Are Christians in Meghalaya behaving in the same way as Hindutva fanatics in India?

Today, 11th August 2017, in Madan iingsyiem, Mylliem, (Late) Mr. Kulam Nongrum (President, Sengbah ki Nongshad Nongkheiñ, organisation of traditional priests and shamans) had to be cremated under Police protection because the local dorbar and powerful christian residents of the locality have been for sometime preventing tradition death rites of the followers of Niam Khasi (traditional Khasi religion). The video below shows the shocking protest against the traditional funeral

A press statement by Thma U Rangli-Juki (TUR) on this despicable behaviour.

Thma U Rangli-Juki (TUR) condemns the intolerant residents and the dorbar of Shnong Madan iingsyiem, Mylliem who tried to prevent the cremation of (Late) Mr. Kulam Nongrum (President Sengbah ki Nongshad Nongkheiñ) in accordance with Niam Khasi faith in his village. It was only after the intervention of the District administration and an offer of space by Seng Khasi Hima Mylliem that Late Mr. Nongrum could be cremated. The fundamentalist and intolerant behaviour of the some of the Christian majority of the village ensured that the solemn funeral procession was also an occasion for hurling insults on the adherents of the indigenous faith.

This was not an aberration. This has been happening in that area for the last 20 odd years. This climate of intolerance has meant that most adherents of Niam Khasi in this area have had no choice but to bury their dead going against their deeply held religious belief of Cremation. Even intervention by the Lyngdoh – traditional priest to give land for the last rites to followers of Niam Khasi of the area, has been a target of a legal civil suit as well as violent attack in September 2016, where the Village majority desecrated the allotted space and prevented Niam Khasi people from performing their rituals. Today after the family was refused land for cremation by the dorbar, they approached the Seng Khasi who gave them space at the private property of the iing Seng.

Women protest the traditional funeral – Screengrab from RILUK

TUR as an organization which believes in secular polity and religious freedom, has been resisting the rise of Hindutva fascism and intolerance in India as well as in Meghalaya. It has even protested the attempts by the BJP run government to enact anti minority anti-conversion laws and anti cow slaughter laws to appease Hindu majority.  But we cannot sit silent when the same persecuted religious minority when it becomes  a majority (like in Meghalaya) behaves in the same authoritarian and fascist way.

Cremation – Screengrab from RILUK

It is incumbent on the Christian majority of Meghalaya that it does not behave in the same majoritarian ways as the Hindutva fascists are behaving in mainland India. Meghalaya may be a Christian majority state but it is not a “Christian State’. It is a state of (still) a secular republic called India. As a majority, Christians need to acknowledge and respect culture, faith and tradition of minorities of whichever persuasion they belong. We cannot let the virus of religious communal polarization spread in our society.

This action by the village majority also points to the arbitrary exercise of power by  traditional village administration and village headmen. TUR in the past had called for a proper gender just, secular, democratic reform of traditional village administration which misuses so called tradition to hide its illegal and unethical behavior. A suitably democratic, gender just Village Administration Bill is the need of the hour.

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Raiot

2 Comments

  1. S.Rani
    August 12, 2017
    Reply

    This is so sad, and that such a protest be organised and carried out on such a solemn occasion; the passing of a soul of one of our own community member and leader of our only remaining traditional institutions, speak volumes about the brutality of any form of fanaticism. The reproduction of british colonial prejudices runs deep in Khasi society and this has penetrated into traditional institutions. Before other forces begin to manipulate this fault line, there must be a challenge to this ridiculous, disrespectful, intolerant, despicable behavior from within the community itself. We live in very reactive times and everyone is on the edge. While i am filled with great remorse, I for myself feel nothing but deep compassion for these protesters. Their actions stems from deeply embedded fear and in the heat of the moment they have suspended their rationality. To protest on the day of a funeral reveals their real mindset. When they look back five years from now, they will realize how much harm they have done to the larger khasi society. To bring religion and religious beliefs before community relations and unity is to fracture the community beyond redemption. Am sorry to say that this is the beginning of the end of christianity. This form of reactionary christianity will not survive too long in an age where power has just gone into the hands of an equally reactionary force. This act will instead bring great hardships to all. I only hope good sense prevail.

  2. S. Nongpiur
    August 14, 2017
    Reply

    Some of our khasi people still have an inferiority complex and want to reject our own beautiful unique tradition which has evolved through the ages and instead clamour for a locally prevailing dominant tradition, like a western one, which in their minds ought to make them more presentable to the world. They do not understand that it is our own uniqueness that will make our small race stand out and not be slowly lost in the vast majority of this world. It will need a bit more intelligence and perhaps a few more generations to understand this for the general population and organisations and even the government should start workshops to facilitate this.

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