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Church announces code of conduct

Prominent churches of North-east have urged militants to keep away from politics and appealed to voters not to elect corrupt candidates.

india Updated: Feb 20, 2003 12:22 IST

The prominent churches of North-east has urged the militants to keep away from politics and appealed to voters not to elect corrupt candidates in the upcoming Assembly elections in the three States.

The church’s "Election Code of Conduct" has been announced for the States of Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Tripura, which will go to the polls early next year.

"It would be an unpardonable compromise on the part of the Naga National Workers (militants) if they get involved in the elections. The role of the Naga National Workers is much more than politics as they are striving for a nobler and higher status for the Naga people," Reverend Zhabu Theruza, president of the Nagaland Christian Forum (NCF), told IANS.

The NCF, the apex body of all church denominations in Nagaland State, held an all-political party meeting recently in Kohima to announce the poll guidelines aimed at creating an atmosphere for a free and fair election.

"We are not trying to impose our guidelines on the people, but allow each electorate to vote freely without inhibition, intimidation and obligation," another church leader in Nagaland said.

Christians account for about 15 per cent of the 36 million people in India’s seven north-eastern states.

Three states — Mizoram, Nagaland and Meghalaya — are predominantly Christian.

The church guidelines come at a time when Nagaland Chief Minister S C Jamir has expressed concern over militant groups like the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) taking active part in the polls.

"The people of Nagaland are getting confused with the Isak-Muivah faction of the NSCN openly supporting candidates for elections on one hand and holding peace talks with the Indian Government on the other," the Chief Minister said.

Polls in most of the north-eastern States are generally overshadowed by violence with rebel groups often supporting or boycotting one political party or the other.

In Meghalaya, the Roman Catholic Church has come up with a set of "Ten Commandments’ for candidates and voters in the run up to Assembly elections.

"We have asked the people to vote for candidates who are guided by societal values, protect rights as enshrined in the Constitution, candidates who are pro-poor and impartial, who stand for peace and harmony, fight corruption at all levels, and are God-fearing," Dominic Jala, Archbishop of Meghalaya, said.

Similar poll guidelines were issued by the church in Tripura.

The church in the North-east has for long been brokering peace settlements between warring tribal groups and militant factions, besides running hundreds of missionary schools in remote areas since the 19th century.

The church in the region has often come under attack from radical Hindu groups and some local State governments, which have been accusing missionaries of aiding and abetting insurgency and indulging in forcible conversion.

The church’s proactive role in the elections has been generally hailed in the three States that go to the polls.

"Considering the influence of the church in the region, we don’t think militants or politicians would dare to violate the diktats. It is a good beginning to clean our corrupt and tainted political system through the influence of the church," John Lyngdoh, a college teacher in Meghalaya’s capital Shillong, said.

First Published: Feb 13, 2003 13:11 IST