Arunachal Christians upset as government promotes only indigenous faith

October 22, 2017 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

Guwahati, October 21, 2017: Two months after the BJP-led government of Pema Khandu had announced its decision to set up a separate department for protection and preservation of indigenous faiths and culture of the state, the Arunachal Christian Forum (ACF) has asked the government to roll back the decision “because it is clear favour for and promotion of one particular faith.”

“The state government is trying to show clear favour to and thereby promote one particular faith, which is gross violation of Article 27 of the Constitution. Ours is a secular country and the state cannot promote one particular faith by using tax-payers’ money,” Toko Teki, general secretary of the Forum said.

Speaking on the telephone from Itanagar, Teki also said that while the Arunachal Christian Forum had already submitted a memorandum to the chief minister several weeks ago, it has now decided to set a deadline of October 25 for the government to make its stand clear. “If we do not get any positive response from the government, then we will resort to a series of peaceful protests. We have already given an ultimatum to the chief minister on October 13,” Teki told The Indian Express.

The Khandu cabinet had on August 11 approved establishment of a new department called Department of Indigenous Faith & Cultural Affairs (DIFCA). Chief Minister Pema Khandu, who had chaired that cabinet meeting, had maintained that “the indigenous communities of the state are fast getting disconnected with their rich culture and languages due to globalization, exposure and external influences,” and thus “calls for specific steps to preserve and protect them from disappearing into oblivion.”

“Creation of an independent department to look after preservation, protection and promotion of the rich indigenous cultural heritage of the state is a right step in the wake of fast changing world. We cannot let our indigenous culture just fade away like many in the world,” an official statement quoting Khandu on August 11 had said.

Khandu had, at least twice made it clear that the move to create a separate department was being created “purely to preserve indigenous tribal beliefs and traditions”, and was not against any religion. “The department of indigenous faith and culture is for all tribal faiths and is to protect indigenous beliefs and not against any religion,” he has said.

A notification issued on September 20, on the other hand, said that a separate department was required to preserve indigenous faiths like Donyi-Poloism, Amik Mataism, Nani-Intayaism, Nyezi-noism, Rangrafaism and other indigenous faiths “which has been inherited from the forefathers since time immemorial.”

The notification also said that the government would provide funds for construction and maintenance of indigenous prayer halls like Nyedar Namlo, Kargu Gamgi, Donyi-Polo Gangging, Meder Nelo, Rangsowm-hum and Tachaw Kumya etc, apart from starting welfare schemes for indigenous priests and priesthood institutions. Pointing out that preservation of indigenous faiths in Arunachal Pradesh “is urgently felt” the notification also said that the state government would introduce certificate courses on indigenous faiths and culture.

Taking strong exception to this, the Arunachal Christian Forum (ACF), which claimed to be a confederation of Churches of the state, described it as discrimination. “The government should not interfere in religious matters. The Constitution has given equal status to every religion. The government must maintain the secular character of the country where all religions are respected and treated equally. We had appealed to the chief minister to roll back the cabinet decision and not to perpetrate discrimination and disharmony in the state. But there seems to be no concern,” Teki said.

– indian express

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