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.

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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.”

Taxation
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

Ban for what?

By: Khekiye K. Sema IAS (Rtd); Forest Colony, Kohima

It was extremely disappointing to read  the official stand of NSCN (IM) on ACAUT and NTC as carried by the local dalies (29th Oct.2013), banning both  creation of NTC as an organization and the present laudable efforts of ACAUT.  It takes a great deal of courage to admitting to one’s own shortcomings. The honourable kinds would take note and make necessary amends. The less intelligent beings compound their problems by defending their mistakes with added irrationality. The latter description seems to fit the think tank of the NSCN (IM) to a large extent.

Khekiye K. Sema IAS (Rtd) Photo: Morung Express

Khekiye K. Sema IAS (Rtd)
Photo: Morung Express

The issue of “taxation” is not an exclusive subject concerning NSCN(IM) alone. Every other Faction is thickly involved in it as they are and should not have taken it so personally. The issue here has nothing to do with anti -Nationalism. It is purely an issue of survival, the basics of all human instinct. Just as much as NSCN (IM) and all the Factions want to live, so too  does the a common man. He may not be able to live in style and luxury  like the factions are but he does want to live a simple life unfettered by extraneous financial pressures on his already difficult existence. This life is slowly being squeezed out of him because of the multiple taxation by all the so called National Workers. As Tax Collectors it certainly is easier for them to undermine the extent of the burden being carried by the common man. Each Faction may be thinking that they are raising just a reasonable one hundred rupees (as a conjecture) from an individual without considering the fact that that same individual is paying the same amount to each of the 8 factions which collectively lands up being Rs.800/-.

 

Their syndicate system has further caused serious abnormal price escalation in every conceivable commodity which the common man lands up paying for again. When the common man is not even able to earn one thousand rupees on a regular basis, their taxation becomes an act of slow murder. The desperate cry of an oppressed giver is then tagged as an act to “malign the National cause in the name of unspecified, unabated taxation” instead of honestly pondering over the cause of such a public outcry and consider measures to sensibly streamline their unscrupulous system which definitely exist. When did wanting to LIVE become anti-national? How more insanely  stupid can the Factions get? The common man is crying out in pain, appealing to all the Factions that the situation has gone far beyond his ability to continue bearing this excruciating yoke and is saying enough is enough. This is a time for them to listen and think positively, not throw threats.

The factions only know the word “Take” but the word “GIVE” is not in their lexicon. Most of all they are not accountable to anyone after they “Take”. That’s how their ‘sovereignty’ palaces have sprung up. That’s how their brand new ‘sovereignty’  SUV gets parked in their porches. Every fool knows this. While the indifferent rich and the affluent may curse while paying their taxes, they are capable of taking such taxation in their stride but for the majority, the common man, who wonders where his dinner will come from while having his lunch, life cannot be more damning than this. Then questions such as these start overflowing : Who’s freedom are they fighting for anyway? Why the need for so many Factions, with each of them taxing us dry, fighting for the same identical cause? What purpose does it serve to attain sovereignty with no people left to enjoy its fruitation  or too impoverished to their bones to care? What kind of a future would we have if the present norm becomes the legal norm of an Independent Nagaland? It gives one a horrible feeling to look beyond one’s nose for the answers to these questions.

With or without guns, a time will come when the masses would want to know how their tax has been used by the Factions over the years. Remember history. Remember the French Revolution of 1789 when the merciless inaptitude of King Louis XVI led him to the gallows. Remember the recent history of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya etc. These are not fairy tales. These are real time occurrences where the oppressed could tolerate tyranny no longer and erupted into the open streets with deathly consequences. The Factions must know that what has happened elsewhere around the world can and will happen here in Nagaland too, when pushed beyond the limits…if not today, certainly tomorrow. Mark my words. The present gathering is just a sounding board for those at the helms of affairs to please take stock of the truth and take necessary steps to right the wrong. Nobody is raising his voice against taxation per say. They are only questioning the uncontrolled excesses which their subordinates are definitely involved in. Is that too much to ask?

So why cause or wait for such a time to happen when the masses lose control? The pragmatic and sensible thing to do is coordinate with ACAUT and all other NGOs, realistically identify the loose ends and loopholes in their tax raising mechanism and plug the holes for everyone’s convenience instead of adopting the brute force to quieten the masses. It may work momentarily but be rest assured it will not work for ever. The Faction Leaders must honestly understand that their grassroots functionaries, their tax collectors are involved in numerous unscrupulous self-indulgent activities in the name of “the Nation” harassing the people day in day out without a break. It is not the masses but their own inner cadres who act anti-nationally, cheapening the mention of the words “working for the Nation”. This phrase is heard from the cadres when they raise tax for “the Nation” to indulge in their National Urge to have their regular quota of National liquor by patronising the underground National Bars prohibited but spread in every nook and corner of the city.

In broad daylight propagate the message of prohibition and after dusk patronise such national bar with absolute abandon. Everything they do is for the Nation reducing their questionable routine activities to that of a National joke. Such hypocrisy makes the Factions appear a National laughing stalk too. The Bosses may not like to hear this but so do we.  Believe me when I say I have my due sincere respect for many of the faction leaders who have honest intent but they must wake up to the present reality and assess the situation with an equally honest open-mindedness: The voice that’s being heard tells of the ground reality picture that the masses see every waking hours of their lives and therefore are telling them that they have had enough and appealing to them to have it examined with total integrity.  It would be a serious error to write this appeal off as Anti-National behaviour. Such activities of their subordinates as described will definitely not be brought to their attention and of which the masses are tired of. With half truth feedbacks, the Faction Bosses therefore may react in annoyance that the masses a rebelling against them and the National Movement and on the spurt of the moment expel such a reaction of the masses as anti-National. The truth is that no Faction is receiving the full 100% tax that has been collected from the people at their central office. In fact are they receiving even 40%? Check this out first.

 

This should tell them the true story and should make them think rather than lash out at the masses. Check your cadre first. Don’t antagonistically kill the goose that is laying their golden eggs in a spurt of anger without introspection and self examination. The positive thing to do is to gracefully withdraw the ban and instead open the doors and windows to reason with the mass based organization(s) including NTC to make thing happen in a more sensible amicable manner where all stand to gain.
The above reflection is neither borne out of malice nor intended to undermine the true National Workers or the aspiration of the Nagas. It is an expression of a sincere Naga citizen who believes that our National Workers can carry this responsibility with dignity and honour and be a source of pride for the masses. This is definitely not the picture at present…far from it.

ACAUT to hold rally today

DIMAPUR, OCT 30 (NPN): Action Committee Against Unabated Taxation (ACAUT) Wednesday said it would go ahead with the October 31 “Public Awareness Rally” to be held at Clock Tower junction from 9.30 a.m.

ACAUT media cell in a press release said it “abides by its 29th October resolution that a public awareness rally will be held on 31st October”. In this regard, ACAUT appealed the general public “not to be confused but attend the rally”.

ACAUT signature campaign. Picture: NPN

ACAUT signature campaign. Picture: NPN

Further, in view of the mass rally, ACAUT urged the government to provide security at the site and surrounding areas.

Meanwhile, ACAUT said a 5-member team led by senior citizen Hekhevi Achumi, representing ACAUT, held a meeting with NSCN (I-M) steering committee members and ato kilonser Th. Muivah in the light of banning of ACAUT and its October 31st rally by the latter.

The media cell said the team reported and conveyed about the meeting and the proceedings to the committee members.
________________________________________
NSCN (I-M) sticks to decision
A five-member delegation from ACAUT and Naga Council Dimapur went and met with NSCN (I-M) ato kilonser Th. Muivah and other functionaries Wednesday,  to clarify ACAUT’s position with regard to the October 31 rally.

According to ACAUT secretary Solomon L. Awomi the delegation briefed the NSCN (I-M) about their position and reaffirmed support for the ongoing political talks between the NSCN (I-M) and government of India. Awomi said that even after the delegation clarified the stand,   NSCN (I-M) leaders remained adamant with their decision to “disallow the proposed rally”.

He said the NSCN(I-M) leaders questioned the team as to why they were going ahead with the rally when it has been  “disallowed” ?.  He said  NSCN (I-M) leaders warned that ACAUT would be held solely responsible, if the ongoing talk was affected. Reiterating that the ACAUT movement was not directed against the political peace process, Awomi asserted that ACAUT would go ahead with the proposed rally. (Staff Reporter)

 

ACAUT’s successful rally in Dimapur

31 Oct. 2013: The NSCN-IM disallowed the ACAUT to hold a rally on 31st Oct. 2013.

However, the ACAUT decided to go ahead with rally and today there was a huge crowd came for the rally. The rally went peacefully and ended at 12 Noon.

Yesterday, “a five-member delegation from ACAUT and Naga Council Dimapur went and met with NSCN (I-M) ato kilonser Th. Muivah and other functionaries Wednesday,  to clarify ACAUT’s position with regard to the October 31 rally” NP staff reported.

The NP staff further rerport that, according to ACAUT secretary Solomon L. Awomi the delegation briefed the NSCN (I-M) about their position and reaffirmed support for the ongoing political talks between the NSCN (I-M) and government of India. Awomi said that even after the delegation clarified the stand,   NSCN (I-M) leaders remained adamant with their decision to “disallow the proposed rally”.

“He said the NSCN(I-M) leaders questioned the team as to why they were going ahead with the rally when it has been  “disallowed” ?.  He said  NSCN (I-M) leaders warned that ACAUT would be held solely responsible, if the ongoing talk was affected. Reiterating that the ACAUT movement was not directed against the political peace process, Awomi asserted that ACAUT would go ahead with the proposed rally” NP reports.

ACAUT not against ‘Naga movement’

• ‘Public Awareness Rally’ to be held as scheduled on October 31
• ACAUT requests NSCN (IM) to extend co-operation for the rally
• ACAUT appeals to Indian government to immediately stop provocation

DIMAPUR, OCTOBER 29 (MExN): The Action Committee Against Unabated Taxation (ACAUT) has stated that the “cry of the common man being undeniable,” the ‘Public Awareness Rally’ will be held as scheduled on October 31 and has “requested” the NSCN (IM) to extend co-operation for the rally. This was stated in a press note issued by the Media Cell, ACAUT. It may be mentioned that the NSCN (IM) had taken a decision to “disallow” the rally.

In this regard, the ACAUT has clarified to the NSCN (IM) that it is not against the Naga political solution or the Naga movement. “It is not opposed to any of the Naga Political Groups (NPGs) as is being made out nor is it against any organisation and individual,” it stated. However, the ACAUT is “against a system which has diluted the peoples mandated movement of its sheen and mass support much to the dismay and angst of the Naga people.” “Time and again, ACAUT has reiterated that multiple and unabated taxation has done nothing but harmed the interest of the Naga people and the common man.”

Further, according to ACAUT, “unabated taxation is affecting every strata of society and consequently the emotional appeal of the Naga movement for sovereignty is being undermined.” In that, the ACAUT has merely appealed “to the leaderships of the NPGs to rein in wayward cadres and put its house in order.”

The ACAUT has also mentioned about the memorandum submitted to the Chief Minister on August 30, asking the State Government “to set its house in order too, namely the illegal collections by police and other departments, the DMC imbroglio, the issue of illegal immigrants and corruption in developmental works, etc.” The press note stated that the State Government refused to acknowledge this despite time extension on expiry of the ultimatum. “The ACAUT was left with no choice but to announce the go ahead with its programme on October 31.”

The ACAUT stated that it “sincerely wishes that an honourable political solution is found for the Naga nation,” and also told “the Indian government and its paramilitary forces that it strongly condemns interference in matters which are purely the internal kitchen matters of the Naga family.” “That the Assam Rifles chose to take advantage of family dispute and surround Hebron Camp is most condemnable and an act of betrayal. This action has jeopardized the job of the ACAUT and periled the lives of its members for which the Assam Rifles shall be responsible,” stated the ACAUT and appealed to the Indian government that “in the interest of peace, this provocation be stopped immediately.”