The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Manipur hills tax row in Delhi

Kohima, June 17: In a move that can trigger another explosive controversy, a group of Naga NGOs of Manipur has offered to pay taxes to Delhi instead of the state government after Nagaland declined to accept their payment.

A delegation of representatives of Naga non-governmental organisations from Manipur has reached New Delhi to call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. They plan to hand over the “hills house tax” that, till now, has been paid to the Manipur government. These are taxes imposed by the state government on residences in the hill districts of Manipur.

With the momentum for integration of Naga-inhabited areas growing, the NGOs, led by the United Naga Council, the apex organisation of Nagas living in Manipur, had offered to pay the taxes to Nagaland.

On Wednesday, the delegation of members from the United Naga Council, the Naga Women’s Union, Manipur, the All Naga Students’ Association, Manipur and the Zeliangrong Union called on Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio.

They brought along a cheque worth Rs 14.6 lakh, collected from 26 villages in Senapati, Ukhrul, Chandel and Tamenglong districts, and offered it to Rio.

The Nagaland chief minister is understood to have declined the payment. Rio himself was unavailable for comment.

Sources said the money would now be handed over to the Prime Minister. NGO activists are currently camping in New Delhi, but it is not known if they have been able to call on Singh.

The offer to pay house tax, imposed by the Manipur government, to Nagaland came a day before the Rio government’s Consultative Committee for Peace (CCP) appealed to the Union human resource development ministry to affiliate schools in Naga-dominated areas of Manipur to the Nagaland Board of School Education.

The Naga NGOs from Manipur had made this request to Rio. The CCP had, in a resolution, appealed to the HRD ministry to “sympathetically consider the request” of the Manipur schools.

The NGOs have even supplied nearly 150 private schools in the four districts in the hills with NBSE textbooks for Classes VIII to X.

The Manipur government, on the other hand, has threatened to de-recognise the private schools.

Both these issues ' house tax and school textbooks ' are likely to come up for discussion at the federal assembly called by the Naga Hoho in Kohima on June 27.

“These may come up if placed on the agenda. However, our main purpose is to discuss the peace process,” said Hoho acting president, Keviletuo Angami.

The meeting will also discuss the rising clashes between the NSCN factions and “reconciliation may be taken up if raised by members,” Angami added.

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