Union government should push Arunachal to agree to native tribes’ demand to implement anti-conversion law

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Arunachal Pradesh witnessed widespread protests on Sunday May 15 by representatives of the many indigenous tribal communities in the state demanding the speedy implementation of the Arunachal Pradesh Religious Freedom Act 1978.

Although the law was passed unanimously by the state’s first elected legislature on May 19, 1978, and received the assent of the President of India on October 25 of the same year, successive governments of the State refrained from making rules under this anti-conversion law.

The Indigenous Faith and Cultural Society of Arunachal Pradesh (IFCSAP) is now spearheading demand for the implementation of the law in the state in hopes that it will prevent large-scale conversions of tribes practicing the Buddhism, Vaishnavisim, animism, nature worship (including the native Donyi-Polo faith) to Christianity.

IFCSAP has also requested that the name of the Department of Indigenous Affairs be changed to its already notified nomenclature of Department of Indigenous Faith and Cultural Affairs (DIFCA).

IFCSAP Secretary General Tambo Tamin said Chief Minister Pema Khandu had assured members of the Society who met him in March this year that their main demands – the implementation of the 1978 and the renaming of the department – would be considered.

He lamented that even 44 years after the anti-conversion law was passed, it remains only on paper and large-scale conversions continue unabated in the state.

The 1978 Act has yet to be implemented in Arunachal Pradesh, mainly due to strong opposition from Christian bodies engaged in soul harvesting. Church bodies vehemently opposed the implementation of the law that prohibits conversion by force, fraud or incitement and called it an anti-Christian law.

Such is the pressure from church bodies that CM Khandu announced plans to repeal the law in 2018. His announcement was met with protests and the nascent decision to repeal the anti-conversion law was reportedly blocked by the then union government.

Since the late 1960s, Christian missionaries have been converting the state’s native tribes through questionable means and enticements. And they met with phenomenal success.

Christians made up only 0.79% of the state’s population in 1971, but ten years later their numbers had increased by more than 500% and they formed 4.32% of the state’s population. The 1991 census revealed that the Christian population of the state was 10.3%, an increase of more than 250% in a decade!

Ten years later (in 2001), the Christian population in the state stood at 18.72% (an increase of almost 90%) while in 2011, Christians made up 30.26% of the population of Arunachal. According to some estimates, the percentage of Christians in the state is now close to 40%. Many fear that by 2035, Arunachal Pradesh will become a Christian majority state.

The 1978 law defines ‘indigenous religions’ as Buddhism (prevalent among the Monpa, Memba, Sherdukpen, Khamba, Khamti and Singpho tribes), Vaishnavism (as practiced by the Nocte and Aka tribes) and the worship of nature and animism, including Donyi Polo, which are prevalent among other indigenous tribes in the state.

The Anti-Conversion Law prohibits conversion to any religion by fraud, force, or lure, and evangelical Christian missionaries have called it anti-Christian. This, say prominent IFCSAP members, is because Christian missionaries use precisely such dubious tactics to convert tribal natives to Christianity.

“(Christian) missionaries attract tribals, many of whom are very poor, with material and financial help to convert them to Christianity. They begin by providing them with food and medicine, then provide admissions to convent schools and colleges (especially in neighboring Assam). They offer cash rewards for conversion and pay very generously those who can bring their tribal compatriots into Christianity,” said an IFCSAP official who did not want to be named for fear of being targeted by the police. mighty Church. swarajya.

“Christian missionaries provide medical aid and often refer poor tribal people for treatment in hospitals they run in the rest of the country. And the tribals are indebted to them and are converting. But the most reprehensible tactic is the social boycott of those who refuse to convert. Encouraged and even incited by the Church, tribal converts to Christianity boycott and cut social ties with those who refuse to convert. They (the Christians) even begin to boycott them economically. In the end, the reluctant are forced to convert,” the IFCSAP official said.

This, he added, is happening in rural areas and in villages where the majority of the population has already converted. This is why, he added, whole villages become “Christian” in a short time. Evangelicals, he added, are intolerant of other religions and make it their mission to convert entire villages en masse to Christianity.

These questionable conversion tactics divided the state’s tribal societies. And what is more dangerous is that a part of the Christian missionaries sows the disaffection of the converts against India.

So it’s time for the union government to step in and ask the state to make rules for the implementation of the 1978 law. Yes, the mighty Christian missionaries will raise howls of protest and mobilize sections of the media to portray the BJP government in the state as anti-Christian.

But similar protests by Christian missionaries in other states did not deter those states from developing and implementing anti-conversion laws. In addition, these laws have received judicial approval.

Forty-four years is a long wait for the state to craft laws for a law that was passed unanimously by the state legislature. In the interests of the indigenous peoples, religions and cultures of Arunachal, the union government must persuade the state to implement the law without further delay.

Read also :

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