Notes from North-East: Conversion at gun point?
From Buddhists allege NSCN-IM threat (emphasis added):
…“The people in Wangnong and nearby villages (in Arunachal Pradesh) have been passing sleepless nights. They are all Buddhists. An armed militant group belonging to the NSCN(IM) has ordered them to convert to Christianity,” said Ven Aggadhamma, the highest religious leader of the Buddhists in Changlang and Tirap districts.Aggadhamma said that on May 13, a group of armed men came to the village, gathered the village head and other senior members of the village and ordered them to embrace Christianity. “These persons came to the village the next day too and set a deadline of seven days to convert,” Aggadhamma told The Indian Express from Namsai in Changlang over the telephone on Thursday.
Aggadhamma immediately sent a memorandum to the state government, copies of which were also sent to the Prime Minister’s Office, Union Home Ministry, the President as well as the Minority Commission. Aggadhamma also rushed to the Assam Rifles posted in the district and ensured that patrol parties were sent out to the area.
Though the deadline to convert expired on May 21, no untoward incident has happened so far. “But the armed group have now questioned the villagers as to why they informed the Assam Rifles,” Aggadhamma said.
“Changlang and Tirap have been on the NSCN(IM) map since long. As their slogan is ‘Nagalim for Christ’, they are forcibly trying to convert the people,” the Buddhist monk said.
…The NSCN(IM) has, however, dismissed the allegation as baseless and motivated. “The NSCN believes in freedom of religion and has never ever indulged in any act of terrorising people in the name of religion. We believe in peaceful co-existence of people of different faiths,” a spokesman of the NSCN(IM) said over the telephone from Nagaland.
Image courtesy: Govt of Arunachal Pradesh
As for NSCN(IM)’s claim that it believes in “freedom of religion”, this is a quote I unearthed from an interview with NSCN(IM) founder:
Although our problem with India is national and political in nature, the issue of faith inevitably turns out, when challenged, to be the most enduring force in the ultimate analysis.
Draw your own conclusion(s). For those who are keen to read more, here is the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) write-up on NSCN(IM).
Some of you may have read the news about a 36-feet tall statue of Jesus that was unveiled recently in Arunachal Pradesh. t is believed to be the tallest statue of Jesus Christ in India (try and imagine – if you can – the uproar had a statue of Bhagwaan ShriKrishna or Bhagwaan ShriRam was similarly installed). Arunachal Pradesh has a small Christian population – approximately 20% of its total of 1millon – but growing fast. Interestingly, the official website of the government of Arunachal Pradesh makes no mention of Christianity at all even while it talks about tribes practising Buddhism and forms of nature worship (you might be forgiven for thinking there is no Christian presence in Arunachal). Below is a picture of the statue.
Image courtesy: Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India
And finally (while on this topic), here is another “interesting” article about the spread of Christian faith from Nagaland. One person alone claims to to have helped “plant 200 churches in Arunachal Pradesh”. Comments, thoughts welcome as always.
and the series on Why are Christian Missionaries Targeting India?
Somewhat related: Are all religions equal?