Saturday, March 25, 2023

Explaining offences

In recent weeks, public in different parts of Nagaland felt compelled to raise their voices and also observed rallies or bandhs as an expression of protest with the message to the state government, to respond . Recently people of Mon district as well as other districts have expressed outrage against extortion. Extortion in Nagaland has spawned a Frankenstein-like sub culture. Extortion, as commented earlier, is the fastest and biggest criminal cottage industry in Nagaland. Thousands of dependents, who have extorted money under various pleas and whose criminal activities have unchallenged, today believe this is their right. Any move to check extortion is seen as denial of the right to collect tax. Despite hue and cry, governance in Nagaland is under siege to the whims and fancies of politics and therefore, crime prevention is not the objective but ensuring that goodwill prevails. Frankly, prevention means targeting some particular sections who have made it as their ‘agriculture business’. The issue of taxation needs no redefinition ; it is either authorised by a government run by an elected political party mandated under the constitution of India and therefore, deemed ‘legal’ or, deemed “illegal” but imposed by any other groups that run parallel authorities not answerable to the people but only to themselves. Some have gone by the description of ‘unabated taxes’ ; to suggest as if the main problem was due to too many taxes thrown around. A majority, however described these as “illegal taxes and extortions” . It is therefore time for the people of Nagaland to decide if there can be grey zones in describing these on technical, legal and literal term. In this regard, the reasons why anti-extortion move is unpleasant and unpopular in Nagaland is because of vested interests. Why the state has consistently failed to check extortion and anti-social activities is because – the first involves the ability of criminal law enforcement to make citizens law-abiding by deterring potential offenders and preventing further lawbreaking by apprehending criminals. The second refers to the efforts to correct fundamental social conditions and personal maladjustments which are assumed to be the “seed bed” of crime. Many authorities in the field of criminal justice say that poverty is a major cause of crime. This is not of course to say that it follows that a person who wallows in wealth cannot be a criminal. Many crimes are committed even by the rich. What is also worrisome is that many offences go unreported for the simple reason, that offenders are granted bail and take revenge on the victims, blaming the latter for being arrested. Various tribal organisations, need to serious ponder over this issue and contemplate effective response to crimes committed by their fellow members. On the other hand, it must also be pointed out that various armed outfits also have a responsibility to deal with errant cadre members. Illegal immigrants or migrations from other parts are also matters that need serious review. If the apex tribe bodies choose to remain mute, then there is something wrong. If they are silent then it is clear that people cannot expect these apex bodies to call a spade a spade so as to alleviate their suffering from the burden of all the ‘taxes’ passed on by business and trade.

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