Exclusive: Guns, Guitars, Supplies – The NSCN(K) Extortion Story

While Naga rebel groups don’t physically harm civilians, they extort large amounts of money and supplies from them.

Updated
India
3 min read
Members of the rebel outfit NSCN(K) parade around their camps, armed with guns and guitars (Photo: Reuters)

The stretch from Dimapur to Kohima is dotted with little shops that help the locals earn a living. Though expensive, one of the most popular forms of public transport are taxis. No matter what their profession be, everyone in Nagaland shares one thing in common — the pressure to cough up a substantial amount to be paid as “tax” to the various factions of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland.

The Modus Operandi

The Indian Army maintains that it was under the garb of the ceasefire that all these factions — NSCN-Khaplang (K), Isak and Muivah (IM), Khole-Kitovi (KK) and Reformation (R) — had equally divided the region among themselves. After the division, each faction began collecting “taxes” to the tune of Rs 4000-7000 from everyone, except children, on an annual, or need basis.

Nagaland has been divided by the NSCN factions, who then collect “tax” from the locals (Photo: Shaswati Das)
Nagaland has been divided by the NSCN factions, who then collect “tax” from the locals (Photo: Shaswati Das)

We can barely make ends meet. I am the only earning member of my family. I earn about Rs 6000 per month, depending on the inflow of tourists. I have to support a family of five and we just worry about saving enough so that we can pay the faction. Nobody has the option of not paying.
—Tovika, Local Taxi Driver (Kohima)

Tovika’s story resounds through Nagaland, so much so that the locals now want one unified faction, which will reduce the tax burden.

After abrogating the 14-year-long ceasefire, the NSCN(K) has further intensified its efforts to keep supplies flowing. And there is nothing that the Army can do to put a stop to this extortion.

An Uncanny Similarity With the Lashkar-e-Taiba

Both the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the NSCN(K) share a topographical advantage — the specific terrains make it difficult for the army to track them. With several thousand acres of jungles at their disposal, the rebel outfit outruns the army.

Before the abrogation of the ceasefire, the rebels were forbidden from flashing their weapons beyond the confines of the camp, and the army too couldn’t trespass on this terrain. That understanding is now a thing of the past. Rebel camps have been set up in these pockets and members of the NSCN(K) are found walking around with sophisticated weaponry.

Naga rebels celebrate the unilateral day of independence (Photo: Reuters)
Naga rebels celebrate the unilateral day of independence (Photo: Reuters)

Much like the LeT, the NSCN(K) feeds on the poverty that afflicts the region, coupled with the people’s disaffection for the state. While the earlier focus was on recruiting young boys into its camps with the promise of hefty compensations, the NSCN(K) has now started recruiting women cadres as well.

The NSCN(K) treads cautiously around civilians. It focuses only on upsetting the army’s apple cart in the region. The civilian population — the army states — is the group’s safety blanket, like the LeT’s. If the NSCN(K) incurs even a single civilian casualty, not only will it lose out on shelter and a continuous supply of ration, but also will become more vulnerable to the army’s operations.

But till such time, fortune, it seems, will continue favouring the Khaplang.

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