New Delhi: Of course, the Government of India could not let this go! The snub was expected. And hence finally, the center has categorically clarified that "Taxation is a sovereign function which can be exercised only by the government of India or the state (elected Nagaland) government."
The militant group NSCN (IM), which has been in negotiations with the center since 1997, in a statement on June 19 (2021) had made a tall claim and said: "Collection of taxes by a government from its citizens is a legitimate right and it is nothing illegal at all".
It also had claimed – "Even the representatives of the Government of India who are engaged in political dialogue with NSCN leaders recognize this right".
Thus comes the clarification as an official statement from Gurmeet Singh, OSD to Gol representative and interlocutor for 'Naga peace talks.
The NSCN (IM) version has been countered as an “erroneous statement”.
“Such an erroneous statement is likely to confuse the people. Taxation is a sovereign function which can be exercised only by the government of India or the state government,” the statement from the interlocutor's office said.
“The government of India does not recognize any such right by any other entity,” it clarified.
The official statement further said – “Forcible collection of money by any entity is extortion, which is a criminal offense punishable under the laws. All the Naga armed organizations engaged in the peace process have given a commitment against such collection".
In 2020, Nagaland Governor R .N. Ravi had flagged off the extortion menace and also wrote a strongly worded letter to Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio sharing his annoyance over the “unrestrained depredations” by organized armed gangs.
Rio heads the NNDP-BJP government in the state.
In what was seen as his attack on NSCN(IM) headed by Thuingaleng Muivah, Ravi had said, "Incongruously a deeply entrenched network of vested interests has emerged during the period (peace period since 1997) which has misappropriated the dividends of Peace and did not allow them to reach the people.
There is mass-scale mayhem and miscarriage of dreams and expectations of the people of Nagaland."
The 'extortion' issue has come to the surface yet again just when the peace talks have been put on a fast track.
On June 21, Monday, the Confederation of Nagaland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CNCCI) also raised 'multiple taxations' and demanded that all Naga political groups (meaning militant groups) should immediately refrain from such activities.
The controversy has been kicked off lately after KT Sukhalu, Advisor School Education, reportedly said that “the NSCN factions are seeking (diversion) of COVID funds”.
Sukhalu belongs to Chief Minister Rio's party NNDP.
The seven militant groups under NNPG (led by N Kitovi Zhimomi) operating in Nagaland issued a statement demanding that Sukhalu should clarify and specify who is/are getting or demanding diversion of COVID-19 funds.
“Let Mr. K.T Sukhalu produce detail of the alleged payment of covid funds to national workers ….," a statement from NNPG said.
The Working Group of NNPG has said that it knows that the Government of India sanctioned the COVID-19 funds to 'mitigate the sufferings and misery of the common people while also providing medical care and help to the affected.
The NNPG is ready for signing a final peace pact with the government of India at the earliest.
The NSCN (IM) has raised the issues of separate Flag and Constitution resulting in a delay in the final peace process.
The center is keen to expedite the final peace process as a few months of delay would yet again put off things by a few more months as elections are due in Manipur by Mach 2022.
A significant number of the Tangkhul Naga tribe live in Manipur and are active cadres and office bearers of the NSCN (IM).
The group's aging general secretary Muivah is also a Tangkhul.