Sunday, December 05, 2021

The story behind Rankham’s resilient little church

By EMN Updated: Nov 29, 2013 12:23 am

Dimapur, November 28

Rankham Baptist Church located in Selenghat area of Jorhat district near the Assam-Nagaland border was inaugurated on Wednesday by none other than Bijoy Krishna Handique, sitting Member of Parliament from Jorhat and former Minister of Development of North East Region.There is a story of struggle behind the quaint little church though. The pastor of the church, Tarun Gogoi, was arrested and tortured by personnel of the Assam Police posted at Rajabari Border Observation Post on suspicion of having links with Naga undergrounds and receiving donations from Nagaland side for the construction of the church on the night of May 8. He was later handed to the custody of Teok Police Station. On receiving this information, church leaders led by the executive secretary of Sibsagar Baptist Association and host of other church leaders went to the police station and released the next day.
Rankham Baptist Church was established in 1986. It is located along the foothills bordering Yajang-C village of Nagaland and Selenghat Tea Estate in Assam. Since the church was nearing its silver jubilee celebration and the present church, constructed in the early 80’s, was insufficient to accommodate the congregation, members decided to reconstruct a bigger church at the present location.
It is said that the neighboring Yajang-C village church community donated a tractor load of stone chips for the construction. Later, rumor mongers lost no time in reporting to the authorities accusing the noble pastor of being in ‘nexus’ with the Nagas and that the latter was using the church leader to ‘convert the local populace’ to Christianity. They alleged that the pastor and the Naga villagers were sharing ‘donations in cash’ and in kind to ‘develop the area by means of sponsoring other infrastructures to gradually occupy Assam’s land by the Nagas.’
The administration ordered stop to the construction works and movement of people from neighboring Nagaland state to the area was restricted.
The Assam Valley Baptist Mission (AVBM) a conglomeration of more than 50 Baptist churches located in the foot hills of which Rankham Baptist Church is also an active member, initiated immediate legal action against those guilty of ill treatment meted to the poor pastor. Later, AVBM mobilized and sensitized the people living there and approached Jorhat’s MP to help the Rankham community complete the ongoing construction from his MP fund. AVBM told the MP that as the local populace were apprehensive of receiving freewill donations from across the border, the MP should help to do away with any criticism that might come. The legislator agreed and helped.
The day was joyful for pastor Gogoi who was convinced that the Lord had answered his prayers. “Lord teaches men to forgive to those have done wrong”, he said and that he had forgiven those who wrong him. “I am happy and feel more of a born again Christian after seeing all these answer from the Lord” Gogoi said after the dedication of the church.


By EMN Updated: Nov 29, 2013 12:23:32 am