NMA has written to the Nagaland governor stating that it is a bona-fide women organization founded in 1984, and exists till date working for peace, women’s issues and various other social issues.
By Imna Longchar, TFM Nagaland Correspondent
In recent times, at least three Naga tribal organisations have disowned the Naga Mothers’ Association (NMA) heaping negative allegations on the association. This had compelled the NMA to issue a clarification following an executive council meeting held on April 11 at Cradle Ridge Kohima.
NMA while reacting and clarifying on the letters addressed to Nagaland chief secretary by Angami Public Organization (APO) and Chakhesang Public Organization (CPO) dated April 6 and 7 respectively, the women’ body shot off a letter addressed to the Nagaland governor.
The letter issued jointly by NMA president, Abei-u Meru, and general secretary, Lochubeni Humtsoe, stated that NMA is a bona-fide women’s organization founded in 1984, and exists till date working for peace, women’s issues and various other social issues.
NMA said that the organisation started with individual membership and later expanded to include tribe women representatives into the organization, and till date, its membership is open to individual women and tribe women organizations.
NMA also said that when the Nagaland state government passed the Nagaland Municipal First Amendment Act (NMFAA) 2006, Naga women came together to ensure the inclusion of women by forming the Joint Action Committee on Women Reservation (JACWR) which included the Eastern Naga Women Organization (ENWO), Watsu Mungdang (WM), Naga Women Hoho Dimapur (NWHD), Tenyimi Women Organization (TWO) and tribe units of NMA.
Stating that on May 31, 2011, the JACWR submitted a memorandum and met the then chief minister of Nagaland, Neiphiu Rio, seeking his government to implement the Municipal Act and hold the election with 33% women reservation, NMA pointed out that at the meeting the chief minister advised the Naga women delegation to go to the Court, and if they brought an order, he would be able to implement it as the tribal Hohos were against holding the municipal elections.
Again on January 26, 2017, the JACWR, in its meeting with the then chief minister, TR Zeliang, agreed to withdraw as petitioners provided the government give a written assurance that election would be held as scheduled, and accordingly, on receiving the written assurance, the two NMA petitioners from JACWR withdrew from the case in Delhi on January 29, 2017, NMA added.
It also went on to add that the NMA has no connection with the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) which is India’s largest human rights organisation and who are the petitioners after the withdrawal of the NMA.
During the riots of February 2017, the NMA said its tribal units of Angami Women Organization (AWO), Chakhesang Mother’s Association (CMA), Sumi Totini Hoho ((STH), and Lotha Eloi Hoho (LEH) were forced to diassociate from NMA, however, the NMA continues till date with tribal units of Rengma Mother’s Association (RMA), Pochury Mother’s Association (PMA), Kuki Nute Kiloikhom Nagaland (KNKN), and Zeliangrong Mipui Organization (ZMO, along with individuals from various tribes.
Mentioning that NMA had no written record of tinkering and experimenting with the customary laws and traditions of Naga people, it said as women and mother’s, it has great respect for the rich culture and traditions of Nagas and welcome any public policy that empowers women and protect women’s rights which are for the good of everyone in the Naga society.
NMA also added that as women of the state of Nagaland, women organizations including the NMA has the freedom to deliberate and organize meetings and seminars on public policies that effects all.
NMA further stated that the records and activities of the association since its inception till date would stand testimony to the fact that it has contributed much to bring in peace, social order and promoting women’s rights as Human Rights.
It hoped the representation would clarify the baseless aspersions cast on the existence of the NMA and deter any more defamatory exchanges to the state government.
NMA has no relevance now: Ao Senden
Meanwhile, the apex body of the Ao tribe, Ao Senden on April 12 issued a press release stating that it had been closely observing the “subversive maneuverings of a handful of elitist individuals with vested interests” ever since the Government of Nagaland on March 28, 2023 resolved to repeal the Nagaland Municipal Act 2001 in toto which essentially was a “borrowed or photocopied Act”.
While lauding state government’s act, Ao Senden alleged that NMA, “which at this point of time has no relevance and is a non-entity, is being abused by a few individuals to further their hidden agenda which is nothing short of insulting the 3 lives lost in 2017 during the people’s movement against the Nagaland Municipal Act 2001 which has now been repealed. Who are these ‘mothers’ insulting the memory of their martyred sons?”
It had an apprehension that, if the state government conducted the Urban Local Body (ULB) election as scheduled, another volatile situation like that of 2017 would have been repeated. However, timely action of the state government has given a sigh of relief to the people and safeguarded the rights enshrined in Article 371 (A) of the Indian Constitution, said Ao Senden.
“It is to be sufficiently made clear that the tribal hohos, including the Ao Senden, are not against the conduct of elections to the ULBS in Nagaland. It is simply that any Act that the government proposes to implement must not be against the interest and wellbeing of the people in general, and must not infringe on Article 371A in the context of Nagaland state”, added Ao Senden.
The tribal body requested the state government to enact a fresh Act to govern the ULBS in Nagaland at the earliest, the draft of which must be consulted with the tribal hohos before it is introduced in the Assembly.
“Nagaland is a tribal state that was created under unique political circumstances and with special political considerations. As such, we invite the leaders of PUCL and other elitist individuals sitting in their ivory towers to come and spend some time in Nagaland and get themselves educated about the culture, traditions and customary practices of the Nagas, before getting entangled in fruitless litigation” said the press release issued by Ao Senden.
NMA is ‘unmandated’: APO
It may be mentioned that in the letter addressed to the chief secretary, Nagaland, on April 6, president of Angami Public Organization (APO), Razouvotuo Chatsu, drew the attention of the Nagaland government concerning the subject matter while also requesting to “restrain & refrain” the “unmandated NMA” members while approaching for social and political issues in order to avoid “hiccups” among the Nagas at large.
Stating that the APO had made it very clear to the Nagaland state government an all concerned once and for all that the present NMA leaders are a “bunch” of people who were elected themselves and no longer enjoy the support and mandate of every Naga women tribal bodies, the APO president, mentioned that they (NMA) are non-entity as they lack credibility and that their presentation in any manner form should be declared “null and void”.
Deeply anguished and concerned to observe that some Angami women (as NMA leaders) going around meeting different authorities and also organizing various meetings and seminars thereby adopting resolutions pertaining to issues of common interests, however, the APO president, Razouvotuo Chatsu, stated that the truth was that the NMA cease to exist long before and the Angami women organization (AWO) had dissociated with NMA and hence holds no accountability in any manner.
He also alleged that that anything done with these women leaders was for their sheer personal interest and they no longer enjoy the “blessing and support” of the women of Nagaland.
Razouvotuo further stated that the situation at present is “volatile” and the ” battery being highly charged” due to ruckus for the ULB elections, while maintaining that there are some who have the nature of flaring up the issues in the guise of working for public interest and social order for which he cited the example of the NMA leaders as one of it. Further, he behalf of the APO, has appealed the Nagaland state government and all concerned to be aware and restrain from the NMA members till further notice.
CPO asks Nagaland government to distance itself from NMA
Chakhesang Public Organization (CPO) had also requested the Nagaland state government to distance itself from the Naga Mother’s Association (NMA) which according to CPO, NMA is no longer a “mandated” organization.
In a letter addressed to Nagaland Chief Secretary on April 7, CPO president, Vezuhu Keyho, stated that the Chakhesang Mother’s Association (CMA) had dissociated itself from the “so called” NMA since 2017, and so the NMA do not in any way represent the welfare and interest of its sons and daughters.
Stating that the deliberate attempt by ” certain” NMA members to dilute and destroy the customary laws and traditions of its people and the flagrant disregard thrown towards the popular sentiments of the Nagas was becoming almost intolerable to digest, to the extent that a permanent and unhealthy wedge of suspicion and mistrust between the two genders of the society, Keyho also added that any individual, group or organization that is not mandated by the people has no business in tinkering and experimenting with the customary laws and traditions of its people.
“As far as the customs and traditions of its people are concerned, and any desire or plans to make changes to them are concerned, the NMA not any unmandated person or group has no business in interfering with its customary laws and traditions”, read the letter.
The CPO president also pointed out, CPO is the only mandated organization which has the popular support of its people and the moral right to speak on behalf of the Chakhesang people, for which it makes the points clear which would be seriously taken into consideration by the government.
Further, the CPO should be consulted if and when any discussion and deliberations for change/modifications are required on any issues that has to do with the Chakhesang people, their customs and traditions, beliefs, and their land and its resources, CPO added.
It hoped that the Nagaland government would seriously consider it so that the civil societies could assist the government in policy making and in implementation of its programs which would certainly help in restraining social unrest and also in maintaining peace and tranquillity in the state.