Christian leaders’ forum concern over threat to remove ST status from Tribal Christians

Just ahead of the Assembly elections in Meghalaya and Nagaland, schedule to be held on February 27, Northeastern Christian leaders representing all the Churches of the region gathered at Guwahati and expressed concern over the atrocities against Christians in the country.

Rev Dr EH Kharkongor, general secretary, Khasi Jaintia Christian Leaders Forum (KJCLF), Shillong in a press statement informed that the meeting took note of incidents against Christians in our country which include hate-speeches, humiliation and violence targeting individuals and groups, destruction and desecration of property and places of worship.

“Brutality and crime like the murder of Graham Staines in Odisha more than 20 years ago, barbaric abuses of human rights against Christian communities in Kandhamal in 2008 and many innumerable more in different parts of the country especially in States where the ruling dispensation remain consensually silent against the perpetrators of these acts,” Rev Kharkongor said.

He further added “Since the last few years atrocities against Christians and Churches have increased in numbers and intensity with many more cases going unreported, and the recent incidents in this region with the “authorised census” targeting Christian individuals, families and groups in Assam. In the guise of clearing encroachments on the forests, worship places are destroyed, eviction and displacement of Boro families and communities who are indigenous settlers have taken place and the majority of the members are Christians.”

He, further said what cannot go unnoticed is that hundreds of acres of tribal land and resources are being handed over to persons and groups alien to the region which is an effort towards the economic exploitation of the region, especially the land and assets of the weaker communities by the dominating groups who are trying to gain control and power in targeted locations.

Rev Dr EH Kharkongor, general secretary, Khasi Jaintia Christian Leaders Forum (KJCLF), Shillong in a press statement has expressed concern over the fear about the sinister threat to remove the Scheduled Tribe status of people who have embraced Christianity.

 “A fear is being expressed about the sinister threat of removing the ST status from Tribal Christians and others which will effectively take away the constitutional rights and status of the indigenous citizen of the land. While government authorities have denied any intention to interfere in the citizens’ choice of their religion, faith and practice, yet churches, institutions and Christian centres are being harassed with undue enquiries and uncalled-for requirements and warnings,” Rev Kharkongor added.

The Church leader also said that the Tribal people of the North-east have always respected personal choices, cultural and religious differences and have never been influenced by communal prejudices in any other part of the country.

“Things like encounter killings or harsh treatment of dissenters have never been in our tradition. The bulldozer culture that has recently been introduced is only a tool of humiliation and cowardice,” he said.

With Meghalaya and Nagaland gears up for the polls, Christiana leaders of North East urged the voters to cast their votes with good conscience.

“In the wake of State Elections this month in Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya, the meeting calls on citizens in the region to remain alert on threats to the freedoms guaranteed by our constitution and safeguards ensured therein to our people. It also urges our fellow Christians never to compromise on the principles taught to us by our Faith – to stand by truth, justice and fairness,” Kharkongor added.

 The Church leader, further said, one should not succumb to false promises and short-term allurements.

“As individual voters, one must judiciously exercise our electoral privilege in the casting of our votes. One should be guided by informed and a clear conscience and elect able leaders who are just and fair, who shun corrupt practices, and those who are trustworthy and committed to the unity and good of our community and the nation,” he said.

The leaders who attended this meeting represent the National Boro Christian Council (NBCC), Assam Baptist Convention (ABC), Boro Baptist Church Association (BBCA), Karbi Anglong Baptist Convention (KABC), All Manipur Christian Organisation (AMCO), Catholic Church, UCF Karbi Anglong, Nagaland Joint Christian Forum (NJCF), North Bank Baptist Christian Association (NBBCA), Khasi Jaintia Christian Leaders Forum (KJCLF), Christ Church Guwahati (CNI), Assam Christian Forum (ACF), CCFNEI, Boro Baptist Convention (BBC). Sd/- Rev Dr EH Kharkongor, Recording Secretary.

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