Since October 2016, the NIA has conducted two search operations in several departments of the Nagaland government to probe the diversion of development funds to militant outfits.
New Delhi: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) conducted a series of raids in various departments of the Nagaland government on January 18 and have reportedly found a number of documents that suggest that state funds were transferred to certain separatist outfits, including the banned National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang), or NSCN (K). This was the second such search operation conducted by the agency since October 2016, to find evidence for the diversion of development funds to militant outfits.
In the first week of October, an NIA team cracked down on several state government departments to establish the nexus and had said that they had seized some such funds too. Though the state government denied such searches to the local media, sources in the NIA had said at that time, “Some heads might roll soon”. The NIA was said to have questioned some state government officials about employing militants in government departments. The January 18 raids were a continuation of the raids conducted in October.
As per media reports quoting NIA officials, the January 18 search was triggered by the arrest of Khetoshe Sumi, a senior cadre of NSCN (K), on July 31 by the Assam Rifles in Dimapur. Sumi was said to be in charge of raising funds for NSCN (K) in the Kohima and Dimapur regions through illegal taxation of government departments and had reportedly revealed the existence of a financial nexus.
Sources in the state government said the October raids were conducted after the NIA took note of FIRs filed against two state departments in July by ACAUT (Against Corruption and Unabated Taxation), a Kohima-based civil society organisation that fights against corruption in government departments and against the collection of illegal taxes by underground outfits.
Speaking to The Wire, Mar Longkumer of ACAUT’s media cell confirmed the news. “We did file two FIRs in Zunheboto police station against the chief medical officer of Zunheboto district and four other employees including an accountant for deduction of taxes from the salaries, which was taken note of by the NIA leading to the search operations.”
He said, “Around 7 to 8 militant outfits collect such taxes from the government employees and local businessmen besides diverting government funds. We are in support of the national Naga movement but we are opposed to such illegal taxation. As per our findings, a government employee has to pay 24% of his or her annual salary to these outfits. The salaries are deducted accordingly by the state department themselves before transferring the salaries to the employees which is then handed over to these outfits.”
Various state government officials that The Wire contacted refused to speak on record. One official said, “I think as many as 18 to 19 government departments are under the NIA scanner for diverting funds to the underground groups and also deducting employees’ salaries.”
In the last few years, the Nagaland government has come out with statements condemning such a practice but Longkumer pointed out, “It does nothing to stop it though. Such statements are not binding on the government departments.”
In August, ACAUT wrote to the state chief secretary demanding action against the officials named in its FIRs for flouting the central government’s notification (dated April 23, 2004, No. CON/CF/97/99) against payment of taxes by government servants to any other authority other than the government and also for threatening a complainant. “But nothing happened, the accused took anticipatory bail.”
Besides holding rallies and awareness camps in educational institutions against “unabated taxation by the underground groups” and collating a booklet that mentions the amount of taxes the underground groups charge on various things sold in the state, ACAUT has been submitting memoranda to the central government to intervene in the matter, both to the previous UPA regime and the present BJP government.
“We have sent many memoranda to the centre, even to Prime Minister Narendra Modi through the state governor, but nothing concrete has come out of it. People are scared and have continued to pay such taxes to the underground groups including NSCN (Isak-Muivah),” said Mar.
While the Khaplang faction of the NSCN was banned towards the end of 2015 – after it walked out of talks with the Centre and thereafter killed 17 army personnel in an ambush in Manipur – the Isak-Muivah faction has been in negotiations with the Modi government to arrive at the Naga Accord.
However, as per an unconfirmed report, the Indian ambassador to Myanmar, Vikram Misra, recently met two senior leaders of NSCN(K) in that country’s Sagaing region to ask the outfit to return to talks with the Centre.