Saturday, June 22, 2024
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Is NBCC involving in Politics?

The election process for the18th Lok Sabha is over. In a matter of hours people will know who has the mandate to represent lone Nagaland Parliamentary seat. However, the issues related to the campaign trails will linger and some issues need to be discussed and understood. The following is my personal perspective on the religion card played by Congress Nagaland & NBCC.
While appreciating the call for clean election movement made by Nagaland Baptist Churches’ Council (NBCC), the Clean Election Movement Convener Dr. Valli Naleo’s article captioned “Survival of democracy is at stake” as appeared in some local dailies on 11th April 2024, seems to be politically inclined. According to the Dr. Naleo, the present Lok Sabha Election was less of a political tussle but more of an ideological clash for the survival of democracy in India. Amusingly, this is parroting what Rahul Gandhi had earlier said on occasions. Very obviously NBCC has taken a political stand alongside Congress to safeguard democracy rather than being promoter of clean election movement and safeguarding our faith and doing what is right. This being on the notion that, BJP is anti-Christian and communal and conversely sees Congress as secular Party. Thus, NBCC has attempted to dissuade people from voting for NDPP on religion ground. NDPP in the eyes of NBCC is seen anti-Christian just because it is in alliance with BJP! Dr. Naleo also said that, PDA Govt. is in a state of confusion vis-à-vis BJP’s honeymoon with Nagas. What a language coming from a theologian! Another surprising move by Dr. Naleo is the jibe at BJP government on the arrest of Chief Minister, Delhi; Arvind Kejriwal who was allegedly arrested for kickbacks in excise scam. It is for the court to prove or disprove the allegation but, at a time when NBCC is vehemently against lifting of prohibition of liquor, I do not want to comment on the matter but, this move is another pointer to NBCC involving in politics. Also, the letter, dated 28th March 2024, written by Nagaland Congress candidate to Ao community influencing and coercing them not to vote for BJP party as it is in the process of converting all of us into Hindus with Hindutva agenda. It is evident that the NBCC and Congress have wittingly or unwittingly connived to mislead the electorate into voting for Congress party on religion ground.
It is therefore not surprising that Chief Election Office pulled up Congress candidate and cautioned him for violating the Model Code of Conduct under Sub-Section 3 of Section 133 of the Representation of People Act, 1951, i.e. appealing by a candidate to vote on the ground of his religion which is a corrupt practice as per the Act. The letter written by the President of NPCC as well as that of the Order of CEO Nagaland to the congress president are available in public domain. On the same analogy, one must also understand that the stand of NBCC dissuading people to vote against a particular political party on the ground of religion is a violation of election rules and in no way a call that can be considered clean election move!
The above are evidence where a religious institution in Nagaland has started taking political stand. If NBCC so wants, it should remember our geo-political history and the ins and outs of politics to take on politics otherwise; it is entering into a dangerous game of animosity and confrontation. As a young child, I recollect that, Church leaders made us believe that Roman Catholics were the people who crucified Jesus Christ. We were so brainwashed that, we hated anything to do with Catholics and at every given opportunity we fought with Roman Catholic School students only to realize as we grew up such indoctrination was anything but the truth. Even today, the move by NBCC will serve to instill hatred in gullible Nagas towards Hindus and this is not good. Whether we like or not, by fluke of history and insensitiveness of power that be at the relevant point of time, we ended up living in a Hindu dominated country. More than 80% of Indian population are Hindus as compared to a meagre 2.3% Christians. Dr. Naleo has rightly mentioned that, we are a minority people. Yes! not just as people of Christian faith but as a tribe too. Nagaland with a mere population of 20+ lakhs, are so dependent on India today on all fronts of developments; be it economic development, human development or infrastructure development. We are still a nascent society and must learn to live cohesively with the people of more advanced disposition and culture for our own survival and progress. This is the name of the game! We must maintain good will with our fellow countrymen, the Hindus in particular. We cannot afford to displease the hands that is feeding us. A small state like Nagaland with only one parliamentary seat can never be a game changer in national politics, we must cohesively flow with the tide. It is all about how good a federal arrangement we can make with the power that be in the Centre for our survival. In this context, the alliance with BJP over the last 10 years have benefited the people of Nagaland as can be seen by the spurt of developments taking place. Let us also remember that, NDPP led PDA is in coalition with six other national political parties not just BJP.
Dr. Naleo talks about Hindu Majoritarianism and Hindutva and at the same time speaks of Hindu extremists. People may care to know that, Hindutva is a concept that started 100 years ago in 1922-23 and it is still a concept. It talks more of Hindu culture rather than theocratic Hinduism. India is a land of cultural diversities and in it lies its beauty and attraction. Therefore, it cannot be forced to assimilate into one culture. It will disintegrate like USSR. In Naga context, if we can believe that Hindu culture can be imposed upon us then, where is the strength of own Naga identity and the values of our culture and tradition. I don’t think that we Nagas are a meek race. We need also to understand and remember that, the Constitution of India is the most exhaustive constitutions of all and safeguards our choice of religion and of worship. That India is a democratic Country is not a matter subjectable to change. Over and above that, the very first Clause of Article 371(A) pertaining to the State Nagaland, gives us protection from application of any Parliament Laws on our Social and Religious ways of our lives unless the Assembly so decides by resolution. Our Legislative Assembly is empowered to protect the provisions the Article. This is one of the importance of having a regional party ruling the State. Article 371(A) was bought through years of struggle, sufferings and bloodshed. Therefore, it is sacred Article insinuated into the constitution of India through negotiation and is the essence of Nagaland being part of Indian Union. Therefore, it cannot be scrapped. Herein lies another importance of the people of Nagaland being represented by a regional party both within and outside the State to be vocal on the issues peculiar to us.
Nagaland population was 5,16,000 (Census 1971) when Billy Graham had Crusade in 1972. Around these awakening times, didn’t the Baptist leaders commit to send out 10,000 missionaries which almost amounted to 2% of our population then and do we not continue to seek and convert non-believers to increase our fold? Do we not want Nagaland to be a land of Christ? So frankly, why are we irked when a section of Hindus wants and talk about Hindutva in their heartland. Importantly, we must not blame the whole lot of Hindus for the sporadic persecution of Christians at the hands of radical Hindus. We all are Christians and feel with pain the sufferings of fellow Christians whether in or outside India and pray that such atrocities end. As I write this article, news of burning of churches in Pakistan are burning in. I may not be religious nor spiritual, but my candidature has been impressed upon the people as anti-Christian candidate courtesy the NBCC and the Congress Party in Nagaland. Both Congress & BJP are considered Brahmin Hindu Parties but, have they ever tried to convert Naga Christians into Hindus in our own Naga soil? If one is to target BJP as a Hindu organization responsible for Christian persecution, then, we must also remember our own agony during formative years of Nagaland State beforte the birth of BJP. The torture and killing of innocent Nagas, Burning of Villages, some multiple times, burning of granaries (consequently villager surviving on the forest edibles), desecration of Churches, molestations, and rapes of our womenfolk, random frisking, and harassment of people etc. All these under whose regime? The stories told by the survivors are heart wrecking and yet as people of Christian faith, we moved on with forgiveness in our hearts. We must also remember whose regime started the treaded Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was in 1958. Is not the present dispensation of BJP led NDA Government which is by and by lifting AFSPA listening to the voice of the people? Should we not be square in our thinking? Yet again today, the same Congress through their Manifesto 2024, has made known their intention to legalize marriages between homosexuals, lesbians and people of sexual aberrations. Could that be acceptable to our belief?
Christian persecution is not a new thing, it was there before BJP came to power and will be there even after BJP is opted out of power. Today we are exposed to such events more because of the emergence of social media and ease of tele-communications. We saw persecutions in our Christian lineage even before the concept of Christianity started. Right from the killing of Abel to the suffering of Israelites to the present-day events of Christian persecutions across the globe (It is not happening only in India). Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ also died at the hands of persecutors, so did almost all his disciples. If Christ had not died on the cross at Calvary, what would we be today? It is like these intense sufferings and sacrifices of fellow Christians keeps our resolve and faith alive and proliferating. Did not Lord Jesus also felt that the intensity of his agony was too much to bear when he said, “father take this cup away from me”. Even in his dying moments, He said, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they do”. It is my deep faith that with forgiveness we must move on. Christianity does not teach us to despise and therefore, reverend and pastors should not preach hatred to their congregation. A senior pastor giving sermon in the Church as to why he and the congregation should not vote for BJP also went viral. Almost 90% of our population are Christians (and almost cent percent Nagas are Christians) and therefore let us not forget that we have minority people even within us. Let us show them that we care and have inclusive attitude. Then only we can expect the great populace of India to care for us and the likes of us outside. Let us also remember the multitude of our students and youth scattered all over India. Let us also remember that we have Naga Christians fellowships in almost all cities of India.
It is apparent without any prejudiced feelings toward NBCC, I opine that the article written by Dr. Naleo is politically motivated to lure people from voting against a particular political party which evidently is NDPP. What is wrongly being advocated must be weeded out lest the sanctity of NBCC is marred. The 2024 election to the Lok Sabha is over for Nagaland and the electorate has given their verdict. One of us among the three candidates will be elected as their choice. May the best win however, let me as one of the candidates urge upon fellow Nagas, men & women; old & young alike not to despise the hand that feed us. Let us take logical and rational approach to all situation at hand. I am sure whoever is elected will try his best to ameliorate Christian suffering across the country to the best of his ability but not with anti-Hindu tag.
Finally, I want to leave my impression of BJP as the lead political party governing the affairs of the Country and allay confusion on the role of PDA Government. BJP led NDA is a centralist government. It repeals and make Laws that are in the interest of the Country at large. We have seen that sometimes such laws and decisions of the government of India for examples like, UCC & FMR are detrimental for our existence and alien to our culture. I am happy the NDPP led PDA government under the able leadership of Hon’ble Chief Minister Shri. Neiphiu Rio has been firm to oppose what is not applicable to Nagaland. I might as well add that, since we are in alliance with BJP, the central leadership is also receptive to our apprehensions. Even our twelve Nagaland BJP legislators have been resolute when it comes to the interest of Nagas. I know, the proportion of Naga newspaper readers is small but, I wish that this portion of people are unbiased and crystal clear in our thoughts and understanding and educate the gullible lot who has been made to feel by some Church platforms that all Hindus are bad. Whichever government comes to power in India, it will still be Hindu government and as mentioned, radical elements will continue to be there unless we take proactive positive steps by the Church organizations and peoples’ representative alike to move the good majority Hindus for a cohesive Indian Society.
Last but not the least, I would like to once appreciate the move for clean election by NBCC but, it have to be a movement without indulging in politics. It is admitted that the process of election and voting has become a mess and it has become imperative that we clean up the mess by multi prong means. I was also once invited by NBCC to attend a seminar on clean election. My point is rather than grasping the whole mess at one go, we need to follow a clear feasible and achievable road map. To me we should primarily focus on cleaning up the E-Roll from ghosts and multiple entries, at the same time dissuade people from proxy voting while encouraging genuine voter to exercise their own franchise. These are some of the social ills requiring reforms. Trumpeting Clean Election with action is the key effective means. God Bless Nagaland!
Dr. Chumben Murry
(NDPP Candidate for Lok Sabha GE 2024)