ITANAGAR: A few days ago when Dr Shurhozelie Liezietsu took over the reins of the Nagaland government following calls for former chief minister TR Zeliang’s resignation over the issue of women’s reservation in Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) that also triggered violent protests, many of us outside the state thought peace would return. And although the situation has normalised to an extent, the volatile scenario is far from over.

Protests in the state had disrupted normal life after local tribal bodies voiced their opposition to the Naga People’s Front (NPF) government’s decision last year to introduce 33 percent reservation for women in ULBs scheduled for February this year. Various tribal organisations called Hohos opposed the move saying that it infringed Naga traditions and customs protected under Article 371A of the Indian Constitution.

Following a protest march on January 31 in Nagaland’s business hub, Dimapur, two men died after security personnel fired bullets to disperse the crowd. Another protestor died a few days later. On February 2, groups of people set fire to the Kohima Municipal Council building.

Bandh calls and protests led by the Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) and the Nagaland Tribes Action Committee (NTAC) had shut down all government activities and businesses too took a hit for the next few days as various organisations stood firm on their demand for Zeliang to step down as chief minister.

Following hectic parleys with the Centre, Zeliang finally stepped down and paved the way for Dr Shurhozelie Liezietsu to take control on February 19. He was sworn-in on February 22 and is currently not a MLA. While normal life in Nagaland has resumed since then, the situation hasn’t completely diffused.

At a recent memorial service held for the men who died during the protests, JCC co-convenor, Vekhosayi Nyekha, said that the JCC and NTAC will not rest till the government fulfils all of its demands that include suspension of former Dimapur Commissioner of Police, Liremo Lotha, and security personnel responsible for the killing and, amendment of the Nagaland Municipal Act.

Although Zeliang stepped down as chief minister, he holds the position of financial advisor- something that the groups are opposed to.

The Diphupar Village Council and Diphupar Naga Youth Organisation have stated in clear terms that the struggle is far from over. Two of the men- Khriesavizo Metha (Avizo) and Bendangnungsang Longkumer- who died following the firing were from Diphupar village.

The two organisations said that “Nagaland will burn further” if Zeliang continues to hold his current position and that if he returns as chief minister in the near future it would be “tantamount to betrayal and shall lead to more bloodshed”.

While there is uncertainty and fear among the people that the situation in the next few days may take a turn for the worse, those on the other side of the debate have already been hit with a blow.

The Nagaland Mothers Association (NMA), which spearheaded the reservation movement, has witnessed an exodus of its associates.

A day before Liezietsu took oath as chief minister, the Chakesang Mothers Association (CMA) from the Chakesang tribe distanced itself from the NMA stating that while it acknowledged and honoured the NMA for its work, they were disassociating themselves following the violence that had occurred earlier.

Even before the CMA’s exit, the Angamimiaphu Mechu Krotho and Sumi Totimi Hoho of the Angami and Sumi tribes had left the NMA.

The NMA has been facing criticism from tribal bodies and has even been accused of directly or indirectly being responsible for the recent violence. The association however, has refuted such allegations and stated that its fight will continue.

Rosemary Dzuvichu, a social activist, university professor and advisor to the NMA who has been in the forefront of the debate remains hopeful.

“We will continue to converse because it is a law adopted by the Assembly. The government should hold elections with or without a court order,” she said.