Governor RN Ravi steps in on law & order

Governor RN Ravi steps in on law & order
R.N. Ravi (NP File)
DIMAPUR, JUN 25 (NPN) | Publish Date: 6/25/2020 1:05:59 PM IST

Making it clear that he can no longer tolerate the near-total collapse of the law and order machinery in Nagaland in the face of “unrestrained depredations” by over half a dozen “armed gangs” who were “brazenly running their so-called governments” and challenging the legitimacy of the state, Nagaland Governor R.N. Ravi, in a strong missive to chief minister Neiphiu Rio, informed the latter that he has decided to uphold his constitutional obligation to effect law and order in Nagaland under Article 371A(1)(b). 

In this regard, Ravi said he proposed that henceforth, important law and order decisions pertaining to posting of officials entrusted with the maintenance of law and order responsibilities of officials above the district level will be “after approval of the Governor”. 

Ravi also informed the chief minister that he proposed to periodically review the law and order situation in the state and issue required lawful directions besides preferring to also review the annual performance appraisal reports of all such officers.

Ravi in his letter dated June 16,2020 informed Rio that he has been observing the state of affairs since he took over as Governor since August 2019 and was appalled at the grim scenario where the law and order has collapsed and where the constitutionally established state government was being challenged daily by “armed gangs who question the sovereignty and integrity of the nation, while the instruments of law and order remain totally unresponsive.”

He also reminded the chief minister of his letter dated August 23,2019 and a special meeting with the latter in presence of the deputy chief minister and home minister including the chief secretary on November 14,2019. Ravi said he had urged upon Rio to “rein in the miscreants and restore rule of law in the state” but regretted that his urgings and advices at the political and bureaucratic levels went unheeded.

Ravi further mentioned that law abiding citizens from daily wage earners, petty vendors, businessmen, shopkeepers, restaurant owners, road construction firms, entrepreneurs or government servants were made miserable by rampant extortions and violence by armed gangs. 

He said even government development departments were under duress to pay regular ransom to armed gangs. 

He said the ‘Town Commands’ of these gangs keep people “terrorised and the brazen display of “fire power by rival gangs for turf control” caused panic among public.

Ravi said the situation has deteriorated to such an extent, that “armed miscreants” even appoint their own dealers for every commodity from salt to construction materials coming to Nagaland besides levying taxes on every item. 

He also mentioned that these elements run ‘syndicates’ for smuggled contraband items such as alcohol and also operate check gates for collection of taxes at various entry points with the knowledge of the state law and order machinery.

Due to such rampant collection, Ravi said commodities in Nagaland have become exorbitantly expensive and also strangulated local entrepreneurship. 

Even transporters had complained that cost of transportation has escalated to over 200% since goods-laden truck were forced to pay extortions at gun point by the armed miscreants.

The Governor also pointed out that civil society organisations have been raising their voices against blatant unlawful activities of armed gangs at great personal risks. 

Ravi said he received several representations from public for intervention and relief since “the state law and order machinery does not act.”

Mentioning about the bogged-down construction of four-lane on NH 29, Ravi pointed out that while monitoring the progress, the National Highway Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) authorities disclosed that contractors complained of armed gangs stopping work unless 5-7% of the project cost was paid as ransom. Project engineers and managers who defied or delayed payments were kidnapped and assaulted, he said. 

Ravi said officials of construction firms were summoned to the Dimapur offices of the armed gangs for payments and negotiations. He said the officials had narrated such unlawful activities in presence of the state government including the chief secretary, home commissioner and DGP. On receipt of a letter from the MD of NHIDCL, to intervene and rein in the unlawful activities to restart the work, Ravi said he held a review meeting on January 11,2020 with the chief secretary and DGP where he asked them to constitute the Special Investigation Team(SIT) to book the culprits and deter such activities.

Despite the SIT, Ravi said he continued to receive complaints of harassment and so asked for a briefing on June 2,1010. However, Ravi said he was “hugely disappointed at the sleepy and indifferent attitude of the SIT” as it (SIT) obviously had not impact whatsoever. 

Commenting on reports of the DGP on police action against the armed gangs during the past three years Ravi said they “reveal disconcerting facts on the abysmal states of law and order in the state”. He said occasional police actions against armed miscreants, were restricted to “ the foot soldiers” and that he has not come across any case where senior members of gangs were implicated. Over and above, Ravi said in over 98% of cases, the accused remain at large on bail after only a few days in custody. He while grave offences such as under Indian Arms Act and Explosive Substances, invited a minimum punishment of five years or more, the convicted accused were awarded five to ten days sentences often with concurrence of the Public Prosecutor. Also while the Nagaland Security Regulations(NSR)1962 awarded punishment of up to five years, charges were not pressed at the trial. These were “a mockery of Rule of Law” and unacceptable to the least, added Ravi. 

He said all these have contributed to “steady downslide in all the parameters of development in Nagaland” such as road connectivity, health and education infrastructures and livelihood due to siphoning of large chunk of government funds meant for development. Ravi also cited the CAG report ending March 2018, which he said, bore testimony to “massive leakage of funds with impunity across the departments”.

Ravi also raised the issue of rampant encroachment and deforestation of forest land including reserve forest by armed miscreants who he said have become “audacious enough to evict forest officials and their families” from their quarters at gun point to eventually occupy the vacated premises. He mentioned the eviction of forest officials and forcible occupation of Manglamukh forest colony in Dimapur district, encroachment of Intangki National Park and reserve forests in Wokha district as instances.

Ravi pointed out that encroachment of government forest lands are in contravention of the order of the Supreme Court dated November 23,2001 but lamented that in lieu of the apex court’s order, the Forest Circle Level Committees under the conservator of forest, DC and DySP constituted in 2006 have been rendered “non-functional for the last several years.”

CM, cabinet meet with Ravi
A meeting was held at Raj Bhavan, Kohima between Nagaland Governor R.N. Ravi and chief minister Neiphiu Rio along with his cabinet on June 19 in response to the request made by the Governor vide  letter dated June 16,2020. 
Informed official sources told Nagaland Post that the Governor at the meeting, expressed displeasure over worsening law and order situation  in Nagaland. The sources said Ravi also reprimanded the state government for remaining a “mute spectator” while “armed gangs ran parallel governments”.
At the meeting, the Governor had reiterated issues he highlighted in his letter addressed to the chief minister.
Sources said the chief minister and the Cabinet also highlighted the issues faced by the government with regard to armed cadres of various Naga political groups. 
They also pointed out that almost all groups were either in cease-fire or engaged in political dialogue with Government of India.
Some of the cabinet members also pointed out that most matters related with armed groups are directly supervised by the Cease-Fire Monitoring Group (CFMG) under Ministry of Home Affairs, government of India. The members also pointed out that permission to carry arms was granted under the Cease-Fire Ground Rules (CFGR) by government of India and not by government of Nagaland.
It was also learnt that after the meeting at Raj Bhavan, the chief minister and the cabinet also held an emergency meeting at the official residence of deputy chief minister and home minister, Y Patton at Kohima. The meeting   discussed crucial issues highlighted by the Governor and also decided, in principle, to review and reform the law and order issue in the state.
Later on June 22, the letter from the Governor was also discussed during the meeting of the High Powered Committee on COVID-19 activities.

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