Factional clashes take toll on northeast India business hub

August 9th, 2008 - 10:10 am ICT by IANS  

Dimapur (Nagaland), Aug 9 (IANS) With continuing clashes between secessionist groups and fresh taxes, both legal and illegal, plus the added weight of taxes and extortions, business establishments in this commercial hub of northeastern India are being squeezed dry. The closely packed Hongkong Market, which earlier used to attract shoppers and traders not only from all over Nagaland but also from Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, now wears a desolate look. Customers are scared to venture out.

Hongkong Market alone used to attract over 15 percent of all shoppers Nagaland.

But now, shopkeepers in Hongkong Market told IANS that sales have fallen 30-40 percent due to the volatile situation in the state, particularly in Dimapur.

With business prospects looking bleak, some Tibetan traders have already left town. There used to be over 100 Tibetan families living and doing business in Dimapur. The number has come down to about 60.

S. Dorjee, president, Tibetan Association Hongkong Market, agreed that some families have left Dimapur. However, he said the reason was “heavy market competition and slowing down of business” rather than the security situation, extortion or intimidation.

“People feel Hongkong Market belongs to Tibetans, but we are actually a minority here. There is stiff market competition here now and business has become bleak. So, some traders have left for greener pastures,” he said.

But shopkeepers who do not wish to be identified say three to four underground secessionist groups are collecting “taxes” from business establishments in Dimapur, though collections in the form of donations to various unions or associations have gone down due to strict checks by the district administration and student bodies.

The overall security situation has deteriorated due to the fighting between various secessionist groups. The official death toll in clashes between various National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) factions in the last six months has crossed 70. This includes one Nagaland Armed Police constable and seven civilians. The unofficial toll is far higher.

The result is an atmosphere of fear in which people shop only when they must, not a situation conducive to the development of a market.

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