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Extortion up in Nagaland

Kohima, Sept. 26: The reconciliation process between the warring Naga militant factions has started taking a toll on the Naga people in the form of extortion by militant outfits.

From the time of cessation of all hostilities between Naga separatist groups since 2008, there has been a sharp increase in extortion as well as abduction of businessmen and affluent people by militants, particularly in Dimapur and Kohima.

This became possible as the militants could move about freely without fearing other factions.

Dimapur, once dominated by the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) is now home to over a dozen militant outfits

In Kohima, businessmen, government employees, and the public have to pay so-called “taxes” to five Naga outfits — the NSCN (I-M), NSCN (K), Naga National Council (Adinno) (NNC-A), NNC (Senka) and Federal Government of Nagaland (Singnya). Kohima, too, was once the stronghold of the NSCN (I-M).

Apart from yearly tax, these outfits also collect taxes from time to time from businessmen and government departments. Contractors and suppliers, too, are not spared. They have to part ways with a certain percentage of money from their contract and supply works, while government employees have to pay yearly taxes ranging from 5 per cent to 25 per cent. Usually, the NSCN (I-M) deducts 25 per cent as yearly tax from the government employees and the NSCN (K) deducts 20 per cent.

“With the cessation of hostilities among Naga groups, we now have to pay taxes to all the five factions,” a businessman from Kohima, who did not want to be identified, told The Telegraph. He said businessmen do not report this to the authorities fearing retaliation from the outfits though the police have been asking them to do so.

“How can we report to the police? Even if the militants are arrested, they are released the next day,” he said.

The police, too, have admitted that extortionists are often released without punishment. They said that better coordination between the judiciary and the police would ensure befitting punishment for these lawbreakers.

When it comes to taxation, it’s only the security forces and police who remain untouched by the militants. Apart from businessmen and government servants, every household has to pay a yearly tax of Rs 100 to these unscrupulous elements.

“Life in Kohima has become difficult,” a senior government employee said. He said militants come to office not only to collect taxes, but also to ask for contracts and supply works.

At the New Field gate, Dimapur militants are collecting taxes under the very nose of the policemen manning the gate. Trucks have to pay Rs 4,000 to the NSCN (I-M) and Rs 2,500 to the NSCN (K) as entry taxes while FGN charges Rs 5,000 as a yearly tax per truck.

Dimapur district administration said apart from militant groups, around 12 different organisations collect taxes from trucks, commercial vehicles and business establishments. Dimapur Transport Goods Union has threatened to go on an indefinite strike if this menace continues.

But authorities have assured them that stringent action will be initiated to check the menace in and around Dimapur.

The state government will now book all arrested extortionists under the National Security Act, which ensures harsher punishment for them.

He said state government has issued necessary notifications to book the extortionists under NSA, and directed the district administration not to spare anyone indulging in extortion.

Apart from this, the home minister was also concerned about the vehicle-lifting cases in Dimapur and the increase in overall criminal activity.

The state government is raising a special force to tackle the militants in and around Dimapur. Since the last part of 2007, over 20 businessmen have been abducted and killed in and around Dimapur, while over 100 non-Naga businessmen have been forced to flee Dimapur.

The organisations of Dimapur have also demanded more police stations in different colonies and wards to check the rising crime rate.

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