Restraint galore in women leading Dorbar Shnong

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SHILLONG, April 24: Women may have broken through the glass ceiling in several areas previously dominated by men, but in Meghalaya, which sings the praises of its matrilineal system, male hierarchy is proving to be an obstacle for women. Take the case of the Dorbar Shnong, a traditionally male-dominated body, which has expressed reservations about the election of women to the position of Rangbah Shnong.
While the issue of women’s entry into the Dorbar Shnong lingers, the issue recently came into focus after the Khasi Hills Autonomous Prefecture (KHADC) Council submitted to the Meghalaya High Court that the matter concerns the right of women to Requesting elections and participation in the electoral process to elect the Heads of State (Rangbah Shnong) is also being actively considered by the Council and it is likely that a referendum will be called on the issue.
The court, hearing a written application on the matter on April 13, took note of KHADC’s submission that it might hold a referendum on the issue and gave it four weeks to present its considered position.
Rangbah Shnong of Mawlai Nonglum and former MLA, SD Khongwir, commented on the issue to the Shillong Times that elevating women to the position of village chief is not the right move as it goes against prevailing customs and practices.
“Personally, I feel that women would not be able to handle the pressure that comes with the role of Rangbah Shnong,” said Khongwir, who has been a Rangbah Shnong himself for 54 years.
However, he said that women participated in the affairs of the Dorbar Shnong of the place by becoming members of the executive committee.
He felt that there could be no harm in giving women the opportunity to express their opinions and views in the Executive Committee.
Echoing Khongwir, Rangbah Shnong of Nongrim Hills, Bantyllilang Narry said it will be difficult for women to fill the position of Rangbah Shnong.
The responsibility of the Rangbah Shnong is very great as it also looks after the affairs of the Dorbar Shnong in addition to ensuring peace and tranquility in the area, he said.
“A Rangbah Shnong is on duty around the clock. We need to come out late at night in an emergency situation,” he said.
He also pointed out that he had no problem with allowing women to vote for the Rangbah Shnong and even become members of the Executive Committee.
Incidentally, Seng Kynthei Mawlai Pyllun President Lucetta Syiem said she was reluctant to take charge of Rangbah Shnong.
“As women, we know our limits. It will be difficult for us to hold the position of Rangbah Shnong,” she said.
According to her, women in various places in Mawlai are actively involved in Dorbar affairs as members of the Executive Committee and participate in the election of the Rangbah Shnong.
She urged other places to give women opportunities to participate in Dorbar Shnong affairs.
East Shillong MLA Ampareen Lyngdoh noted that women in Laitumkhrah, Malki and Lachumiere are an integral part of the Dorbar elections.
“Women are recognized as full voters and actively participate in the process. Women are also represented on the executive committees of these three traditional institutions,” she said.
When asked specifically whether women should be elected as rangbah shnong, the lawmaker said: “Personally, I do not want women to be elected as rangbah shnong because it would go against the customs and practices of the dominant system, which has deep cultural roots .”
“However, I recommend that our traditional institutions should include women as active participants in these elections, and urge all Dorbar to adapt to the changing times,” Ampareen said.
Nongkhyriem Seng Longkmie’s advisor, Prof. C. Nongbri, had a diametrically opposite answer to the question. Claiming that she sees no problem in women being elected to the position of Rangbah Shnong, she said: “If women can be elected as MPs, MLAs or MDCs, why can’t they be elected as Rangbah Shnong?” The empowerment of women should start from the traditional institutions,” said Prof. Nongbri, who is also a member of the Executive Committee of Nongkhyriem Dorbar Shnong.
Declaring that she is proud to be part of a community that recognizes the contribution of women in society, she said: “Women actively participate in the affairs of the Dorbar Shnong by being members of the Executive Committee. It is high time that we adapt to change, because a society cannot remain immobile.”
Social activist Angela Rangad said: “It is not shocking that KHADC is struggling to conceal its regressive, misogynist position in front of the Meghalaya High Court, which is hearing a plea declaring the patriarchal denial of the fruits of democracy to Khasi women in the Dorbar Shnong. Challenging long-standing apartheid against Khasi women in local Dorbar, which prevents them from voting or running for office, this case has finally opened up the patriarchal power structures of traditional self-government institutions. In an attempt to buy time and cover up the constitutional illegality in the Meghalaya High Court, the KHADC has developed the idea of ​​a referendum on the right of Khasi women to participate and be elected to the leadership of the Dorbar system.”
Rangad pointed out that the Dorbar Shnong does not allow women to vote, stand in elections or even participate in Dorbar assemblies.
“In recent years, some urban locales have allowed minimal symbolic participation by women, but this is an informal agreement and they still do not have a clear and inalienable right to vote and be elected. As a result, these local self-governing institutions have been misogynist and non-transparent for years,” says Rangad.
She also challenged the argument that Dorbar Shnong (village council) and Rangbah Shnong/ Waheh Chnong (village head) were “traditionally” based on only men being allowed to vote/consult and participate in elections.
“Not only is this unconstitutional, it is also historically flawed,” Rangad said.
According to her, the Dorbar Shnong is now only a secular institution and Rangbah Shnong only fulfills modern secular functions, so these local institutions should be subject to modern laws that respect the right to equal rights, especially gender justice.
“We hope that the Meghalaya High Court will finally bring local self-government under the Sixth Schedule into line with the constitutional guarantees given to all citizens of India, particularly tribal women, and the local patriarchal institution will prevent women from being allowed any further oppress and disenfranchise. ” Rangad has signed off.a

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