Nagaland chief minister TR Zeliang has denied helping the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) push Hinduism in Christian-majority Nagaland through Heraka, an indigenous faith developed by some Naga tribes in the 1920s to counter conversion to Christianity.
Some sections allege that the RSS is patronising Hinduism-like indigenous faiths such as Heraka that has some 2,000 followers in Nagaland where Christians constitute 88% of the population. Assam and Manipur have more Naga adherents of this faith.
The 65-year-old Zeliang was baptised in 1973, three years before he joined active politics. But rivals within his Naga People’s Front (NPF) have accused him of replacing Shurhozelie Liezietsu with a Hindutva agenda in collusion with governor PB Acharya.
The NPF group headed by Shurhozelie even issued a statement saying Acharya helped Zeliang’s “RSS-friendly dispensation” drive the “trishul” into the heartland of Christ.
“My village was 100% Heraka but they began converting to Christianity since the 1960s. We are all devout Christians today. I fail to understand why he (Shurhozelie) branded me as Heraka,” Zeliang told HT at his residence in state capital Kohima.
“According to him (Shurhozelie), the governor has a soft corner for me because I am Heraka, and not because I had absolute majority. I did have an association with Rani Gaidinliu since my college days, but only because she was a freedom fighter. Associating with a freedom fighter recognised by the government is not a sin,” the chief minister said.
The BJP has allegedly been appropriating Gaidinliu, who led a Naga army against the British in the 1930s and propagated Heraka, as an icon of Hindutva.
Zeliang also defended the NPF’s alliance with the BJP. “Our association is older than the pre-poll alliance of 2003. It is a friendship for peace and development, not interfering in religious beliefs. Had that been the case, none of our BJP legislators would have remained Christians,” he said.