Nagaland women cry over treatment of women in war torn state
Kohima, Feb 16:Nagaland, the land of Nagas or the land of festivals has turned into land of arson, protests, bandhs for more than a fortnight now.
The state that always carried the image of treating women with equality has now thrown enough stones in all directions to shatter the image it reflected in the picture perfect clicks of Naga Tribes.
But the battle has just begun, this time politically too.
57-year-old Hukheli, who was given North East Peace General Award in 2009 for her contribution to the society, has been extremely active social activist and instrumental in several peace talks in the past three decades in Nagaland. For the first time she thought of serving the people by contesting as an independent candidate from ward No. 9 of Dimapur Municipal Council elections or the Urban Local Body election in the state. 8 out of 23 seats in the DMC were reserved for women during the elections scheduled this year. But, this resulted in a revolt by civil societies which has come as a shocker to many women candidates like her.
An emotional Hukheli expresses, “When there is war…for example Dimapur is a war zone, I should say and all the factions established here continue to fight from any moment…and then they call us to pacify the parties fighting to stop the war. I am the president of Naga Women Hoho also and I have travelled abroad also to talk to higher and collective leadership to stop the war at various times, to not to kill our own brothers and we used to tell them not to fight and maintain peace also. I have also negotiated with K for peace in the region, even have helped organization at various intervals.”
As she starts crying and wiping her tears rolling down the cheeks, she recalls, “There are so many orphans and widows…women are the worst sufferers because its only we who can suffer. Men do respect us but when it comes to point of 33% reservation they oppose us. When we were campaigning together for the past seven years together there were no issues, but as soon as we contest elections the protests started. All parts of Nagaland has become deadly against us and we don’t understand if the implementation is only an issue. We don’t know clearly what is it? Only for women reservation or anomalies in law in the state.”
Hukheli was an independent candidate fighting on the symbol of torch from the seat supported financially by her husband and children. Hukheli is thankful to her husband for being supportive and respectful to her, but that is not how the men in the society rather politics are thinking about.
Contesting with the slogan of “Let me be the change you need”, Hukheli is now waiting for when and how to make it true – politically too.
An inconsolable Hukheli confesses, “Yes I am crying, we were born to save our people and we have taken risk also, but also in all corners, the women are the sufferers. We want to change our society for the better. We are not going to rule over men, but we want to learn and development for the entire society. We are not fighting for ourselves, but for the future generation of the women. This is really hurting us. We want to develop and address the problems. Many women are crying in silence. It pains.”
Women who have political symbol too are feeling hurt. Akokla P. Lucy, a businesswoman and President of Petroleum Dealers Association of Nagaland, is yet to recover from the shock that men opposed reservation on grounds of constitutional rights of Nagas.
Akokla says, “We were ready to work for the development of the people and all women were enthusiastic about it, but there was such an unfortunate situation that the civil society started protesting against the women reservation. We were harassed mentally, socially, physically and we were so much in problem. It’s painful. It was very degrading, unfortunate, shocking I should say. I don’t know what will be the final decision on this and now it has been informed that the Joint Coordination Committee will withdraw from the court so I don’t know what will happen.”
Akokla, a Nagaland People Front (NPF) candidate, the party in power in Nagaland, was contesting from ward number 12. There are 23 seats in DMC and 8 were reserved for women from this elections resulting in the furore.
Akokla states, “In the other sense, the women are given due respect, but when we look at the decision making body, the women are very much neglected. In the past few years, women have been given one seat reservation in every village, but there has been no objection from any corner, but when we talk about the urban local bodies or reservation there, the civil societies start making issue that it is not in accordance with the Naga customs. The Government of India has given so much of freedom to the Naga state to make amendments in the state by the assembly it could have been done.”
According to 2011 Census, Nagaland has population 1978502 of which male and female are 1024649 and 953853 respectively. The population of women has increased from 942895 in 2001 Census to 953853 in 2011 – not a considerable number though.