Despite the state government’s firm stand for conduct of elections to municipal and town councils (Urban Local Bodies– UBLs) on May 16, as directed by the Supreme Court, more organizations like the Nagaland Tribes Council (NTC), Nagaland Gaon Bura (village chiefs) Federation (NGBF) and : Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO) have declared that they would not participate in polls unless the Nagaland Municipal Act 2001 was amended by deleting certain provisions that infringe upon Article 371 A of the Constitution of India.
It may be noted that the crucial meeting of all apex tribal bodies to be held on March 27 at Kohima is expected to take a consensus decision on ULB polls vis-à-vis Nagaland Municipal Act 2001.
NGBF says Art 243 not applicable in Nagaland: The Nagaland Gaon Bura (village chiefs) Federation (NGBF) has asserted that Article 243 of the Indian constitution could not be applied to Nagaland, including the 73rd Amendment.
In a statement, NGBF further said that Naga customary law as per the agreed terms of 1960 did not warrant creation of Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) and that village, area and range councils alone could be made operational.
Declaring its support to any developmental initiatives of the State government for the betterment of the public, including ULB election, the federation however expressed few reservations.
It said that the Supreme Court’s directive was an outcome of the State’s failure in convincing the court on the political negotiations between the Central government and Naga national political groups and that the party concerned should take responsibility for this. It pointed out that the agreement of 1960 between the Centre and the Naga People’s Convention addressed the formation of a Legislative Assembly with separation of powers from the Parliament.
NGBF asserted that the Nagaland Municipal Act, 2001, (9) (2) of dividing villages into wards and the same as in 21(2) of the Act did not fit into the scheme of Article 371 (A) (1) (a) and infringing in any manner would not be encouraged.
NGBF further noted that the Naga political solution between the Centre and NPGs had been discussed in all forums, including by Nagaland Legislators. “We are made to understand that the formations of bicameral house and Federal Hoho and structuring of the administration of the Federal Hoho, would be decided after the political solution and therefore, conducting the local body election at this stage is not fully the will of the Nagas,” the statement declared. According to NGBF, if at all everyone was serious of Naga political solution, the political reality should be conveyed to the Supreme Court of India.
It clarified that as an elderly organisation, it felt obligated to come out with its opinions in regard to ULB election and the complaints from tribal hohos and civil organisations.
ENPO demands repeal of NMA: Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO) has declared that it would not allow holding of ULB elections until the Nagaland Municipal Act, 2001 was repealed.
At an emergency executive meeting held at Treasurer’s residence in Dimapur on Sunday as per a decision of a joint consultative meeting held with federating tribal bodies, frontal organisations, talk team and sub-units on March 23 at DUDA Guest House, Kohima to give clear decision with regard to the conduct of ULB election in the State vis-à-vis ENPO’s stand on the matter, the meeting adopted a two-point resolution
The house viewed that the conduct of ULB election under the Nagaland Municipal Act would have serious negative impact on Article 371(A) of the Indian constitution. As such, in partial modification to the ENPO resolution no. 1 (c) of October 17, 2021, and as entrusted upon, it was unanimously resolved by the ENPO not to allow conduct of ULBs election until the Act was repealed. Further, people of Eastern Nagaland under the aegis of ENPO had on August 26, 2022 resolved not to participate in any election process of the State and Centre until their demand for Frontier Nagaland was considered.
However, following the assurance given by the Home Ministry that a solution as mutually agreed upon would be reached after following the due process and would be implemented after completion of the Assembly election process,
ENPO clarified that it had relaxed its August 26, 2022 resolution on February 4 and participated in the recently-held Assembly election.
But, with the lapse of time after completion of the election process in Nagaland, the agreement had not been signed till date.
Therefore, as entrusted upon, the ENPO resolved to adhere to its August 26, 2022 resolution not to participate in any election process until a solution as mutually agreed upon was reached and thus resolved not to participate in the ULB election.
Listen to people’s voice, says NTC: Nagaland Tribes Council (NTC) has urged the State government to listen to the voice of the people and address the demands of Nagaland tribes apex bodies and civil society groups by giving necessary ratifications to “erase every detrimental provision” from the Nagaland Municipal Act, 2001.
NTC through its media cell said that the council during a joint meeting of the executive and advisors March 25, 2023 deliberated at length on the ongoing imbroglio over the Nagaland Municipal Act 2001 as amended up to 2016. At the meeting, the house resolved to appeal the government to relook into the people’s grievances as brought up in public domain on the taxation and reservation issues.
Noting that Nagaland was gearing up for the ULB elections under the Municipal Act with its contentious provisions, NTC acknowledged that Nagaland could not remain pampered indefinitely. As a State, it stressed that Nagaland had to become self-reliant with its internal resources. NTC called upon the people to train themselves how to pay due tax to public exchequer as much as they expected amenities to be provided by the government.
Nevertheless, Article 371(A) of the Constitution of India provided special legal status to the State to enact its own laws in consonance to local customs and traditions. Hence, it pointed out that Nagaland did not need to copy municipal laws framed and used by municipalities having no such political and legal status.
The council said it was imperative that the contentious land and building taxes under Section 120 (1) (a) in the photocopied Municipal Act be reviewed and reframed according to local and traditional conveniences. It also advised the government to use the terms “omission” and “deletion” in its attempt for pacification. Besides, every law and its amendment was enacted by the Legislative Assembly alone, not by rhetoric, the council added.
NTC pointed out that overlapping reservation vide Section 23B of the Act was against the spirit of democracy as it stated, “The offices of the Chairpersons shall be reserved for the (Scheduled Castes, is shown omitted by the third Amendment Act 2016), the Scheduled Tribes and Women, as nearly as may be, in proportion to the number of seats reserved for them in the municipalities and allotment of such offices shall be made by rotation”.
On the basis of this section, the council mentioned that there was indication that women reservation for chairpersons was reservation upon reservation. It asserted that when 33% women reservation was allowed with much apprehensions on demerits, to keep the chairperson’s post reserved as reservation upon reservation was irrational and unpractical.
More so, Nagaland was a Scheduled Tribe State. There was no provision of Scheduled Caste in the State and hence the very word Scheduled Caste should be completely removed from the Act through legislation, the council demanded.