In light of the recent decision of the tribal and civil society organizations on their consensus that reservation should be given to women in civic bodies, the state's first women legislators, Salhoutuonuo Kruse and Hekani Jakhalu, have praised the decision.
In her first speech to the state assembly since her election in February 2023, Kruse thanked the federal leaders who devised the policy of allocating 33 per cent of urban local bodies (ULB) seats to women.
She took part in a panel discussion on the upcoming ULB elections and expressed gratitude to the Naga women leaders for championing the implementation of women reservation in the state.
MLA Jakhalu, in her first speech to the assembly, echoed this sentiment, saying that the last two decades have been difficult ones for all members of the Naga community, not just women. She praised the progress, saying that the state government was able to introduce the new municipal bill to the assembly on Tuesday because civil society organizations and tribal leaders were finally working together.
According to Jakhalu, Nagas are governed by customary laws just like any other indigenous community around the world. However, she did note that customary laws are not written down and instead evolve.
The 14th Nagaland State Assembly, in its first session in March 2023, repealed the principal act in its entirety due to the long history of opposition to the conduct of ULB elections and questions about the provisions of the Nagaland Municipal Act, 2001 being in conflict with Article 371A.
At the same time as the act was being repealed, the state government decided to quickly draft a new act for the governance of the state's towns and urban areas, one that is fully consistent with the accepted customary practices and traditions, as well as Article 371A.
Chief minister, Neiphiu Rio, citing the ongoing litigation in the Supreme Court through a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) seeking 33% reservation for women in civic bodies in Nagaland, said, “Our action of repealing the Act has been subsequently examined by the Supreme Court, and in its last order, which all of you will be aware of the Hon’ble Supreme Court while advocating 1/3rd representation for women has further also 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 26 September 2023”, he added.
He said that tribal organizations are eager to move the issue forward and have expressed their support for the proposed legislation for municipal governance in the state, in particular the provision to reserve one-third of urban local body (ULB) seats for women.
According to Rio, the new Bill needs to adequately address the needs of the people.
After introducing the Nagaland Municipal Bill 2023 in the current assembly, CM Rio also proposed sending it to a select committee, which Assembly Speaker Sharingain Longkumer has agreed to form.