New Delhi: The Nagaland government has issued instructions to all state government employees to fill a ‘self-declaration’ form, mentioning if any of their family members or relatives is part of an underground organisation active in the state.
In what is being considered as a first-of-its-kind formal move by the state to make government employees accountable in Nagaland – a state long affected by insurgency, the instruction from the Neiphiu Rio government has come just days after Governor R.N. Ravi wrote a hard-hitting letter to the chief minister.
In the three-and-a-half-page letter, written on June 19, which was leaked to the media on June 25, Governor Ravi – also the interlocutor for the on-going peace talks with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-Isak-Muivah) and seven other Naga Nationalist Political Groups (NNPGs) – had stressed on “unrestrained depredations by over half a dozen organised armed gangs, brazenly running their respective so-called ‘governments’.
He said they were “challenging the legitimacy of the state government without any resistance from the state law and order machinery and ‘creating’ a crisis of confidence in the system”.
Asserting his powers under Article 371A of the Constitution, Ravi suggested that henceforth, “important law and order decisions like the transfer and posting of officials entrusted with maintenance of law and order…of and above the district level (will) be after the approval of the governor.”
He also held a meeting on June 22 with the state cabinet, on his own insistence.
The working committee of the seven NNPGs and the NSCN (I-M) chief Th. Muivah took umbrage to the letter where they were presumably referred to as “armed gangs” and issued separate statements denying any ‘extortion’ by them.
Justifying collection of ‘taxes’ from the public, government servants and commercial establishments, the NSCN (I-M) called it “the inherent right of any sovereign people and nation,” adding, “Taxes have been the sources of sustenance that has brought the Naga political movement this far. This was legitimately acknowledged by the earlier Interlocutors and Indian authorities and it was never an issue.”
It further said, “What has complicated the situation as seen today is the madness of ‘extortions’ that are being carried out by some groups in the guise of freedom fighters. NSCN did not and does not commit extortion at any point of time but levies legitimate taxes from the people.”
Chief Minister Rio too refuted the governor’s allegations about law and order deterioration in the state, and told reporters a few days later that the situation had improved vastly compared to the years before the Centre’s signing of the ceasefire agreements with insurgent groups in the 1960s and the 1990s.
However, in what seemed to be a move following the Governor’s letter, the state chief secretary Temjen Toy issued instructions on July 7 whereby “all administrative heads of departments and all the heads of departments” were directed “to obtain information in a self-declaration form from all government servants under his/her department/office regarding (their) family members and relatives in underground organisations.”
They were instructed to submit the duly filled forms to the state home department.
The form – seen by The Wire – also categorically asks a government servant to not only declare “the nature of relationship” with any member of an underground group but also name the person, the specific group and rank or position he/she holds in that outfit. It clarifies that the family members shall mean “spouse, sons/daughters, sibling and parents”.
“Relatives shall consist of anyone who is directly related to any of the family member of the government employee”.
The instructions have attracted mixed reactions among the state government employees. While some have said that the government’s move could bring an employee under suspicion simply because of what a relative – over whom she or he may not have an influence– may be associated with, some others have welcomed it as it would put officials in a better position to deny ground to insurgent groups.
Meanwhile, in a press note issued to local papers recently, the NSCN (I-M) announced reduction of “5% tax payable to the Government of the People’s Republic of Nagalim (GPRN) to 3% with immediate effect” keeping in mind the “prevailing COVID-19 pandemic crisis and the economic slowdown that followed because of the continued lockdown”.