KOHIMA: Nagaland Governor and the Central government's interlocutor for the Naga peace talks R.N. Ravi and the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) were engaged in a war of words over the collection of "tax" by the main Naga outfit from the people.
The NSCN-IM in a statement on Wednesday night said that it is highly unbecoming of the Governor of Nagaland desperately trying to "criminalize the Naga political movement by questioning the taxation right of the NSCN".
"Surprisingly, this comes after more than 23 years of Indo-Naga political dialogue," the statement said.
The Officer-on-Special Duty (OSD) to Government of India representative and interlocutor for Naga Peace talk Gurmeet Singh in a statement said on Monday that a Naga armed organization engaged in the peace process has issued a statement recently, carried through the media, that they have right to collect "tax" from the people and further added that their right has been recognized also by the Representative of the Government of India having dialogue with them.
"Such an erroneous statement is likely to cause confusion among the people. Taxation is a sovereign function which can be exercised only either by the Government of India or the State Government. The Government of India does not recognize any such right by any other entity. Forcible collection of money by any entity is extortion which is a criminal offence punishable under the laws. In fact, all the Naga armed organizations engaged in the peace process have given a commitment against such collection," the OSD statement said without naming the NSCN-IM or any other outfit.
The NSCN-IM statement said that to go back to the history to point out that taxation is something which is deeply rooted in the history of the Naga resistance movement even before the Naga National Council (NNC) came into the scenario.
"Now the focus has been shifted to the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN) which is at the helm of affairs leading the Naga political struggle. As brought about by the 23 years of Indo-Naga political talks, the Nagas' stand for sovereign existence is before the world domain and not a question of obscurity," it said.
The statement said that it has become pertinent to mention the background of Naga history to drive home the point that tax collection was the inherent part of the Nagas way of political existence as sovereign people since time immemorial in order to manage its own affairs.
"The NSCN collected taxes to support the Naga people's political movement which started in 1929 even before India got independence from the British. Opposing the Naga tax is nothing short of obstructing the Naga political movement and to let the Naga people be enslaved by India."
The NSCN-IM, which had entered into a ceasefire agreement with the Central government in August 1997 and since then had held around 80 rounds of negotiations with the Central government, said that NSCN is not working for packages from the Government of India but for an honourable and acceptable political settlement with India and the nominal taxations would continue as it is.
"The irony is that while other outfits are taxing the people they work as the agents of adversaries that are remotely connected with the Naga political interest. Naga are thus made to suffer by the GoI under the garb of Naga Political Groups (NPGs)."
The statement said that taxation is the legitimate right of every government of a nation state. The Nagas declared their independence status as a sovereign nation one day ahead of India and defended its sovereign right thus far.
"The Naga nation does not require permission from the Government of India for taxation. The matter remains loud and clear that at no point of time the Nagas became Indians either by conquest or consent.
"It has to be taken note that the sovereign rights of the Naga people to tax cannot be denied. Moreover, the Indo-Naga political talks are yet to be finalized as critical issues are waiting to be considered from the perspective of the Framework Agreement," the two-page NSCN-IM statement said.
The NSCN-IM and the intelligence sources said that while many of the 31 demands of the Nagas have been almost resolved during the talks with the Centre, differences remain over a separate flag, and a separate constitution. The Central government's interlocutor RN Ravi had recently rejected the demand for a separate flag and a Constitution for the state as demanded by the NSCN-IM. (IANS)