Organised armed gangs challenging state government, Nagaland Governor writes to...

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Concerned about the ‘precarious’ law and order situation in the state, Nagaland Governor RN Ravi has written to chief minister Neiphiu Rio on how half a dozen armed gangs are challenging the legitimacy of the state government.

In a scathing four-page letter written on June 16, which has been seen by HT, Ravi mentions how the armed gangs have been running extortion rackets and spreading fear while the state machinery had failed to rein them in.

“Day-to-day unrestrained depredations by over half a dozen organised armed gangs, brazenly running their respective so-called governments, challenging the legitimacy of the state government without any resistance from state law and order machinery has created a crisis of confidence in the system,” the letter read.

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Without naming them, Ravi, who was appointed Governor in August 2019 and is also the Centre’s interlocutor for the Naga peace talks, mentions about the Naga rebel groups, most of whom are engaged in peace talks with Centre.

“Law-abiding citizens are made miserable by rampant extortion and violence by the armed groups. State government development departments are under duress to give regular ransom to the armed gangs. The brazen display of firepower by the rival gangs for turf control drive the people to panic,” the letter said.

Ravi mentioned how the gangs operate check gates at entry points to the state and levy an illegal tax on all goods entering Nagaland “with full knowledge of the state law and order machinery”.

Commodities coming to Nagaland become exorbitantly expensive due to “gunpoint” extortions by the armed miscreants.

Mentioning how a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report in 2018 pointed out “massive leakage of funds” from various government departments to the armed gangs, the Governor stated that there was a steady downslide in all parameters of development in Nagaland due to the siphoning of a large chunk of funds meant for development projects.

Ravi expressed disappointment that despite advising the chief secretary and the director-general of police in January 2020 to constitute a special investigation team (SIT) to probe instances of extortion and kidnapping of people involved in the construction of national highways in the state, no action has been initiated.

The letter mentioned of rampant encroachment and deforestation of reserve forest land by the armed miscreants who had even evicted forest officials and their families from their residential quarters and were staying and conducting operations from there.

Citing police reports, Ravi mentioned that while some action has been taken against foot soldiers of these gangs, senior members have not been implicated. He pointed that even in cases of the Arms Act and the Explosive Substances Act, where the minimum punishment prescribed is 5 years, the culprits are given 5-10 days sentence “often with the concurrence of the public prosecutor”.

The Governor mentioned that despite raising these concerns with the chief minister and urging him to rein in the miscreants to restore rule of law, nothing has been done.

“The scenario in the state is grim. The law and order has collapsed. The constitutionally established state government is being challenged on a day-to-day basis by the armed gangs who question the sovereignty and integrity of the nation while the instruments of law and order remain totally unresponsive,” the letter said.

Ravi stated that in such a situation, he can no longer abstain from his constitutional obligation for law and order in the state and proposed that all important law and order decisions - like the transfer and postings of all officers entrusted with the maintenance of law and order of and above the district level - to be done after an approval from the Governor.

“I also propose to periodically review law and order situation in the state and issue required lawful decisions. In order to instil and ensure accountability, I also prefer to review the annual performance appraisal reports of all such officers,” the letter read.

The CM’s office has not given any official reaction to the Governor’s letter yet. Nagaland CM didn’t respond to calls and his office said no statement on the issue has been issued.

The Nagaland government headed by Neiphiu Rio of the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) was formed in March 2018. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is a key constituent of the ruling coalition.

Following the Governor’s letter, the Nagaland Police held a press briefing in capital city Kohima on Friday to give details on relevant actions taken.

“We would like to highlight anti-extortion measures taken against underground factions (of rebel outfits) and other anti-social elements who are taking advantage of such fragile situation,” said IGP (Range) Lima Sunep Jamir.

“Since 2015, a total of 893 criminal cases have been registered and 1,238 persons of various UG groups have been arrested for involvement in various crimes including Arms Act, Explosives Act, murder, abductions, extortion robbery,” he added.

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