The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Christian Conversions cause Tension in Manipur

March 21, 2005 9:24:32 AM IST

The Manipur Valley is dominated by the Meitei who follow the ancient Meitei or Sanamahi religion, besides the Hindu religion. The Meitei converted into Hindusim in the first half of the 18th century. A major chunk of the population in the valley is occupied by a Muslim community identified as Pangals. There are over 64 villages occupied by the Kabui Nagas most of whom follow traditional religion. The hills surrounding Manipur are dominated by the Kuki and the Nagas who are mostly Christians.

The major religious crisis is in the Manipur Valley where there are large numbers of Meitei and Kabui Christians converts. The dilemma of the new converts lies in their inability to freely carry out their religious activities. The basic problem lies in the fact that they live among the Hindus and the Kabui tribals in closely knitted villages and society. The Manipuri Hindus cremate when someone dies, a practice which Christian converts say must change. For every locality there is a specified cremation ground for the Manipuri Hindus throughout the state. As some families have converted into Christianity they require cemetry so the funeral service can be carried out as per the Christian rites. More and more space is required for the cemetry. In the tight closely knitted villages the villagers are unable to accept the construction of Churches and cemetry. The major conflicts in Manipur valley is over the funeral services.

During the last few years about eight incidents have been reported related to conflicts between new converts and their immediate neighbourhood. Out of eight cases , seven are directly linked to funeral services. In two villages of Manipur that is Lamding, Thoubal district the area of the present Chief Minister and Phumlou, Imphal West the locals disallowed burying of those who died. At Phumlou, the dead bodies were exhumed several times. After intervention from the government the dead bodies were buried again however the bodies were even taken out after three months.

The Hindus on the other hand are apprehensive that their social and cultural activities would be affected. Some say that in Kwatha a border village in Chandel district in the hill areas of Manipur the Meitei have converted into Christianity. The older people follow their traditional religion and the new generations follow Christianity.

The youths said they have been informed that Christianity is the religion of the developed people, the new religion for the advanced societies. The older people say their traditional ethnic rites and rituals are affected as the younger generations do not take part in the social, religious and cultural activities which they have been practicising for hundred of years. The new religion forbid the youths from taking part in all activities. Even the ancient books maintained by the Manipuris are burnt they said.


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