Although I was aware that the Church was playing an increasingly prominent role in the elections in Mizoram, the full extent of that missed me until I was alerted to this report in Outlook by Sanjay.
Excerpts below (emphasis mine):
…Elections in Mizoram this year have defied norms. Quite contrary to the usual threat of violence that defined them, they were subdued and sterilised because of the involvement of the almighty Church in the election process…this (was) the first time a church-backed vigilante group—the Mizoram People Forum (MPF)—stepped in to “oversee the conduct of free and fair elections”. This has won the Church great praise but also generated unease about a religious institution issuing political diktats and enforcing them by its volunteers.
Alongside the Election Commission’s code of conduct, the Church issued its own code…The MPF even put out guidelines describing an “ideal candidate”
…Though the code had no legal binding, offenders, MPF secretary Lalbiakmawia Ngente says, were censured “morally and socially”. This is a point that rankles Henry Zodinliana Pachau, a lecturer at the Mizoram University in Aizwal. “What’s worrying is that they are determining what is good. I wouldn’t want my freedom to be clipped in the name of religion,” he says.
…The Church, especially the MPCS, is a pervasive force in Mizoram where about 87 per cent of the population is Christian.
Should this model of allowing religious institutions an active role in elections be replicated elsewhere? Former CEC James Lyngdoh doesn’t think so. “Almost everyone in Mizoram is a Christian and the Church is so influential that it influences everybody. It is a unique situation,” he says.
As Sanjay remarked:
“…Wonder what the champions of secular India have to say to this report!”