State BJP faces huge flak over immersion of Vajpayee’s ashes

Correspondent KOHIMA, AUG 26 (NPN) | Publish Date: 8/26/2018 12:09:49 PM IST

Several church and tribe organisations in Nagaland have taken strong exception to the attempt by the state BJP to perform Antim Sanskara (Asthi Visarjan)- to immerse the ashes of former prime minister late A.B.Vajpayee in Doyang river; while earlier, the Congress had termed it not only as an insult on the people of the Christian majority state but also to late Vajpayee since the BJP was only trying to extract political mileage after consigning the former prime minister to oblivion after the Modi government came to power in 2014. 

Among those who have slammed the state BJP included Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC), Nagaland Christian Forum(NCF) and Dimapur Christian Forum(DCF), Lotha Hoho and Lotha Baptist Church Association .

They have strongly opposed the programme of the state BJP to immerse the ash of late A.B.Vajpayee in Doyang river on Monday. 

NBCC: Responding to the immersion programme, general secretary of NBCC Rev.Dr.Zelhou Keyho said the church along with the rest of the country, mourned the death of the former prime minister of India late Atal Behari Vajpayee and so understood the sentiments of the party(BJP).

Dr.Keyho was however unhappy that the state BJP president and minister of higher and technical education Temjen Imna Along was to lead the immersion of late Vajpayee’s ash. Dr.Keyho pointed out that Temjen Imna Along was supposed to be a Christian and undertaking a Hindu ritual normally carried out by Hindu priests or religious functionaries.

 So in a Christian dominated state, if the state BJP president was eager to lower the dignity of his professed faith in undertaking a ritual of another religion , all because of being a BJP, then it would be a very unwise and unwarranted move.

 Rev. Keyho clarified that questioning Temjen Imna Along did not mean the NBCC was demeaning the memory of late Vajpayee nor Hindu religion itself but the very act of a professed Christian usurping the role of religious functionaries of another religion . He said such unethical practise on the plea of political affiliation was an anathema and unacceptable to Nagas which could even cause a bigger divide . 

Showing respect for different cultures and religions of the land would help promote harmony, said Rev.Keyho. He believed that such immersions could be done in rivers of states where these are practised as religious rituals but not in Nagaland.

 Rev.Keyho also informed that the NBCC extended moral support to the stand taken by Lotha Baptist Church (LBES). The other organisation opposing the immersion in Doyang river was the Loth Hoho. The LH chairman Mhao Lotha and general secretary Mhondamo Ovung disclosed that the hoho was also totally opposed to the move to immerse the ash in Doyang rive located under Lotha area. 

LBCA warns: Strongly opposing the immersion of late Vajpayee’s ash in Doyang river, Lotha Baptist Church Association(LBCA) executive secretary Rev. Nyanchumo Lotha informed Nagaland Post that LBCA will not allow immersion in Doyang river which comes under Lotha Christian Church inhabited areas and those defying it would be doing so at their own risk. 

Rev. Lotha said while LBCA respects late Vajpayee for his deeds but it opposed the immersion since it was no a Christian rite and neither was late Vajpayee a Christian and therefore LBCA will not allow the conduct of the ritual.

Rev. Lotha also informed all Lotha Christian churches under LBCA not to allow the ritual to take place. He also said communication has been sent to Lotha Baptist Church Doyang to immediately inform LBCA if the ritual went ahead despite opposition . 

A senior leader of the state BJP expressed dismay over the decision of the state BJP president to lead the immersion. He said people’s sentiments should not be hurt because all the BJP legislators were elected by the public.

Some of the party leaders also felt that if Temjen Imna Along wanted to perform immersion then it could have been done in Dhansari River where such rites were performed by the Hindus.

They said such an issue never arose in the past even when past former prime minister passed away. Further they said many party leaders were unhappy about how the matter has attracted unwanted controversy . The state BJP president could not be contacted till the time of filing this report.

LH: Lotha Hoho (LH) has also opposed the decision of the state BJP to undertake immersion puja in Doyang river .LH chairman Mhao Humtsoe and general secretary Er. Mhondamo Ovung in a statement said the state decision of the state BJP to immerse ashes of former prime minister late Vajpayee in rivers across Nagaland was known only to the party. LH said the immersion may be done in any other place except any part of Wokha district since it was not a cultural or religious practise of the people.

LH said even though it respected the BJP as a national party and various cultures across the country and especially late Vajpayee, yet it did not mean they would allow their distinct culture to be diluted. 

NJCF, DCF: Nagaland Joint Christian Forum (NJCF) and Christian Forum Dimapur (CFD) have expressed deep concern over the move by BJP to immerse the ashes of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Nagaland. 

In a statement, NJCF vice-president Rev Dr N Paphino clarified that the forums were not against paying homage as per the religious practice in a proper place and location. However he said by insisting on carrying out religious rites and culture of another religion which BJP identified as its own, aroused suspicion and that too in a land where the culture did not subscribe to such practices. 

Rev.Paphino cautioned that if any political party went beyond politics to hurt the religious and cultural sentiments of a particular community, it would then be constructed as bad politics aimed at dividing people on religio-socio-cultural line. 

He maintained that both NJCF and CFD were in consonant with the nation in mourning the death of a great leader of the nation. 

“But in his death, let us not divide the society that is fragile and needs healing touch,” he asserted. 

Rev.Paphino said imposing an alien cultural and religious practice in a land that did not practice such a thing would diminish “our political view of unity and create a sense of insecurity” in the minds of minority community. 

On behalf of NJCF and CFD, Paphino urged the BJP leadership in Nagaland to consider the sentiments of the people during this time when the nation was mourning the passing away of “our leader whom we all respect and honour”. 

He hoped that God would give the state BJP wisdom at this emotional time to do the right thing for “our community”. To win the trust of people, the party would have to take sentiments of the community in consideration, he added.

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