Several government offices in Kohima were set ablaze on Thursday by tribal groups protesting against upcoming civic body polls. Thousands of members of tribal groups reportedly set fire to the state secretariat, Kohima Municipal Council office and the district collector’s office. The protestors had given Chief Minister TR Zeliang time till 4 pm to resign over the 33% reservation for women, which are being introduced in these elections for the first time.
The protestors also set on fire several vehicles and vandalised government property, reported NDTV. Director General of Nagaland police, LL Dungell confirmed the reports. “There is large scale arson in capital city Kohima, the situation is getting worse,” he told The Economic Times.
The protestors had gathered at the old MLA Hostel road in the morning with the bodies of two people who were killed in police firing on Tuesday night. The tribal group wants the government to scrap the reservation, because they believe it interferes with Naga customary laws and protections guaranteed to them under Article 371(A) of the Constitution. Civic polls in the state have been held up since 2004 on the issue of 33% reservation for women in urban local bodies, mandated by Article 243 (T) of the Constitution.
Last year, after a long legal battle by the Naga Mother’s Association, a women’s group that had been fighting for the reservations, the state government had passed a legislation amending municipal laws and reintroducing quota for women.
On Monday and over the weekend, tribal bodies, under a joint coordination committee, had called for bandhs that shut down the state. Temporary calm was restored on Monday evening, after a truce brokered by the Nagaland Baptist Churches Council. Chief Minister TR Zeliang’s government appeared to give assurances that polls would be restored and the JCC called off the bandh.
The truce broke on Tuesday, as the government, following a directive issued by the Gauhati High Court, announced that polls would go ahead as scheduled. They would, however, be held in only in 12 of the 32 urban local bodies. Earlier in January, as many as 140 candidates had pulled out of the elections, threatened with social boycott and excommunication by tribal bodies. No nominations were filed in 10 municipalities and candidates won unopposed in three urban local bodies.