It was in the early nineties that a singer composer from Nagaland sang “Election, election go away from Nagaland” in many churches and other church related events across Nagaland. By elections he meant the democratic electoral process that was conducted in the state as part of the democratic process of the country in the form of the Assembly elections and the Lok Sabha elections, especially the former.
It was understandable at that time that elections should evoke such strong emotions since the state had gone through the most controversial of all elections in 1987 and 1989. The use of money added with increased number of violent incidences marked the two elections in just a span of 2 years. It is recalled by many that the darker side of elections started from 1982 in Nagaland especially in some districts. Later by 1993 the armed cadres of the Naga national political groups had also started to involve in the state assembly elections.
The Church in Nagaland had somehow followed the Christian maxim of ‘Render unto Ceasar, what belongs to Ceasar’ even in the case of elections for many years. On one hand the church looked the other way when the various anti social activities were being indulged in during elections. On the other hand it instead condemned the very process of elections, as evident from such protest songs against elections that were sung in the churches. The general understanding that a process foreign to the Nagas was being suddenly imposed upon was also quite prevalent among the people and the Church was also not an exception.
However, unlike other Christian institutions elsewhere, the Church in Nagaland is also shaped according to the unique local setups of village, area or region and tribe. The result of such a system is that the churches also have their own share of intrigues and power plays although the degree of severity will differ from tribe to tribe. Notwithstanding the presence of so-called full time church workers [as referred to the clergy and its staff in Nagaland], the churches in Nagaland are actually run by the community and not the priests! Moreover, impoverished as the villages and the tribes are, the Church is always dependent on the employed government officials, well-to-do contractors and the politicians for its various missions.
Much water has flowed in the last four decades that the church in Nagaland has finally accepted that elections are here to stay. It has taken a bold step not to shy away anymore from condemning the corrupt practices during elections. It has changed its relationship with elections from that of hate to love. Can the Church in Nagaland take another bold step and start leading by example?