ARUNACHAL PRADESH in north east region of the country is a home to 20 major and about 100 sub tribes. They have been living peacefully for centuries. But, they are now in perpetual fear, particularly after the Chinese aggression of 1962, of extinction of their distinct culture and tribal faiths at the hands of Christian missionaries. In fact, this oasis of peace in the turbulent frontier region has also come under the impact of feverish proselytisation design. Although there was not a single Christian in 1951, their number rose to 1438 in 1961, 2,593 in 1971 and in 2001, the trend is quite alarming.
This is clear from the census report of 2001. Of the total population of 10,97,968, 7,05,158 are schedule tribes, constituting 64.2 per cent of total population. Of the total population of ST, 47.2 per cent has been returned as “other religion followers”, besides 26.5 per cent of STs are Christians, 13.1 per cent Hindus and 11.7 per cent Buddhists. Sizeable population among Adi, Nishi, Nocte and Wancho have been converted to Christianity. Khampti, Monpa, Momba, Sherdukpen and Singpho are mostly followers of Buddhism.
Foreseeing the alarming trend of conversion activities of the missionaries, it is to be recalled, all the tribal organisations started mass movement against it and ultimately the territorial Assembly passed the Arunachal Pradesh Freedom of Indigenous Faith Bill 1978 providing legal and constitutional protection from conversion to other faiths alien to Arunachal Pradesh, “by force, fraud, inducement and allurement.”
But despite the Act and the inner line restrictions on movement of non-tribals, missionaries could make considerable headway in bringing a sizeable number of tribals into Christian fold, particularly in Lohit and Subansiri district. Arunachalees still recall with gratitude the fold stand taken by Lt. Governor K A A Raja and the then Chief Minister Prem Khandu Thangon for the enactment of the Religious Freedom Bill in the face of stiff opposition by the Christian political leaders of Meghalaya and Nagaland and the influential ‘Shillong Churches Committee’.
The dreaded terrorist outfit National Socialist Council of Nagaland led by Isac Chish Swu, chairman, and Thuingalem Muivah, general secretary, better known as NSCN (IM) and regarded as the fountain-head of insurgency in north east region, which is claiming and campaigning for the inclusion of Naga inhabited areas of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh in greater Nagaland, has hidden its design to convert the people of these contiguous areas into Christianity.
After Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh is now the soft target of the missionaries with enormous funds from Uncle Sam’s country. It was not long ago that a group of 11 American and Canadian missionaries in the name of four-day harvest and healing festival near Itanagar induced the innocent people of the state for religious conversion. They not only camouflaged their identity but also their intent and purpose, besides four if them could make their entry in the state on the strengthen of two visas and two passports.
The Buddhists monks said that in the last days, of May 22 NSCN (IM) rebels armed with AK 47 and SLRs warned the villagers to convert to Christianity by June 4 or else face dire consequences. They have identified the militant commander leader Mitchel Lingam Tangkhul. Both the Buddhists monks have drawn the attention of the government, security forces and international Buddhists Forum towards the NSCN (IM) threat.
He threatened them to embrace Christianity and cautioned them not to celebrate any festival in glory of Buddha. The role of catholic priests of Miao Bishop’s is also reported by the Forum.