In a response to the letter that Nagaland Governor R N Ravi has written to the state government indicating that the law and order in Nagaland had completely broken down, the NSCN-IM has now reacted saying that if the governor identifies the issue in Nagaland as a law and order problem and not a political one, then “he is not the right person to solve the long-standing Indo-Naga problem.”
The organisation said that NSCN does not commit extortion at any point of time but levies legitimate taxes from the people and it is the inherent right of any nation.
On June 16, Ravi in a four-page scathing letter to Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, pointed out that the state was being run by over half a dozen “armed gangs” who were challenging the legitimacy of the constitutionally-established state government and questioning the integrity and sovereignty of the nation.
The letter further pointed out the issue of “taxes” levied by these gangs or parallel governments as well as the cost escalation of development and infrastructure projects in the state due to the system of handing over a part of the project cost to these armed gangs for the projects to be executed.
Nagaland state has had a system of parallel governments, such as that run by the banned organisation NSCN-IM which is in peace talks with the Indian Government, which levy these “taxes” on both the transportation as well as the sale of goods.
In response to the terse letter by the Governor pointing out these issues, the NSCN-IM has said in it’s statement, “What is significantly important is the inherent right of any sovereign people and nation to collect taxes from the people and commercial establishments. This is the universal practice as seen all over the world. Taxes have been the sources of sustenance that has brought the Naga political movement this far. This was legitimately acknowledged by the earlier interlocutors and Indian authorities and it was never an issue. What has complicated the situation as seen today is the madness of ‘extortions’ that are being carried out by some groups in the guise of freedom fighters. NSCN did not and does not commit extortion at any point of time but levies legitimate taxes from the people.’’
Pointing out that the 23-year-long process of peace talks under six different Prime Minsiters was at a watershed with the framework agreement having been signed in 2015, the NSCN-IM has hit out at Ravi saying that, “Any Indian Interlocutor who represents the Government of India needs to prove himself as a man who stands committed to solve the longest political conflict in Southeast Asia. But if he finds pleasure to handle the Naga issue as a ‘law and order’ problem he is not the right person to solve the long standing Indo-Naga problem. Such an Indian Interlocutor will rather complicate and prolong the process which is not the desire of both the Indians and the Nagas.’’
Ravi’s coining the persistent problem in Nagaland as a “law and order’’ situation and calling the banned militant groups “armed gangs’’ has ruffled more than just the IM’s feathers. While the IM has, in the recent past, had a contentious relationship with Ravi during the peace talks, the more malleable NNPG, an umbrella organisation of seven banned groups in Nagaland, has also found the terms to be objectionable. The groups are due to restart their peace talks with Ravi next month, and have said that they will raise the issue with the Nagaland Governor.
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