TODAY -

Assam Healing (Prevention Of Evil) Practises Bill : T.R Zeliang speech
- March 01, 2024 : Government of Nagaland -

*



SPEECH OF SH. T.R ZELIANG, HON’BLE DY. CHIEF MINISTER (P&T,NH) ON MATTER PERTAINING TO ASSAM HEALING (PREVENTION OF EVIL) PRACTISES BILL, 2024 DISCUSSED ON MARCH 1, 2024 UNDER RULE 50 DURING THE 4TH SESSION OF THE 14TH NLA.

1. Hon’ble Speaker Sir, thank you for giving me the opportunity to participate in yet another crucial discussion pertaining to ‘Assam Healing (Prevention of Evil) Practises Bill, 2024’ which has come up for discussion today under Rule-50. We have had a productive deliberation on the ‘Fencing of Indo-Myanmar Border Issue’ just yesterday with the participating Hon’ble Members calling upon this august House to pass a resolution of opposition against the abrogation of Free Movement Regime (FMR) and to convey the same to the Government of India for reconsideration of its decision. Similarly, today’s subject of discussion admitted under the same Rule-50 of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Nagaland Legislative Assembly is equally significant for discussion in this august House.

2. Speaker Sir, all the 60 Hon’ble Members in this august House are Christians and as Christians, it is our bounden duty to stand and voice out in support of our faith and beliefs, particularly at a time, when its very existence is being threatened. We are free to preach, practice and propagate Christianity not because we live in a Christian-majority State but because we are citizens of this great Nation, India; and this great Nation guarantees us this freedom under the Right to Freedom of Religion enshrined in the Constitution of India and well described in Article 25, 26, 27 and 28. Likewise, our Christian brothers and sisters in Assam State or elsewhere in the Country are free to preach, practice and propagate Christianity because, as equals, they also enjoy this freedom guaranteed by the Constitution of India.

3. Speaker Sir, the objective of Right to Freedom of Religion is to sustain the principle of Secularism in India. However, with the passing of the Assam Healing (Prevention of Evil) Practises Bill 2024, the very essence of Secularism has been destroyed in the State of Assam under the false pretext of eradicating non-scientific healing practices. I do not wish to consume the valuable time of this august House by going into the theoretical part of the Bill since the same has already been highlighted by several speakers before me. Nonetheless, I wish to bring to light before this august House, how Secularism is being targeted by religious zealots every passing day with the latest thrashing of Secularism being the introduction of the Assam Healing (Prevention of Evil) Practises Bill 2024 which has deeply hurt the sentiments of Christians in particular.

4. The Preamble of the Indian Constitution begins with the words -“We, the people of India having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC.” These words defines our Country as a Nation because the Preamble to the Constitution is a reflection of the core constitutional values that embodies the Constitution. The word ‘Secular’ reinforces the idea of a Secular State, treating all religions equally and maintaining neutrality. However, in the case of the present subject in discussion, i.e. Assam Healing (Prevention of Evil) Practises Bill, 2024, Indian Secularism has come under severe strain and for Christians in particular, it can only be seen as a direct attack on our faith and belief system.

5. In particular, North-east India is unique because of the presence of many religions co-existing side by side which showcases the richness of unity in diversity in the region. We have different religions in North-East India and we have coexisted peacefully practicing our respective rites and rituals. For instance, the prohibition of Cow-slaughter in mainland India was made mainly out of respect for the religious sentiments of the Hindus as it is well known that Cow has great religious significance for the Hindus. In the case of Christians and Muslims in North-East India, it is normal to slaughter a Cow during Christmas or Bakr-Id Celebration. In our own Commercial City of Dimapur, Hindus celebrate Deepavali and Durga Puja with much pomp and gaiety while Muslims celebrate Bakr-Id with equal liveliness and display of Muslim brotherhood. Not to mention of passing a Bill in the Nagaland Legislative Assembly to prohibit such rites and practices of minority Hindus and Muslims in a Christian majority State like Nagaland, when did the Nagaland State Government even oppose such religious practices? I am not saying that the Christian Nagas have committed no wrong-doings in the eyes of God and before mankind. What I am try to portray here is the fact that ~ with clean conscience, we have allowed minority religious communities in Nagaland to preach, practice and propagate their religions as guaranteed to them by the Constitution of India.

6. Speaker Sir, the Assam Healing (Prevention of Evil) Practises Bill, 2024’ which reportedly claims to ‘bring social awakening in the Society’ prohibits healing crusades or healing practice conducted by Christian missionaries in Assam which is against the principle of Secularism provided in the Constitution of our Country. Christian Healing is a compassionate response to human sufferings across religious divide irrespective of religious affiliations and to label it as magical healing is an insult to the spiritual dimensions of Christian faith and life. As citizens of a Secular and Democratic Nation, we must recognize that invoking divine blessings is intrinsic to religious worship ~ be it a Temple, Mosque, Gurudwara or a Church. For instance, as Hinduism prescribes rituals and observances, ceremonies and modes of worship which are regarded as integral part of Hindu religion; so also Christianity prescribes believers to pray and to heal the sick and ailing in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Healing and deliverance is a part of the Ministry of Jesus Christ and in Christian belief, it is Jesus Christ who gives the Power and Authority to his disciples to do the same. Let us take another example - the wearing and carrying of Kirpans by Sikhs is deemed to be included in the profession of the Sikh religion and similarly, among the Christian community, healing in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ is part and parcel of Christian life. Healing is a divine blessing which comes through the faith and belief of an individual and no individual or group can forcefully be healed. As Christians, it is our religious right to manage this religious affair which is our fundamental right protected by the Constitution.

7. Speaker Sir, among the Christians, Healing Crusade is a common practice. This is done by God’s gifted divine healing power and this healing practice is not related to any kind of magic power commonly practiced by magicians or witchcraft practitioners. In Healing Crusades, no individual or group is coerced or forced to join but the decision to partake in such events, entirely depends on an individual’s faith and belief. For example- In Nagaland, Hindu Sadhus and Fortune-Tellers moving around in their religious vestments approaching individuals to convince them by offering Precious Stones, Magic Rings or Tabis etc. for one’s long live and good luck. This is never prohibited by the State Government or any Christian Organisation but we leave it to an individual’s faith and belief to accept or to avoid.

8. Speaker Sir, I also want to take this opportunity utilising this platform to voice out against the various religious intolerances and persecutions of Christians going on in this Country. There have been several cases of physical abuse, torture, harassment and discriminations of Christians across various parts of the Country but to narrate all such cases would consume too much time. However, since the subject of discussion concerns Assam State, I wish to highlight few incidents in Assam which have caught my attention lately. On February 3, two citizens of the United States of America (USA) namely Sh. John Matthew Boone and Sh. Michael James were detained in Tezpur, under Assam’s Sonitpur District, on charges of violating Tourist visa norms by allegedly being involved in preaching Christianity. On February 7, one Sh. Satya Ranjan Borah, so-called President of a radical Hindu group in Assam called the Kutumba Suraksha Parishad (KSP), announced that he would give Missionary Schools in Assam 15 days to get rid of photos and statues of Jesus Christ and Mary, Crosses, Churches on Campus. He also demanded that elements of Christianity be removed from morning prayers and that no teachers be dressed in Christian vestments. In yet another incident of religious intolerance, a Christian Nun, Sister Rosemary, who served at St. John’s Parish in Siju, Meghalaya faced harassment while she was travelling from Dudhnoi to Goalpara on February 17 in Assam State. The list goes on Speaker Sir, but I will not dwell further on the various incidents in order to save time. I only wish to bring home the point that we neither want our religious practises to be destroyed nor want our faith to be challenged and any move to destroy our religious practises is against the very concept of Secularism rooted in the Preamble of the Indian Constitution.

9. Speaker Sir, the Indian Constitution bestows the right on a religious denomination or organization to enjoy complete autonomy in matter of deciding as to what rites and ceremonies are essential according to the tenets of the religion they hold. No outside authority has any jurisdiction to interfere with their decision in such matters. However, with the subject in discussion, Assam Government has violated this right guaranteed to the Citizens of India because the Assam Healing (Prevention of Evil) Practises Bill, 2024 has taken the away the right of administration from the hands of the Christians Prayer and Healing Warriors altogether and has vested it with the State actors which amounts to violation of the right guaranteed under the Indian Constitution. Since Assam State holds the eldest-brother figure among the 8 States in North East Region and also present Chief Minister of Assam, Sh. Hemanta Biwa Sarmaji being the Convenor of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), the State of Assam should be more accommodative in dealing with different religion in the region. Whether one likes it or not, we are all living together with different religious group of people in every State where some groups are minority in population. However, majority community should not adopt the policy of discrimination on the right of minority groups.

10. Speaker Sir, having mentioned all these facts and circumstances, I take this opportunity and this platform to call upon the Government of Assam to revoke and abolish the Assam Healing (Prevention of Evil) Practises Bill, 2024. More importantly, I suggest that we convey the feeling of this august house to the Assam Legislative Assembly of our opposition to the said Bill which is a direct challenge to the principle of Secularism in India. Thank you for the time.

Issued by:
Office of the Dy.CM (P&T, NH)
Government of Nagaland.


* This info was provided by Office of the Dy. CM (P&T, NH) who can be contacted at winginformationpublicity(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on 04 March 2024 .



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