Views & Reviews
Of Urn and Ash
Temjen Imna Along Longkumer, Yes, fellow Naga Christians, that is the formal, legitimate and non-Hindu name of the most vilified man in this land of valiant Christian Warriors at the moment. However, by way of economising on time, labor and space, I beg to refer to the alleged enemy of Christianity in Nagaland simply as Mr. Longkumer in this write-up.
Ever since Mr. Longkumer brought the urn containing the ash of the departed former Indian Prime Minister Mr. A.B. Vajpayee for immersion in Nagaland, an unprecedented storm of righteous indignation, unchristian pronouncements and vicious attacks and character assassination directed against Mr. Longkumer has been raging on unabated in this God-anointed Christian state of ours.
Swimming against the tide, I venture to bring to the readers this piece registering my total disapproval of the unmitigated hate campaign unleashed against the alleged anti-Christian individual and the demeaning of a major non-Christian religion.
As per tradition, the local papers have been facilitating the right to freedom of expression by publishing a plethora of hate writings targeted against Mr. Longkumer, the urn, the ash and Hinduism. However, I would restrict my reference and comment only to the statements that emanated from the church and the writings of two or three prominent Naga figures on the issue.
Apex church organisations of different denominations have unequivocally denounced the planned performance of Hindu rituals associated with the immersion of the ash in the state maintaining that Nagaland was a Christian state,(well, not quite. Nagaland is a Christian majority state, not a Christian state). Anyway, my intention here is not to contest the church’s contention per se but to seek the opinion of the revered church leaders on issues like fornication, cover-up of sinful conduct, loose living, flaunting of disproportionate and vulgar opulence etc. For, these are among the moral taints not rare among the Naga Christians. Are or are not these unchristian which calls for denunciation by the church through the media? Then, what about seeking the blessings and help of Hindu godmen, black magicians and fortune-tellers, partaking in Durga Puja revelries in front of idols and so on? By the way, English dictionaries define Yoga as a Hindu spiritual discipline. My point here is that sin cannot be categorised and, therefore, the church is urged not to be selective in its public denouncement of sinful deeds and it must not rush to the press on contentious issues without objectively and thoroughly examining the same from every angle.
Next, certain prominent, erudite and accomplished Christian personages who are frequent contributors to the cause of enrichment of knowledge, awareness and enlightenment through various media including the local papers, joined the ‘Damn Mr Longkumer’ chorus with a vengeance. One can overlook or ignore the frailties of lesser humans like me but even a small dose of proscribed action or uttering on the part of sages and influential public figures gravely endangers the health of the society. Thus, it is unfortunate that certain hitherto revered and admired personages chose to go for a no-barred attack on Mr. Longkumer employing the choicest of invectives, besides audaciously and seriously demeaning a certain religion and community. It may be reminded that the issue at hand was the objection to a planned Hindu religious ceremony in Nagaland on the ground that it was a Christian state (amended to Christian majority state). It was expected that knowledgeable, experienced and reasonable Naga elders and leaders would express their opinion on the matter in an objective and positive manner. But it was not to be. One may just retrace the copies of local newspapers published in the aftermath of Mr. Vajpayee’s demise and peruse the writings on the relevant subject to form one’s own opinion.
I am not at all trying to defend or vindicate Mr. Longkumer but my humble opinion and understanding is that it was not Mr. Temjen Imna Along Longkumer the person but the State BJP President who brought the urn containing the ash to be immersed in the state obviously as per the directive of the Central Party leadership. Had another person other than Mr. Longkumer been the President of the State BJP, he would have done exactly the same as Mr. Longkumer did or else face disciplinary action or even instant expulsion from the party. Then it was sheer naivety to assume that Mr. Longkumer himself would perform the necessary rituals. I would safely say that Mr. Longkumer, contrary to what his detractors and the gossip media surmise, would not know how to perform the requisite Hindu rituals. Then would the Hindu religious order consent to the usurpation of their functions by a non-Hindu politician? Further, have we ever objected to the burial or cremation of a Hindu or Muslim corpse and the performance of respective rituals in our Christian majority state? Heaven forbid, but just visualise a situation where the Hindus in a Hindu majority territory, say, Delhi, henceforward stop the burial of a corpse of an Ao, Lotha or any Naga Christian in Delhi maintaining that burial of a Christian corpse in holy Hindu soil would be a sacrilege and that performance of the Christian funeral rites in the ‘Hindu national capital’ would be tantamount to an attack on Hinduism.
It is regrettable that the present BJP-led government in the Centre, obviously insensitive to the ethos and sentiment of Christians, has taken several decisions causing much resentment and spiritual pain among the minority community and resulting in disarray and inconveniences in carrying out the normal or traditional religious exercises. In fact, had the BJP been sensitive to the Christian sentiments, the ash of the departed leader could have be sprayed over a designated river in the state using, say, an IAF helicopter instead of insisting on performing the exact emersion ceremony and rituals disregarding the opposition of the local Christian populace. Needless to say, many Naga Christians feel apprehensive that the BJP is out to introduce the Hindutva agenda in Nagaland and if this apprehension develops into fear, we can safely say that the party does not have a rosy future in the Christian majority, albeit, tiny state of Nagaland.
Meanwhile, this inconsequential writer and obscure Christian appeals to fellow Naga Christians to stop the satanisation of Mr. Temjen Imna Along Longkumer. Also, the unchristian rantings and defamatory writings particularly on the part of influential leaders may be avoided henceforward. For, the God all true Christians believe in is the merciful, forgiving and tolerant Father in Heaven.
The history of the church tells us that true faith manifests itself in adversarial environments and circumstances and in the face of persecution. The church leaders know this better and the cream of the laity are no theological novices. As such, instead of sounding like religious chauvinists, let us concentrate more on keeping our hearths and hearts as clean as possible, no matter what the real, apparent or construed threats to our religion may be.
I conclude by mentioning that I have never meet Mr. Temjen Imna Along Longkumer nor seen him in person even from a distance. But by judging by local newspaper reports about his contributions to society and performance as the Minister of Higher Education, I feel that he is not as bad as what certain Naga Christians project him to be.
TAIL-PIECE: Media-savvy, high profile and influential leaders may keep in mind that there is no dearth of properly educated, vastly experienced, highly knowledgeable and well-qualified yet unassuming men and women among the Nagas who have seen the world (literally and figuratively speaking). These gems of Naga society will be grimacing with intellectual pain and embarrassment on reading certain genre of writing in the newspapers. Then, an unsolicited advice to the editors of local papers –A disclaimer like, say, “Readers discretion is advised’ be inserted when and where deemed appropriate!