people and the State.
“Our action of repealing the Act has been subsequently examined by the Supreme Court, and in its last order, the Court while advocating 1/3rd representation for women has further stated that the personal laws of Nagaland and the special status under Article 371 (A) is not being touched in any manner.
We have been given by the Court one last of the last opportunities to abide by its directions and the case is next listed on September 26”, he said.
He conveyed that in the September 1 meeting, the Tribal Bodies and Organizations have expressed their keenness to take this matter forward, and conveyed their broad agreement to the provisions, in particular, for providing 1/3rd reservation of seats of women in ULBs; in the proposed legislation for Municipal governance in the State.
The new Nagaland Municipal Bill 2023, Rio said, “should be suitably addressing all the concerns of our people”.
The Chief Minister said if the House is of the opinion that more examination and deliberations are required for the provisions in the Bill, it may consider referring to the Select Committee for its consideration.
Rio also introduced the Nagaland Municipal Bill 2023 with the approval of the House.
Following which NLA Speaker Sharingain Longkumer announced that the Bill though introduced will not be taken up for consideration and passing but as desired by members and proposed by Leader of the House, it will be referred to the Select Committee.
The Committee will be constituted by him as per the Assembly rules.
(Page News Service)