Read Editorial with D2G – Bowing down to patriarchy
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One of the success stories of affirmative action in India has been the implementation of reservation of seats in local body elections for women, to the order of 33% or more. The importance of democratizing (make (something) accessible to everyone) the public sphere by inclusive participation of women in a largely male-dominated society cannot be stressed enough. In rural areas the quota has helped improve local governance, enhancing (intensify, increase, or further improve the quality, value, or extent of) outcomes in delivery of civic services related to drinking water supply, sanitation (conditions relating to public health) and irrigation, among others.
In urban local bodies, the visible impact has been more quantitative in terms of representation rather than qualitative, with success being linked to emphasis on gender sensitisation (the process of becoming highly sensitive) by civil society and political parties. It is therefore unfortunate that the Nagaland government, after initial steadfastness (sure; dependable; reliable ;constant ) to hold the long-delayed urban local body polls on February 1, declared the elections as “null and void ( Cancelled; invalid)” after some tribal bodies, opposed to reservations for women, sought to disrupt (disturbance or problems which interrupt an event, activity, or process) the process.
Rather than bowing to this pressure, the State government led by the Nagaland People’s Front should have enforced the rule of law. That a substantial (of considerable importance, size, or worth) number of towns participated in the elections despite a bandh (a general strike) called by the tribal bodies reflects public support for affirmative action as mandated (give (someone) authority to act in a certain way) by the 74th Amendment to the Constitution. Article 371A of the Constitution secures a special status for Nagaland. But as the civil society groups striving (make great efforts to achieve or obtain something) for reservation have argued, urban local bodies are not part of traditional Naga society, and ULBs are constitutional bodies to which customary (according to the customs or usual practices associated with a particular society, place, or set of circumstances) Naga laws cannot be applied.
The conduct of the long-delayed elections was achieved after a protracted (lasting for a long time or longer than expected or usual) Legal struggle led by women’s groups. Arguments against women’s reservation invoking Naga customs have been consistently quashed (put an end to; suppress) by the courts, ultimately paving (cover) the way for elections to be announced for February 1. The State government later submitted to pressure exerted (make use of ) by the Naga Hoho, an apex group of 16 tribal groups, which smelled blood and sought Chief Minister T.R. Zeliang’s resignation.
The State government then wrote to the Centre seeking (attempt to find (something) exemption (release; relief) for Nagaland from Part IXA of the Constitution — which is clearly untenable ( unarguable; insupportable). The Centre, meanwhile, sees Nagaland merely (just; only) through the lens of the still- pending peace accord with some insurgent (a person fighting against a government or invading force) groups. This milieu (environment; background) has emboldened patriarchal forces to assert themselves and deny (refuse to give (something requested or desired) to (someone)) women their constitutionally guaranteed rights of representation in local bodies. Civil society and women’s groups now have their work cut out in realising their just demand for electoral representation. Denial (a statement that something is not true) of women’s rights cannot be a measure of the State’s autonomy.