Not-so-freeway-informal taxation and the everyday cost of conflict in Northeast India
This research project explores informal taxation along the Dimapur-Imphal highway in conflict affected Northeast India. It seeks to map and explain the type of taxation (progressive, regressive etc), the manner of this collection (ad-hoc or regularised), the levels of perceived coercion, and the variations in these across armed groups, focusing on the taxes taken from trucks carrying goods along this highway. Focusing on choices and local perceptions of taxing groups through qualitative methods, it seeks to answer the question “what determines variation in non-state armed group taxation?” This allows us to better interpret how war economies function and expand our understanding of underlying logics of non-state armed-group taxation beyond purely economic ones. It tests the relevance of the following key factors- i) relationship with security forces (ceasefire, open confrontation) ii) size and structure of the group and iii) relationship with the people they are taxing (ethnicity, interpersonal relationships). Juxtaposing against these three factors, it draws on comparative elements between different groups and taxes to determine the extent to which these factors determine these variations. Alongside this it will also allow for a contextual approximation of the increase in costs of goods transported along this route due to informal taxation, thereby adding to our understanding of everyday ‘cost of conflict’.