Tribal Nagas protest illegal tax levies by rebels

Dimapur, Oct 31 (IANS) Thousands of people staged massive protests Thursday in this main commercial town of Nagaland against illegal tax levies on “every tribal Naga and non-Naga” residing in the state by separatist Naga rebel outfits.

ACAUT Rally in Dimapur

ACAUT Rally in Dimapur

The Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM), the state’s dominant separatist group, had “banned” the Action Committee against Unabated Taxation (ACAUT), a conglomeration of social, business and church organisations; it had also banned Thursday’s rally.

“It was a red letter day for the Naga people to come out in the thousands, defying the rebel outfit diktat, and opposing the illegal tax levies by various rebel groups,” ACAUT secretary Solomon L. Awomi said.

In fact, Thursday’s public rally was the first of its kind in Nagaland, where people came out openly marking their protest against the illegal imposition of tax by Naga separatist outfits.

The NSCN (I-M) and its rival Khaplang faction had been collecting “tax” since their split in 1988. A government employee pays at least 25 percent of his or her monthly salary — deducted before disbursement — to these outfits. The rally was not only against the illegal tax levies by the Naga rebels, but also against the unprecedented corruption and multiple taxation practiced by government servants at various levels.

“We (the rallyists) have decided to pay one tax to one government and not to any other outfits, besides asking the state government to set up high power committee comprising of five members including two ACAUT members to review and streamline the illegal taxation and corruption in the state,” Solomon told IANS after the mammoth rally at the clock tower, held under a blanket security cover.

Try to see beyond illegal taxation and extortion

NTC and ACAUT can be a good platform to start Nagas’ Unity and Naga People Mass Movement (NPMM) IF: some of the prominent LEADERS and Facebookers stop trying to implicate the other Nagas as supporter of only one faction, stop considering other Nagas as less Naga, consider all the Nagas as one, focus only on the main issues, and work for Nagas’ Unity.

NTC may be there. ACAUT may be there. Taxation may be reduced, or there may be only one Taxation, but Naga faction will remain the same next many years UNLESS there is Naga People Mass Movement and solve the Naga Political Problem. And tomorrow again you may say, “this taxation is too high”. Lowering tax or paying only to one Government may be a temporary pain relieve for some of the Government employees and businessmen, but this is not the end of suffering from taxation, threat, oppression or whatever you called it.

The ultimate solution will come only if the Naga Political Solution comes. And this Naga Political Solution may come only if the Naga People are UNITED and start the NPMM. Let the Naga public with their prominent leaders (tribal Hoho) and factional leaders decide the Naga’s future or what the Naga people want today – sovereignty or whatever the Naga leaders and public decide for the good of the Naga people.

Paying tax to one Government and lowering taxation would definitely help to breathe better for the Nagas. However, I want to look beyond this temporary relieve which will haunt us back shortly without solving the Naga political problem. Our present leaders need to be more foresighted and think for the Naga younger generation by helping to solve the Naga Political solution instead of trying to bring little relieve to their generation by lowering or paying tax only to one Government.

If you think that Naga public have the voice and they can do it, the Naga public leaders should start uniting the Naga people and then bring the factional leaders to reconcile and unite. Which will be easier to unite – the Naga public or Naga factional leaders? The Naga leaders may need to study on this aspect and try to bring together the Naga people.

We the Nagas need NTC and ACAUT kinds of organisation to fight against the corruption, illegal taxation, extortion and to work for the development in Naga dominated areas. HOWEVER, IT SHOULD NOT COMPROMISE the unity of the Naga people. Sometime, the public may simply follow their leaders and the organisation like NTC and ACAUT need to work systematically, professionally, tactfully, intellectually and diplomatically with the public support without compromising the unity of the Naga people.

Today, it is the time for the Nagas to reason together, move forward together, work together and see beyond our own family, village, tribe and state. However, if we continue to think and see only for our families, village, tribe and state, the Naga people will continue to suffer many more years regardless of any state or country they live.

@Dr. Thohe Pou

‘Need to campaign for one tax, one govt’

The Naga times are pressing. While there once was a unified cause, the unity that could have brought a solution by now seems absent. The time is right to unite, says retired IAS officer and an increasingly-seen courageous intellectual, Khekiye K. Sema. It is in unity that Naga individuals will be in a position to address the present, and be prepared to face the future.

In that, “One tax to all the faction is not the solution, one tax to one united government is! And the people must have the courage to stand up for One tax, One Government,” says K. Sema while speaking to The Morung Express recently. In order to have all the citizens of Nagaland understand this philosophy of ‘One tax, one government’, there has to be a serious mass awareness campaign.

He asserts that individually everybody is afraid. “I’m saying this because these are things that matter to us, we have an opportunity to have it said because the more people understand it, there will be more abilities to build up a momentum where the right thinking, the right attitude and the right approach can begin to impact the destiny we are looking for. And as long as people are not aware of it, each person thinking individually is not going to have any kind of an end result. It has to be a collective effort.”

Strengthening the Naga Hoho
One way to strengthening the collective is by strengthening and re-engaging institutions that exist for collective expression.

“The Naga Hoho is the apex body in which all the Naga tribal Hohos are affiliated,” reminds K. Sema, bringing back the imagery of his oft-used discourse. “They should collectively call all the tribal Hohos for serious brainstorming from where they can go back to the people and generate the issue of why one tax for one government should be taken into account so that the factions can unite. Even if it is by force they have to be united. The Naga Hoho has the authority to unite all the tribes of Nagaland.” That is the kind of decision, K. Sema feels, the tribal hohos must take and recreate the 1951 plebiscite.
“We can have a similar kind of mass decision like the plebiscite of 1951. The Naga Hoho can induce the mass desire and the mass will to say that all factions must unite.” The momentum for this, according to him, can be generated through each tribal Hoho going back to their tribe, organizing massive public rallies, getting a public decision on what the people will for.
“Once all the tribes are united, the force of the 1951 plebiscite will be gained all over again and also in the emergence of one Naga National Government,” K. Sema reiterates.
“There needs to be collective effort where we have to say and mean it. If we are not able to do this the factions will continue to do what they want. We will continue to be cowards cursing them in our kitchen but unable to do anything about it. Everybody is afraid to say anything because they are afraid of the gun and they don’t want to say anything in the press or individually.”

But Naga politics has the tendency to put people into cycles that are not as easily escaped. “Taxation is really draining the potentiality of the Nagas, and there is no way our younger generation can ever grow under the atmosphere of taxation.”

This critical vicious cycle, explains K. Sema, that is operating in Nagaland will continue until and unless the Nagas see the future clearly, and the kind of problems that needs to be solved. And it boils down to the same point: unity.
“It is impossible to expect the factions to unite on their own. They have got all privileges they want free of cost. Why should they want to change their comfort zone?” K. Sema further adds, explaining why peoples’ unity is first of all important. This is what will act as an “inducement” wherein the Hohos, NGOs and civil society must have a debate and decide to end the present system of taxation that makes everyone’s lives “hard to live.”
“Nagas should refuse to pay any tax as long as the factions continue to be divided. The people should throw a challenge to the factions,” reiterates K. Sema.
Citing the example of the French Revolution, K. Sema, who is a student of History, further explains why. The end result of the French revolution was, he narrates, that the poor people who formed the majority ended up executing their king. The people were still being taxed even though they had been reduced to social and economic degradation. Even in Nagaland, poor people are a majority, and they have not found the courage or the platform to express themselves so far.
“When you have reached the point of your toleration, when every penny that you have is taken away from you and when you have nothing to eat, with nothing more to lose, anger will rise. That was the kind of situation that faced France during the revolution; the masses stood up because they could no longer tolerate the kind of extortion and burden of tax for the king’s pleasure. And that is exactly what is happening to us: the factions are all having a gala time enjoying themselves with all the ill-gotten money from taxing people and they don’t care about sovereignty,” says K Sema, adding that for the factions, “sovereignty” is nothing more than a word. “They use the word as a cover to resemble some kind of legitimacy to tax the people but in terms of real output there is absolute zero output, or even minus zero output for that matter. As long as we allow them to continue with this, Nagas will slowly but surely emerging into the mafia system of USA.”
“Unluckily for us Nagas, we have landed properties and we are not as desperate as the French common peasants. Because of that little advantage that the Nagas have, we may have not reached the breaking point but even if we do not reach it, the sensibility of the issue must begin to prevail.”

Sovereignty-The old and new generation
There is always more to be said on “sovereignty,” which has remained evasive from the region for far too long. But then, it has come to be meaningful in different ways for different stakeholders.

“The undergrounds have become affluent all in the name of sovereignty,” feel K. Sema. “If there had been a constructive result of taxation, then it would have been okay but continuous taxation with no explanation to the people on the use of money has simmered anger. If the purpose no longer exists, it is meaningless to talk of Sovereignty. Sovereignty cannot be achieved through unreasonable means that have been adopted now. That is the decision that the Nagas must take.”
K. Sema feels that the present generation does not really look at Sovereignty with “intensity” which “our first generation worked and sacrificed for. They look at the Naga national movement as a fairytale.”
For him, “My generation is perhaps the last generation to have seen the struggle and the sufferings of the movement.”
“What do the younger generation know about the struggle? It is just another story being told. The real pain and suffering is not real to them. The young generation is not really committed to the serious feeling that leaders [of the older generations] experienced during their time, the meaning of real struggle is absent among them.”
He adds that the Government of India is adding fuel to fire by giving endless funds. Easy money has become so convenient that the young generation looks at everything in terms of crores. “They are likely to sell sovereignty. They will not take the issue as seriously as the first generation people. Isak and Muivah must understand that they do not have the luxury of time and neither can they entreat God for time extension, it also means they must come down from the high horses they are riding, and look at reality because the younger generation may not be able to handle issues like sovereignty and it is important that they should come to some conclusion in their time.”
What Sovereignty was in the fifties and what it is now are two different pictures. Therefore, explains K. Sema, leaders of all the factions must be brought together in an honorable way so that one government can talk about exactly what kind of negotiation is going on, debate among themselves and renegotiate. “They can use their brains instead of guns. Isak and Muivah must understand that they do not have all the time in the world. They must use their God-given sense to accommodate all the leaders and bring in the cohesion of thinking process within before bringing it to the GoI. If they can do this, at least there can be a positive conclusion.”

Going back to the grassroots
The real strength for all this, for K. Sema, will be derived from the rural, where “our strength lies.” “We have to go back to the grassroots. They haven’t been given the opportunity to express themselves. They do have an opinion but not the mechanism to ventilate it,” he says, and it is this that must be given strength so that they can take the real work forward. Morung Express