Nagaland Assembly holds discussion on ‘Assam Healing (Prevention of Evil) Practices Bill, 2024’

Kohima: Minister Along pleas fellow legislators not to rush into condemning Bill

BY | Friday, 1 March, 2024

The 14th Nagaland Legislative Assembly held discussion on ‘Assam Healing (Prevention of Evil) Practices Bill, 2024’ on the last day of the Fourth Session in Kohima on Friday. The discussion was initiated by Deputy Chief Minister of Nagaland TR Zeliang who asserted that as Christians, it is the bounden duty of the August House to stand and voice out in support of their faith and beliefs, particularly at a time, when its very existence is being threatened.

Zeliang asserted that Right to Freedom of Religion is enshrined in the Constitution of India and well described in Article 25, 26, 27 and 28, citizens of the nation have the freedom to preach, practice and propagate religion. He stated that 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.

The Deputy CM also claimed that the Bill has put severe strain on not only ‘Secularism’ in the country but is a direct attack on the Christian faith and belief system.

“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”, he added.

Zeliang said 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. And 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, he said.

He added that since Assam State holds the ‘eldest-brother figure’ among the eight States in North East Region and as the Convenor of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), Chief Minister of Assam, Himanta Biswa Sarma should be more accommodative in dealing with different religion in the region. TR Zeliang therefore called 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,” Deputy CM said.

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MLA Sukhato A Sema 

Lok Janshakti Party Legislator Sukhato Sema stated that the Assam Healing (Prevention of Evil) Practices Bill 2024 negates secular ideals enshrined in the preamble of Indian constitution. He added that Secularism in India not only implies existence of diverse religious communities but also separation of religion from state power, therefore if the state infringes on religious freedom of citizens through controversial laws than the fate of secularism is at stake.

India is always proud to paint herself in international arenas as land of “Unity in Diversity”. said we should not forget that the word Diversity here implies religious diversities as well.

Sema added that the remark of CM Sarma on the floor of the house, “… we want to curb evangelist activities to prevent conversion in our state Assam’, is contagious and put the lives of thousands of missionaries and mission fields in Assam in danger”.

The MLA stated that Christianity constitutes an overwhelming 87.93% in Nagaland yet there has been no discrimination against any religious minorities nor has any laws been passed in the NLA which would put religious minorities at stake.

“Labelling Evangelist activities as Black Magic and Evil Practices is contaminated,” Sukhato A Sema said.

The MLA therefore urged the August House to come together as one/opposition less government to do what is right and just for the people of Nagaland.

Kudecho Khamo 

The Advisor for CAWD and Taxes said that it is unfortunate that some of the present day leaders like Himanta Biswa Sarma are encouraging intolerance, vindictive and divisive actions in the name of religion which will make India a dangerous nation to live in if it continues. He added that this infamous bill passed by the Assam Legislative Assembly is a direct violation and infringement of the constitution of India which guarantees the freedom of religion. The Bill which intends to curb evangelism and divine healing through the works of the Holy Spirit is not only an insult to the Christian Community but also against the fundamental principle of democracy and Secularism.

“I strongly appeal to the August House to unanimously reject and condemned the bill and take necessary steps to ensure free and fair practices and believe of all the religious groups as guaranteed by the constitution of India,” he added.

Temjen Imna Along

The Minister Tourism and Higher Education said that it is within the Nagaland legislature’s rights to appeal to the Government of Assam and assert their faith-based practices. He further raised concerns regarding whether this legislation targets a specific minority. Minister Along urged his fellow lawmakers to critically examine the intentions behind the bill and inquire if it unjustly discriminates against any particular religious group. Emphasizing that the misuse of faith has occurred across religious communities, he reminded the House of the importance of maintaining a fair and inclusive approach.

Furthermore, the Minister made a plea to his fellow legislators, urging them not to rush into condemning the bill. Instead, he called for a diplomatic approach, suggesting that they present their concerns and opinions to the Assam Government.

He also took the opportunity to extend his appeal to Christian brothers and sisters residing in Assam, encouraging them to seek guidance from the state’s Chief Minister. Underscoring the need for peace, the Minister emphasized that it is a matter of utmost significance not only for Nagaland but also for the entire nation.

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