Dimapur anti-graft rally: ‘Forces can threaten, but from now we will fight back’
• Rally demands govt. to start using enforcement powers
• ‘Tamul to second-hand cloths taxed; only thing without tax is my wife’
Eastern Mirror Desk
Dimapur, Oct. 31: It was on Wednesday, October 31 at the Khermahal junction in Dimapur that community leaderships and the public including tribal leaderships and students, and rights activists and business establishments representing the Dimapur plethora took a resolution.
The decision: From now on, any form of threat, pressure or intimidation from any force against the people’s pursuit for social justice and reforms will be considered a force against the patience of the people—the public will now stand and fight such forces; no more mute spectators but a force that will respond.
There have been several times when people in Nagaland had come together to raise their voice against corruption and extortion, such as the momentous Acaut rally on Oct. 31 2013 calling for “One government, one tax,” at City Tower in Dimapur.
Five years later, on Wed. Oct. 31 the call was iterated, this time at the Khermahal traffic intersection in Dimapur. The event was organised by the Public Action committee (PAC) of the Naga Council of Dimapur (NCD).
During the event, leaders of communities and civic organisation demanded ‘eradicating’ the disease of corruption and extortion in all forms from the Naga institution.
Resolutions: ‘Solving Naga issue will solve tax disease’
The public organisations undertook a number of resolutions: Among others, it resolved that in the process of pursuing social justice and reforms, any forms of threat, pressure or intimidation from any agency against the leaders or members will be considered as undermining the voice and patience of the people. In such an event, the people will stand united and fight such forces; the public will not remain mute spectators anymore, but will choose an appropriate response deemed fit to fight such forces.
Further, the resolutions demanded that the Nagaland govt. immediately stop all extortion activities and ‘illegal taxation’ on various goods and services; act against and ban the syndicate and ‘lease system’; unauthorised ‘collection centres’ in Dimapur by various organisations including govt. agencies and the Naga underground groups, which is resulting in uncontrolled inflation of prices.
The Naga public’s resolution of “One government one tax” is reaffirmed too. The public will support ‘solution’ not ‘taxation,’ the resolutions stated. It appealed to the Govt. of India and Naga armed groups to solve the protracted Naga political issue ‘which is the ultimate solution to all illegal taxations and collections.’
The community organisations also resolved to stand united ‘beyond tribe, community and social positions,’ against the menace of extortion and illegal collections by any group, including the NPGs and govt. agencies.
Associated with it, the resolutions demanded implementation of the HPC report immediately by the govt. The PAC, Naga Council of Dimapur, has been empowered to pursue the resolutions.
The PAC’s convener, Vekhosayi Nyekha, spoke about the objective of the rally. He said, “The PAC, Naga Council Dimapur, is compelled to address the burning issue on the multiple illegal collections by countless unions/welfare, organisation, syndicate and lease systems by the NPGs and corrupt collection system by govt. agencies, which has affected the general public economically and mentally causing enormous hardship to the citizens.”
Among all other communities, business has been “overburdened,” and “there is not a single item which has not been taxed,” which in turn has led to price rise in every commodity, Nyekha said.
“Every citizen is aware of countless unit/welfare organisations making illegal collections outside the preview of permitted provisions,” he said. Yet, the government remains “unconcerned and inactive” about these illegal activities, which itself is “threatening” the very survival of the citizens and economy, he added.
“We want free trade. Do away with illegal syndicate systems. We want a Nagaland where there is no fear, not live under the shadow of guns and goons, who controls the markets and pull the price they want to set in the market. We will not be mute spectators anymore. Do not test the patience of the public. Enough is enough,” Nyekha said.
He also blamed the govt. of India for playing “dirty games.” He added that the lengthier the negotiations, the more the underground factions will mushroom, which in turn again would add more burden to the people.
Nyekha appealed to the gathering to stand in unity and demand ‘solution, not collection’; immediate settlement of the Naga political issue; do away with all union/welfare collections; and rid businesses of the syndicate and lease system.
The president of Naga Council of Dimapur, T Bangerloba Ao, reaffirmed the 2013 resolution of ‘one government one tax.’ He gave a few suggestions to solve the extortion activities: The state govt. must immediately remove ‘illegal taxation’ at the check gate points; and the govt. of India must expedite a solution to the Naga political issue.
Hekhevi Achumi from the fact-finding committee of the PAC gave interesting insights about ‘syndicate taxation.’ He said that almost all the goods and products from betel nuts to second-hand clothes, small vehicles to big trucks were being taxed. At this, he satirically remarked: “Only my wife is not syndicate.” He declared that “we will pay tax” but not to that of the syndicate and lease system groups.
He gave a rough account of taxation by the police in Dimapur. He said that the police collect about INR 12 lakh per month. Further, tax at transit points, check gates, and those by the traffic police is rampant too, he said. Considering all these illegal taxation on the part of police, the matter was brought before the administrators. However, no action was taken against them, Achumi said. Various kinds of taxes amount to INR 400 to 500 crore, he said.
The president of the Naga Women Hoho of Dimapur, Sungsabeni Jamio, also spoke at the event. She said that ‘we are against those who are living at the expense of others hard earned money.’ She said that the future generations of Dimapur were being denied nutritious food because buying them has become a luxury for common man.
Jamio urged that ‘syndicate and lease system be checked and eradicated’ at the earliest. . “We don’t want to bear the consequences of telling the truth,” and tend to suffer secretly, she said.
The president of the Bengali Samaj, KK Paul, who is also representing the non-Naga community in the city, expressed disappointment at the turnout of non-Naga persons at the rally considering that a majority of the business traders in Dimapur are non-Naga persons. He hoped for a better turn up in future.
Also, the Central Naga Tribal Council (CNTC) demanded from the Nagaland govt. immediate implementation of the high power committee’s (HPC) report; ban on all illegal unions and organisations that extort—or in local parlance ‘illegally tax,’ among others. The demands were conveyed by the CNTC’s advisor Pius Lotha representing the ‘central Nagas.’
The public continue to face the brunt of extortion and illegal ‘taxation’ activities even amid outrage. The advisor questioned if the law enforcing agencies’ hands are tied because the govt. has not brought out any effective Act to curb the illegal elements. Lotha said that the issue can be solved by implementing the committee’s report.
“In many occasions different organisations have demonstrated and asked the govt. to bring a halt on the illegal multiple taxations ‘for one government one tax.’” In response the state government constituted the HPC of three members headed by Supreme Court Justice rtd. HK Sema”.
“The committee has submitted the report for curbing the illegal taxation since three years back. However, the govt. has not implemented the said report till date after spending huge amount of public money on the committee’s work,” Lotha alleged.
Citing the Maharashtra Control of Crime Act of 1999, Lotha suggested enacting and enforcing such an Act in Nagaland to combat organised crime and terrorism. The govt. must note the people’s legitimate grievances and immediately act by implementing the HPC report, he said.
The public’s cry for “One govt. one tax” was echoed by the Tenyemi people, represented by the Angami Public Organisation’s advisor Savi Liegise. He asserted that the situation had grown worse. He questioned the outcome of the HPC which he said was without conclusion or solution.
He said that the ‘taxation industry’ in Nagaland was worth INR 400-500 cr. He has requested the Naga ‘political groups’—if they are really working for the people—to work ‘not with gun but with honour.’ He hoped that the next gathering will be for ‘celebration.’
The Eastern Nagaland Peoples’ Organisation was represented by W Lemba Chang, who affirmed the support to the resolution from the Tue. Oct. 31 2018 rally.
The Nagaland Public Rights Awareness and Action Forum also issued a statement, a press release, appealing to the govt. to immediately implement the HPC’s report.