Ahead of assembly elections, Naga Hoho clout declines among state’s youngsters

Last year, the Hoho stalled elections to urban local bodies over a clause that stipulated 33% reservation in seats for women. Then, in January, the tribal organisation demanded a deferment of the assembly polls.

Nagaland Election 2018 Updated: Feb 24, 2018 07:41 IST
Dhrubo Jyoti
Dhrubo Jyoti
Hindustan Times, Kohima/Dimapur
Nagaland elections,Nagaland tribals,Tribals
Members of the Hoho said they were never against women and their opposition last year was mischaracterised.(Reuters File Photo)

For decades, the Naga Hoho held sway over every aspect of life in tribal-dominated Nagaland. But, in the run up to next week’s assembly polls, the influence of the apex body of tribal organisations appears to have declines, especially among the urban, younger population.

The Hoho has been embroiled in two controversies in recent times. Last year, it stalled elections to urban local bodies over a clause that stipulated 33% reservation in seats for women — a decision that sparked violent protests. The body said it feared dilution of Article 371-A, which gives special status to Nagaland.

Then, in January, the tribal organisation joined hands with other civil society organisations to demand a deferment of the assembly polls — a call that was initially supported by all major political parties. A day later, the agreement fell apart as candidates from one party after another started filing nominations. The Hoho and other organisations were then forced to withdraw their boycott call in the face of popular support for the polls.

“Despite most of them being filed on the last day, we got more nominations than last time. It doesn’t look like the call made an impact,” said Abhijit Sen, chief electoral officer of the state.

On the streets of Kohima and Dimapur, dissatisfaction over job opportunities and infrastructure dominates popular discussion.

“I am proud of my tribal roots and traditions, but jobs are my first concern,” said Jacob A, a college student. Next to him, a group of women students said they did not like the Hoho’s stand on women’s reservation.

D Kuolie, a professor at the University of Nagaland, suggested that the Hoho’s dwindling clout could be attributed to the fact that society was changing and the younger generation wanted more professional avenues. “The Naga Hoho puts more onus on cultural preservation, which is important, but it doesn’t think enough about things such as employment…there is a need to understand the aspirations of the young,” he said.

Theja Theriah, convenor of the now-dissolved Core Committee of Nagaland Tribal Hohos and Civil organisations (CNNTHCO), said more structural problems existed with the imagination of a greater Nagaland that comprises Naga people from other states such as Arunachal Pradesh or Manipur.

“There is resentment about this…clubbing together everyone cannot work. For instance, the question of jobs that belong to us, in this state, it doesn’t belong to everyone else. This is also what the youngsters think.”

However, members of the Hoho said they were never against women and their opposition last year was mischaracterised. “There was a different interpretation among lawyers on Article 371-A. So, when politicians and lawyers are divided, there will be confusion…but the protest cannot be termed anti-women,” said Chuba Ozokum of the Hoho.

Supporting the organisation’s stand on the elections, he said political parties betrayed the Naga people.

First Published: Feb 24, 2018 07:40 IST