Nagaland: Delimitation, the bone of contention again
Kohima, July 12 (EMN): Amid contrasting views over the proposed delimitation exercise in Nagaland, the Naga Scholars Association (NSA) conducted a webinar panel discussion on ‘delimitation in Nagaland and Manipur’ with experts from various fields and tribal leaders.
The election commission for the delimitation exercise had, in March, notified for continuation of earlier exercise of delimitation in Nagaland and Manipur, besides others. The delimitation would be based on the 2001 census instead of the latest census of 2011. This has sparked conflicting views, for and against delimitation among various tribes and organisations, both in Nagaland and Manipur.
Panellist, Prof. Rosemary Dzuvichu, while sharing her perspective on the issue of delimitation, felt that it is important to make people aware that “delimitation is not India’s game with us”. Rather, it is a normal process, which is carried out every ten years, she said.
“When we don’t follow a delimitation (exercise) after so many years of waiting, I think we are the losers,” she said and added that there is ‘lacunae in terms of development, employment opportunities,’ which are ‘genuine and needs to be looked into’.
Earlier, Nagaland had ‘gone against the process’ but now with the population growth and the kind of ‘skewed inequalities, it is important to seriously think on why we really need to go through the process,” she said.
Dzuvichu felt that much sensitisation is required among the public and with the leaders who are protesting against this very act.
“We see that even if it’s a state with 60 assembly seats, you are already seeing a lot of skewed growth in terms of development, in terms of employment, especially from minority tribes in areas where they are not well represented according to the population,” she added.
The problem, Dzuvichu stated, is because in Nagaland the commission is now looking at the 2001 census which is “flawed”. Therefore, the professor felt that it is important for the government of India to look at the 2011 census, which would “definitely bring much more rationality in terms of distributing equitably”.
The professor also felt that one should not ‘always bring in the political side in terms of development’, as it often misinterprets the issue.
Offering a way forward, she said that ‘Nagas should be a way of peace’, but at the same time one must also not forget that it has to be attached with justice, she said.
“We should also not get confused with the idea of nationalism because wanting justice and equitable justice does not mean you are less patriotic and that you are less nationalistic,” Dzuvichu said.
Another panellist, Worso Zimik, an advocate at Delhi High Court, focused on the legal points of delimitation. The advocate felt that the delimitation process is the right means to bring equal justice to every citizen of the country. He said that when it comes to representation in the Manipur State Legislative Assembly (consisting of 60 MLAs), ‘valley people represent 40 out of 60 seats, whereas hill people represent only 19 plus a reserved seat’.
“There are a lot of differences and we feel that we have been deprived of our rights to send proportionate representation,” he said. The advocate added that “this kind of injustice was done to the hill people” since the inception of the Manipur state.
An ordinance was invoked on February 8, 2008 stating that the delimitation process in few states would be deferred on grounds of law and order problem or if there is possibility of causing social disharmony, he pointed out.
Zimik added that the hill people in Manipur deserve to get due shares, proportionate representation in the state assembly. If we wait for 2031 delimitation, ‘the amount of injustice inflicted upon the hill people will be enormous’, Zimik said.
Elu Ndang, the general secretary of Naga Hoho, appealed and called upon the Nagas to adopt a practical approach to address the issue.
“Since statehood, there has not been an equitable distribution of state’s representation in the government. If (we) look at the Naga society, many communities are still lagging behind much more than some certain sections of the community. Therefore, Nagas need to come up and encourage equitable distribution among the number of people,” he suggested.
On the Naga political issue, he said that if people collectively and sincerely contribute in whatever capacity they can towards resolving the issue, a day is not far where people will have everything in place according to their convenience, according to one’s desires, and according to what one believes in, he said. He encouraged people to ensure that the Naga political movement comes to a logical conclusion.
The vice president of Lotha Hoho, Jonas Yanthan requested Nagas to “stop misusing Naga issue”, especially in the context of the delimitation exercise. He said that the government of India is “not asking us to choose either delimitation or solution; that is not a choice” but rather a normal process, which is done after every ten years.
NSA president, Dr. Zuchamo Yanthan, in his concluding remarks, stated that data indicated disparity in the distribution of seats, not only in Nagaland but also in Manipur. “It is also well agreed that delimitation is not only necessary, but also very important for rectifying past mistakes to bring social justice and equality.
“Further, Naga political solution and delimitation are two different things; hence it should not be mixed up or misused. Everybody should take delimitation as an exercise to provide a good reference,” he said.