The country’s tallest Christian cross could be coming up in Mizoram. And guess who is planning to erect it? The BJP, of all parties. Carrying a prominent Hindu tag in a Christian-majority state can be a major disadvantage. More so in Mizoram, where the influence of the Church permeates every layer of Mizo society, especially politics. For the BJP, which has managed to find foothold in most states in the Northeast, Mizoram has proved to a hard nut to crack. So what does it do? Form a Christian Missionary Cell, of course, to woo the Mizos. The irony is not lost on the Mizos. Here’s is a party which has been very critical of Christian missionaries, accusing them of luring tribals and other communities with cash and kind to convert to Christianity.
BJP leaders in Mizoram, however, refute the charge and say that the cell has been formed to put the “balm of love” on the Christians. Christians account for 87 per cent of Mizoram’s population of about 1.12 million. “We are hopeful of winning the confidence of the people,” says Mizoram BJP president J.V. Hluna. The cell with six members will create a database of the 5,000-odd Christian missionaries in the state, with their names, addresses, phone numbers and email IDs. “They are contacting the people in the church, visiting churches and meeting leaders almost every day to build up the relationship. Apart from that whenever the missionaries are working in other parts of India, if they need any kind of help, our people will take care of it,” Hluna adds.
The cross is also part of the plan. “Yes, that is one of the proposals. Apart from that, we are also hoping to finance religious trips of at least 20 people annually to places like Jerusalem, Bethlehem and so on. This is a path-breaking step to embrace Christians and other communities,” the BJP leader adds.
The BJP is in power on its own in four states and in alliance in the other NE states. Mizoram’s ruling party, the Mizo National Front (MNF), is part of the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA). The party’s rise in the region has followed a peculiar path as it carefully avoided issues which are its pet themes in other parts of the country, like cattle slaughter and beef, in the Christian-majority state. But it’s move has irked powerful Christian bodies. A meeting attended by leaders from several church bodies has resolved to keep an eye on the situation and cautioning their respective communities. “Those who work for the dominant party are formed into a ‘Christian missionary cell’, whose mission will be to collect data about Christian activities and pass it on to their opponents who wish to undermine the unity of Christian service in the Northeast. Threat to unity is the greatest threat that we see on the horizon,” Allen Brooks, the spokesperson of Assam Christian Forum says.
Hluna says that it’s not unusual to face opposition. “We understand that there will be mixed reaction initially. Some people are very much against us, criticising us. But when these people are contacted personally, they understand. And those who are against us, we are trying to explain our view points,” he adds.
The BJP had won just a single seat in elections to the 40-member assembly last year, though it had contested in 39 seats. The lone seat was won by Buddha Dhan Chakma, a sitting MLA who had crossed over from the Congress just ahead of the elections. The party had also contested the state’s lone Lok Sabha seat this year but came third after the MNF and the Congress-Zoram People’s Movement combine.
By Abdul Gani in Guwahati