Nagaland Governor RN Ravi has expressed concern over the “precarious law and order” situation in the state since August. In a scathing four-page letter to Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, accessed by Scroll.in, Ravi said that over half a dozen “armed gangs” have challenged the legitimacy of the constitutionally established state government on a daily basis.
The letter, sent on June 16, said the state’s law and order machinery has created a “crisis of confidence” in the system due to their unresponsive state. “Law abiding citizens – be they daily wage earners, petty vendors, businessmen, shop-keepers, owners of restaurants or government servants are made miserable by rampant extortions and violence by the armed gangs,” Ravi said.
The governor, who took charge in July 2019, said the situation has deteriorated and that he could no longer abstain from constitutional obligations in the state under Article 371A (1) (b) of the Constitution. He proposed that important functions such as the transfer and posting of officials be done with his approval. Ravi also proposed to periodically review the situation and if required, issue necessary directions.
His letter highlighted that “armed gangs” appoint their own “dealers” for every commodity from salt to construction material coming into Nagaland and also levy illegal taxes on every item. “Transporters have complained to me that there is over 200% cost escalation in transportation the moment a goods-laden truck enters Nagaland due to gun point extortions by the armed miscreants,” Ravi wrote.
The governor pointed out that civil society organisations, at their own risk, have also been protesting against such unlawful activities of the armed miscreants. Many of them have called for his intervention as the state law and order machinery has failed to respond, he added.
The letter further said the steady slide of Nagaland in all parameters – road connectivity, health and education infrastructures and livelihood – can be attributed to “siphoning off a large chunk of government funds meant for development” by the gangs.
Ravi said several national highways projects are stalled if 5% to 7% of the project cost is not given to miscreants as ransom, adding that there have been instances of kidnapping and assault on project engineers if there was a delay in payment. “They have informed how the construction company officials are summoned to the Dimapur offices of the armed gangs for payments and negotiations,” the governor added.
Reports have also revealed rampant encroachment and deforestation of forest land, including the reserve forests, by the “armed gangs”, Ravi wrote. “They have become audacious enough to evict the forest officials and their families from their residential houses at gunpoint and occupy the government officials colony for their stay and operations,” he said. “They do all these brazen illegal activities without any resistance whatsoever by the law enforcement authorities of the state government. When I asked the senior enforcement officers the reasons, they run silent and whisper ‘direction from above’.”
To show the poor state of law and order situation in Nagaland, Ravi said he had not come across a single case in which senior members of the gang had been implicated. Meanwhile, in 98% of the cases, the accused are at large or granted bail within a couple of days of arrest, he said.
“I have been raising the concerns in all our formal and informal meetings with you and the law and order officials,” the governor said. “However, I regret to say my urgings and advices at the political and bureaucratic levels have gone unheeded.”
The Bharatiya Janata Party is a coalition partner in the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party-led government in Nagaland. Ravi retired as special director of the Intelligence Bureau in 2012, following which he was appointed chairperson of the Joint Intelligence Committee in 2014 for three years. He is also the government’s interlocutor for Naga peace talks.