Women, Conflict, and Governance in Nagaland
This paper, published by the Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group, briefly traces the history of the North East – and Nagaland in particular – looking specifically at questions of governance, conflict and sovereignty. It examines women’s negotiations with the state, and their activism against conflict and for peace. The authors say that both the state and non-state military forces have recognised women’s role as “agents of peace” in the state.
The paper analyses in some detail the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the Nagaland government’s policies for women, the impact of armed conflict on Naga women, the different forms of Naga women’s activism, and governance in the state after the 1997 ceasefire.
The British established the Naga Hills District in 1866, which was merged with Assam in 1874.
Various Acts were passed so that the British could administer the northeastern states. These acts included the Scheduled District Act, 1874, the Assam Frontier Tracts Regulation, 1880, and the Inner Line Regulations (1873 onwards).
The authors maintain that the Inner Line Regulations did not give sovereignty to the hill people of the North East; rather, they were a means to separate the ‘civilised’ British subjects of Assam, who lived in the plains, from the ‘wild tribes’ of the hills.
The Naga National Council (NNC), a separatist political organisation, was formed in 1946 under the leadership of Angami Zapu Phizo. Under the NNC’s banner, the Nagas declared their independence on August 14, 1947, a day before Indian Independence.
The Armed Forces Special Powers Act, introduced in the Naga Hills and parts of Manipur in 1958, was a take-off from the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Ordinance, 1942. The authors say that like the Ordinance, the Act was meant “to suppress civil society, curb dissent, and legitimize state violence.”
The paper states that women have not figured much in electoral politics in Nagaland, the exception being Lok Sabha member Rano Shaiza, who was elected to the lower house of parliament in 1977. She was also the founder of the Naga Mothers’ Association (NMA), which made strategic use of motherhood and the loss of sons and daughters to conflict in its political negotiations.
The NMA, formed in February 1984, has been very active in the peace movement in the state, and in October 1994, it spoke out against killings both by the Indian army and Naga militants.
In Nagaland, 79.66 per cent of men in rural areas and 56.60 per cent in urban areas, and 42.72 per cent of women in rural areas and 72.54 per cent in urban areas support property rights for women. Still, women, as per customary law, do not inherit property in most parts of the state.
The authors observe that activism related to 33 per cent reservation for women in locally elected bodies, which started in the 2000s, is a new kind of activism among Naga women. “No longer were questions of sovereignty allowed to sweep questions of women’s rights under the carpet,” they say.
Focus and Factoids by Imsutula Jamir.
Paula Banerjee and Ishita Dey
Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group, Kolkata