In landlocked Manipur, the denial of burial of Lt. Rita Haorei in Leingangching village by the village authorities has grabbed headlines in the state. For the last six days, the mortal remains of Lt. Haorei have lain unburied as the village authorities have denied a plot for burial. Various civil societies, organisations and like minded people from the northeast region have condemned this inhumane act.
A statement issued by the Tangkhul Christian Fellowship Delhi (TCFD), a conglomeration of all denominations, has strongly protested against this intolerance in Tangkhul society, which embraced Christianity more than a century ago.
The statement reiterates that, “The fellowship is anguished and burdened by the unchristian act of denying a dignified burial to a fellow Christian’s dead body. Such despicable act can only serve to belittle the foundations of Christ’s teachings. The Fellowship is of the view that having parochial tenets of “One village one Religion/Denomination” negates the very principles of secular, democratic and progressive society. It must be reiterated that the denial of decent burial to a fellow human being reflects the utter disregard and disrespect for the basic and inherent human dignity and rights.”
Worso Zimik, Chairman, TCFD, added that, “The Fellowship unequivocally condemns the present incident and urges upon every right thinking individual to rise above sectarian and parochial mind-sets and respect one’s right to freedom of conscience. It is also a call to every prudent Tangkhul community to transcend “the narrow domestic walls” that has engulfed our society,”
“That instead of upholding Christian values of tolerance, brotherhood, sorority and mutual respect, the recent incident at Leingangching has revealed the ugly face of the monster in us,” read the statement. Moreover, the Northeast Catholic Community of Delhi (NECCOD) statement’s expressed its shocked, pained and disturbed by the inhuman behaviour of the villagers of Leingangching, Ukhrul district, Manipur, wherein a deceased lady late Mrs Rita Haorei was denied honourable burial in her own land simply because she was a Christian belonging to the Catholic Communion.
“This inhuman behaviour and gross violation of basic human rights is not only condemnable, but it has shamed and tarnishes the image of all Christians. In a time when building Christian unity and brotherhood is gaining ground through Ecumenical and inter-religious dialogues, such incidents of dividing people on the basis of their religious practices and denomination by so called Christian leaders is most unfortunate and poses huge challenge to the unity among people” continued the statement.
“While we strongly condemn this ugly incident of dividing people based on their denomination, we call upon everyone to promote and follow the path of tolerance, peace and harmony. We urge everyone to respect the Freedom of Religion and conscience of others, which is a Constitutional right.
Sectarian provisions in our village constitutions such as those based on narrow idea of “One village one religion/denomination” that are in contravention to human dignity and rights must be discouraged and disowned by one and all,” added Dr. Philip Thanglianmang, President, NECCOD. Moreover, All Manipur Christian Organization (AMCO), Joint Peace Mission Team of Northeast India and Tangkhul Christian Fellowship Bangalore has also appealed for peaceful conclusion and asked the concerned village to generously and benevolently allow for the burial as desired by the deceased family.
A predominantly American Baptist Christian village, Leingangching is a Tangkhul Naga hamlet falling under Sikibung village situated in the Kamjong District of Manipur. In 2009, a group of families made a formal request to the Village Authority of Sikibung village to allow them to embrace the Catholic faith. Their formal request was turned down by the Village Authority on the ground that it is against the constitution of the village which says that Leingangching “shall be a Baptist Christian village.”
Eventually after a couple of ultimatum, on May 3 2010, the villagers attacked the houses of 5 families including the late woman’s family and four other families and were forcefully evicted out of the Leingangching village.
On the other hand, the village Headman claimed that the crisis began way back in 1996. He said that in 2001, Yangmi, the husband of the deceased woman was among those who submitted documents in the office of the Deputy Commissioner allegedly as the Secretary of Leingangching village. Eventually, Yangmi and his associated were banished from the village for breaching the constitution of the village.