Nagaland BJP immerses Vajpayee’s ashes secretly

Guwahati: After protests by the churches and different tribal bodies, the Nagaland unit of the BJP on Monday restricted the programme to immerse the ashes of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to a secret one in the Christian-dominated state.

Protests poured in from different church bodies and tribal Hohos (apex bodies) after the saffron party unit announced that it would immerse the ashes of the former Prime Minister in Doyang river at Wokha through massive programme.

While the Nagaland unit of the BJP justified the immersion programme not as a religious issue but a national one considering the popularity of the leader, the opposition parties and tribal bodies slammed the move on the ground that immersion of ashes was neither a part of Naga culture nor a religious belief in Naga society.

The Congress in Nagaland also slammed the move to immerse the ashes of Vajpayee as a gimmick to gain political mileage.

Nagaland BJP president Temjen Imna Along Longkumer, however, immersed the ashes of the veteran leader at a small river in Dimapur secretly, instead of immersing those in Doyang river in Wokha as announced and said that the ritual was completed as planned.

“People are making a issue out of nothing. It is not a religious issue but a national issue as Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a icon. As Christians also we all prayed. However, the priests did what they had to do and we took part as we thought it to be right,” Longkumer said after completion of the ritual on Monday.

Earlier, the Lotha Hoho, the apex body of Lotha tribe opposed the move and said that immersion of the ashes was neither a cultural practice nor a religious belief in Nagaland and opined that the distinct culture of the Nagas should not be diluted.

“The church along with the rest of the country also mourned the death of the former prime minister. However in a Christian-dominated state, if the state BJP president was eager to lower the dignity of his professed faith in undertaking a ritual of another religion, all because of being a BJP, then it would be a very unwise and unwarranted move,” said general secretary of the Nagland Baptist Church Council (NBCC) Rev. Dr. Zelhou Keyho.