KOHIMA: TR Zeliang said his recent appointment as the chief minister of Nagaland had nothing to do with the promotion of Heraka, which is an indigenous faith.
The assertion came against the backdrop of the charge by Naga People’s Front (NPF) that he was preferred by Acharya, who spent years in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), as part of a greater design to promote Heraka.
Given his alleged proximity to the BJP, the NPF had accused Zeliang and his loyalists of piercing the ‘trishul’ into the heartland of Christ. Heraka has a few thousand adherents in Nagaland besides Assam and Manipur. The indigenous faith was brought up by the NPF recently during the height of the power struggle between Zeliang and his predecessor Shurhozelie Liezietsu.
The 65-year-old Zeliang asserted that he was a devout Christian. He argued that the four BJP MLAs of the state did not become Hindus due to their affiliation to the saffron party.
“My village had 100 per cent Heraka followers but they began converting to Christianity in the 1960s. I was baptised in 1973. Therefore, I fail to understand why I am branded to be a Heraka by them,” Zeliang told the New Indian Express in an interview.
Zeliang said, “I was appointed as the chief minister by the governor as I had the support of majority MLAs, not because of my past association with the leaders of Heraka”. He disclosed that he had associated with Rani Gaidinliu during his college days as she was leading a freedom movement.
At the age of 16, Gaidinliu was arrested in 1932 by the British rulers and released in 1947 after India’s independence. She was given the sobriquet ‘Rani’ (Queen) by former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. A recipient of the Padma Bhushan, Rani Gaidinliu died in 1993. Three years later, the central government issued a postal stamp in her honour. The RSS is often accused of promoting Heraka while building schools, hostels and prayer halls for its followers.