Thousands of government employees in Nagaland held a rally in Kohima on Tuesday to ask the Centre to withdraw the National Investigation Agency from the state. They also threatened to go on mass leave if the investigation against a few employees is not dropped, PTI reported.

The NIA arrested seven government employees in recent months during its investigation into funding of terror activities. Government departments and employees are accused of financing insurgent groups through “taxes”. The rebel groups, also called the Naga National Political Groups, are known to run parallel governments and levy taxes on businesses and government officials.

The protesting workers described being caught between “the devil and the deep blue sea”, the Hindustan Times reported.

“The undisputed reality is that payments of tax to the NNPGs are made neither voluntarily, nor willingly, but under duress,” government employees said in a memorandum submitted to Nagaland Governor PB Acharya.

The group – Confederation of All Nagaland State Services Employees Association – held banners with signs that read “NIA leave our employees alone” and “Forced taxation is not equal to aiding and abetting”. The group represents around 1.3 lakh of the 1.6 lakh state government employees.

“We want the NIA to stop investigations against the seven officials and drop all charges,” the general Secretary of the group, Tarachu Fithu, told the Hindustan Times. “If that doesn’t happen, we will be forced to take steps like mass casual leaves and other measures in the interest of our safety.”