Explained: Why all businesses are shut down in Nagaland’s commercial capital

BNE News Desk

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Dimapur: Dimapur, the commercial nerve centre of Nagaland, is wearing a deserted look amid a total shutdown of business establishments after a call issued by the Dimapur Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI). The shutdown, which began on Friday, has continued into Saturday morning as the government scrambles to meet the demands of the influential trade body.

So why is Dimapur's apex trade body peeved? The disaffection stems from being charged “taxes” by Naga underground political groups, the DCCI has said. It claimed that there is “no end in sight to the unabated multiple taxation, intimidation and summons” by the Naga Political Groups (NPGs).

“Extortion has plagued Dimapur for years, impacting businesses across Nagaland, but particularly in the commercial hub”, an entrepreneur from Nagaland told Business North East under the condition of anonymity. According to the entrepreneur, extortionists approach traders “as if they owe them a debt, sometimes resorting to threats and even violence.”

So how do they not get caught if they do it in plain view? The extortionists often scout for security cameras and, if spotted, send intermediaries to demand payment off-site, Business North East has learned. According to locals, their methods also impact the public as they drive up prices “due to endless taxes and demands from various groups.”

The Petroleum Dealers Association of Dimapur, Niuland, and Chumoukedima, which is supporting the shutdown, has asked the government to “rein in the situation” to avoid “further complication.” It also asked petroleum outlets to keep their shutters down during the shutdown.

The Confederation of Nagaland Chamber of Commerce & Industries (CNCCI), another influential trade body in the state, has asserted that harassment of the business community over extortion cannot be tolerated further.

In the state capital, the Kohima Chamber of Commerce and Industries also declared a day-long shutdown of all businesses in solidarity with DCCI on Friday.

Nagaland has the highest crime rate under the ‘extortion and blackmailing’ category under sections 384 to 389 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), according to the 'Crime in India 2022' compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). However, the number of cases has declined in recent years.

How has the government reacted?

The Neiphiu Rio-led Nagaland state government said it has asked the Director General of Police (DGP) and commissioner to ramp up action against “anti-social elements”, and requested the DCCI to call off the protest.

The Nagaland government’s Home Commissioner has asked police to continue arrests of “underground” cadres found extorting and collecting taxes, and detain such culprits under provisions of the National Security Act (NSA). In the future, police patrolling in market areas and business locations is also likely to be increased.

Meanwhile, the Commissioner of Police has been instructed to set up a special cell to deal with extortion cases and incidents exclusively.

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BNE News Desk