Indian Tribals Punished For Conversion
Filed Under: Politics, World | Posted: 07/12/2011 at 5:06AM
Comments | Region: India
After Orissa, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh, now tribal communities in India’s Manipur state face the ire of anti-conversion groups.
Dozens of tribal families in Indian state of Manipur have been declared social outcasts and ex-communicated following their conversion to Christianity. The families, belonging to Zeliangrong – a tribal community, have been handed out the punishment by their village council that propagates a strict no- conversion policy.
Says Kamei Mercy, a young tribal woman and a Christian living in Tamenglong district of Manipur, “Since then (conversion to Christianity), the lives of these people have turned into a nightmare. They have been banned from any interaction with the rest of the village. They are not allowed to talk with other villagers, even with those who used to be close friends. They are also barred from buying goods from the local shop. They have been completely ostracized.”
Manipur is one of the least developed states of India with several areas still lacking basic civic facilities. The excommunication has, therefore, hit the families where it hurts most: Economy. Barred to buy/sell in the village, the families must travel on foot to faraway towns to buy food and other supplies. Apart from this, they suffer insults meted out to them by other villagers such as being spat upon and called names.
But who and what actually dictated these?
The answer can be found in a 2004- statement by NC Zeliang – a tribal leader that asked every community member to worship only Tingkao Ragwang Chakriak (TRC) or’ the “universal god’ that the tribe worshipped traditionally. In that statement Zeliang had cautioned his fellow tribesmen against “the temptation of adopting another religion”. He was supported by North East India Indigenous Faith and Culture Protection Forum, – a regional group known for its militant stand against conversion of any tribal in the region. Following the public announcement, atrocities against Christians have seen a steady rise.
A Pamei, another local who converted to Christianity in 2005 says that families like hers are face violent. Pamei’s family was to pay Rs.4 lakh and also a full grown pig to the head of the village. ‘Since we could not pay such a huge sum, we were thrown out of the community.
The Constitution of India enshrines the freedom of religion and freedom of conscience as fundamental rights under Article 25,26,27,28,30. However, travelling through Manipur, it is common to see posters at the entrance of several villages that read ‘villagers are strictly asked to follow onlyTRC and no other religion.”