In Nagaland, speaking out against injustice and corruption remains an arduous task, with individuals who dare to raise their voices often encountering threats and pressure from various quarters. Despite the prevalence of unfair practices and discrimination, the majority of society remains silent, mere spectators to the prevailing injustices.


ST Yapang, a prominent RTI activist, sheds light on the formidable challenges faced by those who expose corruption. Yapang emphasizes that the pressure starts at a personal level, extending from family, relatives, and even parents.


According to Yapang, influential figures leverage their social circles, reaching out to family, relatives, and villagers to deter individuals from taking a stand against injustice and corruption in Nagaland. He explains, “They employ persuasive tactics to cast doubt on your stance and discourage you from pursuing what is right. However, if these initial attempts fail, the individuals in power may resort to threats, occasionally invoking the involvement of underground groups.”


Yapang further highlights that the greatest challenge lies after filing a case. He reveals, “Instead of investigating the culprit, the police or investigating agencies often call and interrogate us, sometimes even resorting to threats.”


Painting a grim picture, Yapang points out that investigative agencies, authorities, civil society organizations, associations, and village councils, who are expected to advocate for justice, often rather align themselves with the corrupt and powerful, compromising their impartiality and integrity.


Sharing a personal experience, Yapang recalls an incident where a village council invited him and a friend to file an RTI complaint against their incumbent MLA. However, upon arrival, they discovered that the council had already met with the Block Development Officer (BDO) and changed their stance. Yapang reveals, “The council members no longer wanted to pursue the RTI request. Apparently, the BDO had promised them better schemes and projects in the future, which influenced their decision to abandon the pursuit of transparency and accountability.”


Additionally, Yapang explains how certain Self-Help Groups were coerced to sign backdated documents only after the RTI was filed. “This situation had the potential to land us in trouble, as the groups had signed these documents claiming they had received the funds way back. Fortunately, one group refused to sign on the backdate, which helped us avoid the repercussions.”


According to Yapang, the most significant challenge in Naga society is the lack of willingness among individuals to risk their lives and peace by speaking out. He said he continues to receive calls urging him to expose corruption and wrongdoing, but these complainants are reluctant to actively join the fight for justice. Moreover, when their concerns are addressed and their complaints pursued, they often backtrack and deny the existence of corruption due to influence or bribes from ministers or powerful individuals in authority.


Commenting on the prevailing complacency towards corruption, Kahuto Chishi, Convenor of Concerned People of Nagaland and Akukau (GB) of Hevishe Village, states, “Our pressure groups, our civil society, are part of the corruption.”


Chishi further explains, “These civil society groups, unions, and associations are formed to protect their members, but they don’t understand that concept. We think that a government servant has a right to be corrupt; we think that the office bearers of these unions and associations have the right to be corrupt.”


He emphasized that Nagas have yet to grasp the fact that these actions are punishable by law. He stated, “Let’s say, in a police case, we know nothing, even most of our lawyers know nothing. If educated people are unaware, how will a villager know?”


When asked about the course of action if an RTI activist exposes corruption, Chishi responds, “An elected member is a public leader,” referring to the powers held by an MLA. He adds, “A bureaucrat is a public servant, but an elected member is a public leader. If the MLA speaks out, automatically all institutions, be it the media, courts, or police, will take action. Politicians are the source of power, but in Nagaland, they are the source of corruption.”


Chishi attributes this complacency to the “xenophobic” nature of Nagas. He expresses, “We are scared to upset anyone we know or anyone from our family. We have to get out of our shell; we cannot exist like this.”


“We are a small population; we know each and every one of us; we feel like we need our village, our clan, and our tribe. And every time we speak up against someone, we will be pressured and threatened by all those people,” he added.


Mokokchung Times

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