Burmese Govt trying to ‘discriminate and divide’ Nagas: NNC

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Kohima, Nov. 29: The Naga National Council (NNC) has alleged that the Burmese Government was deliberately trying to ‘discriminate and divide’ the Nagas by forcefully converting the Eastern Nagas to Buddhism.

Those Nagas who get converted to Buddhism are allegedly offered “favorable chance to become government servants and they are promoted to their next higher rank and give more power to exercise in the regions.”

“This policy is presently and currently applying by the Burmese Government and will be continued to eliminate Christianity in Eastern Nagaland or to Burmanize Naga people,” stated NNC member, Thomas, in a lengthy note.

On the other hand, informed Thomas, the methods applied by the Burmese Army for proselytizing Nagas from animism or Christianity to Buddhism are “threatening, intimidation, exemption from tax, forced labor, portering and luring with money, clothes, providing rations.”

The Government of Myanmar’s Ministry for Border Area Ethnic People’s Development, according to the NNC member, has instituted boarding schools for Naga boys and girls in every Township Headquarters (Layshi, Homalin, Khamti, Lahe Townships, and under construction in Namyung and Pangsao Townships) which provide facilities free of charge, including food and lodging.

Such boarding schools are also established at Tanai and Myitkyina in Kachin State where Naga and Kachin students get admission.

“The poor Naga Christian parents are compelled to send their children to the said Boarding schools in the interest of their children’s education. However, their children have no option but to be converted to Buddhism at peremptory order, since these Boarding schools are maintaining by the Government, Buddhists,” stated Thomas.

The Eastern Nagas in Burma, under the Sagaing Division now called Naga Self-Administered Zone (NSAZ), are predominantly Christians, he noted. Christianity was brought to them after the 1950s. After 1980 almost all Eastern Nagas became Christians, informed Thomas.

“Only few such as shamans remained to practice ritual of the tradition. Christianity reached to Eastern Nagaland much later, 137 years after the Christianity brought to Burma by American Baptist Missionary Rev. Adoniram Judson in 1813,” he wrote.

Enumerating on his allegation, the NNC member gave examples of how the Burmese Army, after 1990, began to force people in the Naga Hills to “accept Buddhism at gun point.” For instance, in 1997, in Somra areas, all Christian Churches were locked by Buddhist Monks for months. When the leaders of Tangkhul Baptist Church Association attempted to open the doors, the Burmese Army started firing at them and sought to arrest them all. The 12 Church leaders are said to have been compelled to hide in the jungle for their safety for weeks.

On 29 December 1998, 19 Burmese Army personnel under the Command of Captain Demongso came to Kingphu village and abducted a pastor and tortured him for a week without giving him food. The Kingphu Christian villagers were threatened by burning alive or shoot death if they attempted to enter into the Church.

On April 7, 1999, four Monks and soldiers called Ponyu Nyukyan village Christians, blindfolded them and tortured them for four hours. The youths were tortured hanging them upside down and even ordered to dig their own graves. On 24th April 1999, Ponyu village Baptist Church was destroyed and the Christians were forced to worship Buddha.

On January 20, 1999, the Burmese Army under the Command of Captain Zoolen, entered Houthait village along with Buddhist Monks and arbitrarily stopped the construction of Church building; and tortured the Pastor and Church leaders.

In 2004, the Burmese Army from Infantry Battalion (IB) 52 and 229 forced the Naga Christians to convert to Buddhism at gun point and forced them to build a Buddhist Pagoda.

On December 15, 2005, Rokvay, Pastor of Chawang Nukwuk village was tortured for three days by Burmese Army under the Command of Maj. Khaing Tun Naing and Christians from the said village were forced to convert to Buddhism. Also the same Burmese Army group tortured Winrom, Pastor of Lumnu village in December 2005 and sent him to his native village without allowing him to preach Gospel. And yet another Pastor Rego of Chamkok village Baptist Church was also abducted by the same Burmese Army and kept him in the dungeon for a week. When he was brought out for sun bath, he availed the chance and run for his life. While he was running the Burmese Army fired several rounds upon him, but he escaped without any bullet injury.

In Pangsao areas, Burmese Army from IB 52, under the Command of a Major entered into several villages in January 2005 and seized material kept for construction of Church buildings. Through 2005, such material was consistently picked up by the Burmese Army, with demands of high amounts of Indian Rupees from the villagers.

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