GUWAHATI: Christians in Arunachal Pradesh are happy following the state's BJP government's move to repeal the Arunachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act or the Anti-Conversion Law which was passed in 1978. Once the law is repealed, the state's 32 per cent Christian population may have a favourable view of the BJP, which is generally perceived as a party not so favourable for the minorities.
On Thursday, Chief Minister Pema Khandu had said the law would be brought before next Assembly session for its repeal "as it could be misused in future by irresponsible officials". The frontier state will go to elections next year and there is a perception among many that the BJP is trying to keep the Christians in good humour through its move to repeal the law. In any case, the party is not going to lose anything as the law has remained ineffective.
The influential Arunachal Christian Forum says the BJP is not doing any politics. "This has nothing to do with politics. The Christians in Arunachal vote candidates by judging their performance. Had it not been so, (MoS Home) Kiren Rijiju would not have won in Lok Sabha elections twice. His constituency has a large number of Christians," the forum's leader Toko Teki told TNIE. The Chief Minister is educated and wise. He must have realised the futility of the dark and black law. Those days, most locals in the state were uneducated and the law was passed by uneducated legislators after being guided by outsiders, Teki said. He alleged that Christians in the state had been for long facing shabby treatment from a section of bureaucrats.
"When the Hindus construct a temple, they don't need any permission. They can construct it anywhere. However, when the Christians plan to construct a church, the district authorities create a lot of hurdles. They instigate local non-Christians to create a problem. They do this despite the Christians being locals," Teki alleged. Khandu may have made the Christians happy with his statement but, at the same time, he ruffled the feathers of leaders of indigenous faiths.
The Indigenous Faith and Cultural Society of Arunachal Pradesh (IFCSAP) and the Nyishi Indigenous Faiths and Cultural Society (NIFCS) viewed the move as appeasement of the minorities. IFCSAP general secretary Bai Taba said if the law was repealed, it would cause degradation of the state's indigenous culture. Pointing out that Arunachal enjoys special safeguards under different Acts and legislations, he said repealing of the law would lead to marginalization of indigenous people.
The NIFCS said if the law was scrapped, it would damage the state's basic structure of indigenous faith and culture. "By making such a statement, the Chief Minister is undermining the sentiments and emotions of indigenous faith believers," NIFCS chief Pai Dawe said.