In a report published by Hindustan Times, the churches in poll bound Meghalaya are getting insecure by the efforts of the BJP and hence are trying to put up a concentrated effort to stop the BJP.
Last Sunday, the Catholic Church in Garo Hills, called for a protest to express their ‘concerns’ against the alleged attacks on minorities and growing sense of insecurities. While the protests weren’t explicitly held against the BJP, but a Father belonging to the Catholic Church in Meghalaya’s Tura town placed it in context of the upcoming elections in the state and the rising popularity of the BJP.
The report quotes the Father who does not wish to be named, “These incidents keep on happening. When one Christian is affected, all of us are affected. We wanted to give a message before elections that people here must be concerned at what is happening and act appropriately. It is our duty to alert people about the dangers of the situation.” Tura is home to Catholic as well as Baptist church, both of which have played an important role in influencing education, society and culture of the town. However, this time around, they are aiming at playing a larger role to influence politics.
Over 70% population of Meghalaya consists of Christians and hence, individual church leaders are expected to play an important role in the upcoming elections. The Father of the Catholic Church, which is an influential body running schools with over 60,000 students, fears that the BJP government may ban foreign funding. They say while they will never support a candidate (explicitly), but they will tell the people to choose a candidate who does not interfere in their faith and in their food choices.
This is not the first time the churches have tried to indirectly influence electoral politics. Last year, during Goa elections, Goan Padre had asked devotees to vote for specific candidates. In fact, a Congress leader from Goa had been forced to retire from active politics after the Church allegedly refused to back his candidature. Following that, in August last year for the by-polls, a magazine named Renowakao, run by a Panjim church Bishop’s House, carried an article which directly attacked the BJP and asked the voters to rein in the ‘tyranny’ prevalent in the whole nation by voting against Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar.
In the recently concluded Gujarat elections, too, a Church in Gujarat urged the people to save India from ‘nationalistic forces’. In a letter, Archbishop Thomas Macwan associated with the Archdiocese of Gandhinagar, had subtly tried to influence the voters’ preference.
As Meghalaya goes to vote in few weeks’ time, it would be interesting to see how things unfold.