‘Denying women’s voting right is discrimination’

SHILLONG: A former village chief in the state has petitioned the High Court of Meghalaya against the Syiem of Hima Khyrim and Sordar of Raid Rangnah for allegedly denying women of their rights to take part in the election process of the village dorbar.
Bose Swell Khongthohrem, a former headman of Nongwet village under Pynursla civil sub-division, has filed a petition before the Meghalaya High Court on January 17.
Talking to media persons here on Saturday, Khongthohrem said that he was removed as the headman through an unprecedented process conducted by the Syiem in December, last year after over 600 people had expressed that they had lost confidence in him by voting through a secret ballot.
The Syiem subsequently appointed the Sordar of Raid Rangnah Noblestar Khonglah as the acting headman of Nongwet village till the election of a new headman is held. The alleged arbitrary decision was taken after the former headman and his committee had accepted the request made by the women of the village to allow them to participate in the dorbar.
Khongthohrem said that the then executive committee under his leadership had allowed the women to take part in the dorbar held on August 31, 2019.
Opposing this decision, Khonglah along with his supporters attended the meeting without being invited with the intention to disrupt the dorbar, he said.
Following the incident, the women also filed a complaint with the Syiem against the Sordar on September 20, last year.
Khongthohrem said he had again requested the Syiem through a letter on December 18, 2019 for allowing women folks to participate in the election of the new headman on January 3.
However, when Khonglah decided to prevent the women from taking part in the election processes, the latter staged strong protest till it prompted the executive magistrate to halt the election held on January 3, he said.
According to him, Khonglah had contended that they will abide by the customary practices that women cannot participate in a dorbar. Expressing his disagreement, Khongthohrem said that it is high time that the village administration evolves with the changing time.
Moreover, he said that High Court in its ruling pertaining to the election of Tynring village (also under Hima Khyriem) had maintained that any resident who has attained the age of 18 has the right to exercise his/her franchise in the election of a village headman.
“Therefore, I feel that this ruling of the High Court should also be made  applicable in Nohwet village because denying women of their rights to vote is nothing but an act of discrimination,” the former village chief contended.

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