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    Naga insurgent outfit NSCN(IM) has made multi-layered taxation a way of life

    Published on October 1, 2021

    by Sudip Sharma Chowdhury

    Guwahati :As the United Democratic Alliance in Nagaland is sitting together to brainstorm on a solution to the longest-running insurgency, the issue of topmost priority is how to bring an end to the multi-layered taxation system. One of the biggest challenges for the Modi government at the Centre and the Neiphiu Rio government in Nagaland is the widespread tension simmering across the state against the extortion or so-called “taxation” or voluntary contribution, with state government employees and common people becoming equal targets. 

    It is learnt that Union Home Minister Amit Shah has asked Rio to make the stand of the Centre clear that such extortion activities cannot continue. The NSCN(IM), the largest Naga insurgent outfit in ceasefire with the Centre, has made multi-layered taxation a way of life for people who are victims of one of the unique systems in the country where the outfit continues to implement feudalistic taxation. The people pay taxes to NSCN(IM), elected government and other NSCN factions.  A Nagaland state government employee described how the general public and employees in the state are also suffering at the hands of NSCN(IM). “The NSCN(IM) continues to deduct tax at every level. House tax, transportation tax and then secondary taxes as the purchase of essential products are sold at inflated prices because of tax levied on shops and on the trucks transporting the merchandise,” said the state government employee.

    The problem has been compounded with the pandemic, as to sustain businesses, arbitrary tax amounts are to be paid. A contractor said that the NSCN(IM) imposes 5-10 per cent tax even on government projects for establishing hospitals, schools, colleges and roads. These projects, meant for the welfare and development of the people, are especially impacting the lives of people living in far-flung areas as far as Naga-inhabited districts of Arunachal Pradesh and hill districts of Manipur, where the farmers and villagers are left with no choice but to choose between paying extortionists or paying for education of their children. “Due to fear of getting harassed and killed they often choose to pay extortionists,” said a security official. Extortion is also the reason behind the rapid expansion of area under poppy in the northeastern states like Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur as people are forced to meet the unreasonable demands of the insurgent groups. “NSCN(IM)’s taxation is not based on scientific method but on the whims and fancies of the leaders,” said a government official. On August 29, the Chakhesang Youth Front (CYF), part of Eastern Nagaland Peoples Organisation (ENPO), also made its stand clear against illegal taxation and anti-social elements hampering developmental activities.

    On September 2, the Thang Range Public Organisation (TRPO) of Noklak appealed to the insurgent groups to abstain from collection of taxes and other illegal activities within the jurisdiction of TRPO. It also resolved not to pay tax to any NSCN factions within Thang Range. A senior official in Assam Rifles said the Naga movement has shifted from being a struggle for Naga nationalism to a criminal activity where senior NSCN leaders are making money. Figures with security agencies show that corruption has increased the outfit’s annual budget which runs into several hundred crores of rupees today. The social backwardness and loss of jobs are in turn helping in recruitment and sustaining few leaders. Against Corruption and Unabated Taxation (ACAUT), spearheading the anti-unlawful taxation movement in Nagaland, has concluded that the ‘taxation’ is the main culprit behind the longest-running Naga insurgency. “As long as the insurgents can levy tax without any opposition, insurgent leaders will be encouraged to split away from the parent group, thereby creating tax menace, said a state government official.