1. By dictionary meaning extortion being a derivation from extort means to obtain by force, or other unfair means, blackmail, bully, coerce, exact and extract money or property inclusive. Under Common Law, extortion is a misdemeanor consisting of an unlawful taking of money by a Government official. It is an oppressive misuse of the power. Virtually all extortion statutes require that a threat must be made to the person or property of the victim. Threat to harm the victim’s friends or relatives may also be included. It is not necessary for a threat to involve physical injury. It may be sufficient to threaten to accuse another person of a crime or to expose a secret that would result in public embarrassment or ridicule.
2. Other type of threats sufficient to constitute extortion include those to harm the victim’s business and those to either testify against the victim or withhold testimony necessary to his or her defense or claim in an administrative proceeding or a lawsuit. Many statutes also provide that any threat to harm another person in his or her career or reputation is extortion. Some statutes hold that the crime occurs when there is a meeting of the minds between the official and the party from whom the money is extracted. Finally, extortion may be committed by the officer’s taking a fee for service that is not performed. The service refrained from must be one within the official capacity of the officer in order to constitute extortion. These are various connotations of extortion from the angle of establishing guilt/offence/ punishability!
3. But in counter insurgency it assumes different dimensions. Government’s strategy of intercepting UG ‘˜taxes’ and supply lines take the extortionee as the first victim which witnesses his arrest and questioning and taken guilty whether the party/individual who had caused/initiated extortion is held or not. At best it would terrorize the terrorized even further. It is true that no taxes underground or over ground, are paid voluntarily by any taxpayer, say by an overwhelming number of taxpayers to be fair, and these are extracted by the taxing authorities through overt or covert coercion. The obvious response of the UG ‘taxation’ system to the present strategy of the Govt would be for it to go further underground, but it is also true it would need no prophet to pronounce that the ‘taxation’ or extortion is about to be brought to a halt. Insurgency predicates extortion and vice versa. This war tax as termed by NSA, will stay put so far insurgency stays.
4. This is not that the police should stop intercepting these taxes, or that those caught should be held solely and entirely at fault, for these are not voluntary contribution to the funds of the wars being waged against the establishment. They are on the other hand, extortions, even though from the point of view of those extorting they are war taxes. The line that divides a tax from extortion, as we can see it is that the former is rationalized while the latter is not. A tax, in this sense is a repayment to the establishment, a part of the taxpayer’s earning for making it possible for him to make money on which the tax is levied in the first place. Taxes then are a kind of purchase contract. The taxpayer pays, so that the government can extend him services and security. In the case of extortion, this link gets lost. The logic in the case of UG taxes, even if all may not agree, is that these are levied to fight a people’s war. The legitimacy of these ‘taxes’ then will remain so long as insurgency remains a people’s war. This is where the problem is for how you determine any insurgency has retained or lost the character of a people’s war. To block UGs efforts of extracting war taxes by establishment and to ensure it is carried on by the NSAs ‘“ a tug of war assume the tag of ‘˜war tax’.
Corruption & Extortion turn sisters
5. This is where we are cautioned, we need to examine inter and intra affects of the extortion on society, hindrances to progress and development and also what purpose it serves to the cause for which extortion is executed by the NSAs and is fair or otherwise so far scope of this paper is concerned. It is deeply connected to civil society, UGs and the Establishment, we call as Government.
What is our Civil Society?
6. That is, the huge expanse of the non state sector generally termed as the civil society is not always CIVIL is axiomatic. In Manipur this is too prominent. The blockades, bandhs, strikes and many disruptive activities often for very sectarian cause emanate from organizations assuming the mantle of civil society vigilantes. The truth is, it is not so just in Manipur, but in the entire northeast it is badly fractured and ethnically riven and may not be quite what the term is generally projected to be. The term civil society itself presupposed certain shared values and qualities regardless of religious and community affiliations and these values are what have been relegated into the background in our context where every ethnic community forms its own students, youth, women organization, etc, each with very different and more often than not sectarian agendas to pursue. Often again these pursuits of the different ‘civil society’ work at cross purposes, accentuating, rather than solving problems. In Manipur such clashes of sectarian agendas are all too often. The almost entirely different objectives of organizations such as the United Naga Council, the United Committee Manipur, All Manipur United Clubs Organization, the Kuki Inpi Manipur, Hmar Student Association, Hmar Inpi etc., to name just a few, should suffice to make this point clear. The scenario would virtually be the same if we were to list the various student’s organizations, or women’s organizations existing in the State. Under the circumstances there can be no general understanding of the term ‘civil society’ as all institutions formed in this important sector of the society are always and necessarily colored by ethnic tints. The general understanding of the term becomes split into numerous smaller ethnic specific organizations. Contrast these with organizations on the other extreme of the CIVIL SOCIETY PANORAMA such as the International Red Cross Society, Reporters without Frontiers, Amnesty International, Rotary, Lions International and Rainbow Warriors etc, just to have an idea of the direction civil society organizations in our midst are heading to.
7. While we cannot afford the total generalization of the energy of our own civil society bodies, as it is also true that there are indeed area and ethnic specific problems to be tackled , we also cannot totally turn our backs to the commonality that must run in all such organizations the world over. Hence when we say socio political and ethno problem, there must be a general thread that binds it to the more broad- based understanding of the problem. Our social leaders & youth must be able to identify, empathize and sympathize with the national and international & such movements. Only when this happens can a reverse flow of the same sentiments will become possible. The same logic must be extended to all other organizations that out ‘civil society’ spawns. The need of the hour then is for an effort to reconstruct our civil society. Let us sit down and analyze where we have gone wrong and then seek to correct our mistakes. We must put our civil society movements on the track that will integrate us to the mainstreams of humanity. We must open up the channels to communicate and share with the rest of humanity, and by this very process of sharing, mitigate our own burdens.
The ethnic identity upsurge being what it is, we know it is not going to be by any standard easy to go about doing this, but it is one of those very vital and urgent issues at hand we cannot shy away from. It is also the only way we can make our civil society civil in the true sense of the words.
Which Way Manipur
8. The question that haunts many in Manipur today is undoubtedly: which way Manipur? For many the hunt for the answer verges on despair. The fact is there seems to be too many answers but not a single clear cut one. There are too many unsettled issues of awesome magnitude, their problems potential accentuated and amplified further by the fact that they seem to share no point of confluence. Our mainstream established politics is totally in a mess; our society has no clear focus on any particular goal; our civil society is so hopelessly divided that it is questionable if there is anything that can be termed as civil society at all; reciprocal to this division is also the underground politics, multiple-fractured and threatening to tear Manipur along the many fault-lines they have introduced on sectarian lines; law breaking has ceased to be the preserve of those who consider themselves out of the purview of the law of the land, but also the law enforcer as well. It is aptly a situation in which anarchy has spiraled out of control of any decentralized command.
9. Having touched NSA’s/Govt tax wars, character of civil society in context of Manipur and violence and counter violence of elements in NSAs/State it is quite evident extortion plays diabolic role in halting/reversing the developmental activities, upsets societal relationship to the extent of causing internal forced displacement too. I wish to quote some astonishing cases occurred because of extortion(s)
(a) In Nagaland in 1986’”First time documentary proof was gained in Upper Konyak area, CM-Contractors contribution of Rs. 12 lakhs’”money on way out to Burma.
(b) In Manipur it was in 1989, PCTC petrol pump extorted for Rs. 35 lakhs. Plan conceived & executed in total 7 days. Owner died due to heart attack within six months.
(c) Ms. Lungnila Elizabeth murder case’”at Langol area 15 lakhs. Paid 5 + 5 again & two lakhs balance was due and under negotiation but girl was killed. Nando’”James Kuki emerged as wonderful Partners
(d) Martin & Hubert’”Senapati murder case for 5 lakhs paid + 5 lakhs under negotiation but both cousins were killed. (How Nagas, Kukis & even Nepalese took part and became partners in horrendous act of extortion & killing under the bannership of NSCN (IM)
(e) Dr Kishen Singh, SDO Kasom Khullen. Total 7 were kidnapped. 3 killed of one community i.e. Meitei & 3 to 4 other community (Nagas) released around Tolloi’”a new twist to killing. Thank God it did not turn communal. Bodies dumped in Kuki area. Intentions need no interpretation. Another manifestation of extortion.
(f) Krishna Dass, Special Class Contractor, Kakching’”Demand One Crore. Agreed & released Rs 25 lakhs on negotiation in one day and fastest ever any transaction, even then killed.
(g) Dr Surachandra of Yaiskul’”murdered for 2 lakhs, within 3 – 4 days tension’”Money paid even then killed. Salute the extortion. This was his GPF withdrawal money.
(h) Mr. Sher, a Kashmiri Muslim Engineer (Manager Loktak Lake Project)’”for demand to deduct tax from employees pay. Refused to oblige. Shot dead. Before dying he said ‘Kashmir was better’ ‘¦’˜funny people’.
(i) UPPK’”Sinlun Liberation Army 63 surrendered out of 94 (Bru) in Mizoram. Story interesting they were trained to extort Rs 512.05 crores out of Rs 9500 crores anticipating project cost of Tipaimukh Dam on its kick start
Utilization of such Funds
10. Even utilization of extorted money deflects wonders? Money so extorted is used for:
a) Purchase of sophisticated arms, meeting expenditures of costly stays outside Manipur state & the Indian Union inclusive.
(b) Paying compensation for release of their captured cadres in Burma/Bangladesh to their authorities
(c) Investment in SHG schemes with 0.5 to 1 % interest in Assam ‘“ to improve living conditions and win over sympathies of Manipuri’s who were shunted out from Manipur long back as Bishnupriyas thus take welfare measures.
(d) Investments in purchase of steamers/hotels/supporting political activists/election of candidates of other countries just for own cadres safe & secure movements. Lakhs are wasted. These are just flying examples. Our State is reflected thus as a failed State.
Is this illegal investment safe on foreign soils? I would ask? It can be confiscated anytime under various laws or when global action by UN is put in place as Bank squeeze.
11. Ladies and Gentlemen: Trust me as unbiased and sincere analyst, we as a society are in a catch situation of two extortion & corruption binds us as one irrespective of impact of ethnic revivalism.
12. Ill Affects
Politically you get ‘˜dictated’ candidates. Our MLA & MP Area Development fund thus gets controlled in other channels by oars of gun and not boatmen though part & parcel of the same boat.
13. Our Health and Education sector gets lamed. Our HR under Sec 32 of the Constitution gets seriously denied, NSAs take shelter of HR bodies and their very cohorts create HR violations because of pleasure of seeing violence dictating violence with direction to peace loving citizens to quit.
In the murky situation, to make hay while the sun shines, state Police mostly and SFs at times to get tempted to color hands in spree of public loot in variegated manifestations of grabs. All sectors encompassing society get affected. Civil Society in support of NSA remains over occupied in organizing disruptive activities like bandhs, blockades & create chaos. When Govt. wants them to come forward for talk to settle their grievances they have no authority till their commanders in hiding permit them hence dilly dally and confuded confusion carries on.
Our economy suffers. Look at one department for example, The Tourism revenue
1990 – 16.79 lakhs received
1992- 1993 – 39.2 lakhs -do-
1999- 2000 – 18.55 lakhs -do
2003- 2004 – just 0.93 lakhs -do-
Only Rs 93000 (when ¼ Manipur was liberated zone & hills districts were in peace/on CF agreement)
Whereas Ukhrul district & part of Chandel District are entitled to unlimited funds for development under BADF scheme – So far Rs. 35 lakhs only have been spent in Ukhrul. Presently (Chamu Bridge) is going to come up. That is all
14. What should we do then?
a) Let us realize our predicaments & stakes. Every individual and organization including NSAs need turning search light on them where we have gone wrong & think of remedial measures.
b) Administration need be fair, firm & bold. Need to be treated as God’s representative created by the voter’s i.e., by YOU. Bible also says so. So assist nobly and be partners of administration and vice versa establishment must act as servants and custodians of the people’s interests in true sense.
c) Only two global civilizations are in the world. One western under Zoroastrian Concept & the other Vedic covering all the eastern religions & philosophies including Buddhists, animists & nature worshippers. All direct only ‘˜one route for salvation ‘“ i.e., by inculcating moral standards performing ethical deeds and displaying noble conduct to live a fearless life in courage. In this teachers religious brigades and elders can play a major role till our general civil society gets rejuvenated and fit to be called really ‘˜CIVIL’
Thank you all. I am indebted for your patience in listening. I wish to quote from my own religion what Guru Nanak has said ‘˜Jagat Jalanda rakh lei, apni kirpadhar. Jit duare ubrei, Tet, lie ubar’. And from Bible ‘˜Do not covet the wealth of others’ finally from Mahatma Budh ‘˜Appo Dipo Bhav’. Be your light yourself means you lead yourself.
*The article is written by RS Jassal.
*This paper was presented at a Seminar on Stopping Extortion, organized by the Citizens of Ukhrul and Assam Rifles at the Town Hall, Phungreitang, Ukhrul on the 30th of November, 2010
(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)
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