What’s breaking coconuts during a foundation stone-laying ceremony or wearing a ‘tilak’ at a public function got to do with elections?
A lot, if these ‘non-Christian acts’ are considered profane in Mizoram, where Christians constitute more than 85% of the population and where the church lays down the dos and don’ts of electoral conduct.The opposition led by the Mizo National Front (MNF) has been tearing into Mizoram chief minister Lal Thanhawla for performing Hindu rituals — lighting lamps at a Durga Puja pandal in Kolkata, breaking coconuts at new construction sites and sporting ‘tilak’ — in the past.
While the MNF has carried out rallies against Lal Thanhawla’s non-Christian actions, the Zoram Nationalist Party (ZNP) and Mizoram People’s Conference have been subtle in their criticisms.
“In a secular country we cannot fault a Christian for visiting a temple or mosque. But it doesn’t mean one should be performing rituals of another religion. The same applies to people of other religions when they are in a church or a Christian programme,” said MNF president and former chief minister Zoramthanga. “Mizo people are sentimental about such things,” said ZNP president Lalduhawma.
Congress leaders labelled the allegations a ‘desperate attempt by an opposition devoid of any issues’ ahead of the assembly elections. But they agreed Lal Thanhawla erred in saying that even church leaders were known to sport ‘tilak’ in a Hindu ambience. The Presbyterian and Baptist churches were quick to contradict the chief minister.
The denials have made the opposition play up the Christian card. Among them, the MNF, ZNP and MPC got only seven of the maximum 40 seats in the 2008 polls. The Congress had won 32.