Almost a fortnight after Governor R.N. Ravi wrote to him complaining about “armed gangs” making hay, Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio said law and order in the State was vastly better than the pre-ceasefire years.
The Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) had inked the ceasefire pact with the Centre in 1997. Other groups followed, but the rival Khaplang group walked out of the truce in March 2015.
“The situation today is way better than the years preceding the Centre’s signing of ceasefire agreements in the 1990s and in the 1960s… Nagaland was also adjudged the best performing small State in law and order in 2018 and 2019 [by a Delhi-based publication group],” Mr. Rio told journalists in the capital Kohima on Monday.
He said the State Cabinet held a meeting at the Raj Bhavan on June 19, in which the Governor read out the letter he had written three days ago. Deputy Chief Minister Y. Patton, also the Home Minister, briefed the Governor on the law and order situation.
In his letter, accessed and reported on by The Hindu, Mr. Ravi said the unrestrained depredations by more than half-a-dozen organised armed gangs, brazenly running their so-called “governments” and challenging the legitimacy of the State government without any resistance from the law and order machinery, created a crisis of confidence in the system.
“Law-abiding citizens, be they daily-wage earners, petty vendors, businessmen, shop-keepers, owners of restaurants, road construction companies, entrepreneurs or government servants, are made miserable by rampant extortions and violence by the armed gangs,” said the Governor, who is also the interlocutor in the Naga peace talks.
“The State government development departments are under duress to give regular ransom to the armed gangs. ‘Town Commands’ of these gangs keep the people in towns and its neighbourhood terrorised,” he said.
The NSCN(IM) reacted to the letter last week, asserting that it did not extort from people but levied “legitimate taxes” on them. The outfit also said it was a “legitimate organisation”.
The working committee of Naga National Political Groups, a conglomerate of other rebel groups, also denied its involvement in extortion. “From the inception of our struggle, nominal contribution to the cause has been mandatory. The question of extortion, therefore, does not arise,” it said.