Monday, April 15, 2024

Easter celebrations in the backdrop of elections


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By Albert Thyrniang

Easter was celebrated on the last day of the financial year. Hymns of ‘We rejoice because Jesus has risen from the dead. He has overcome death, Satan, his temptations and sin. We too will rise again with Christ,’ echoed in every church. But what does ‘Christ has risen,’ mean? What bearing does the defeat of Christ over sin and death have on his followers? When we say, ‘We too will rise again with Christ’ does it mean we will rise again only after our deaths? We start with events leading to Calvary.
Money kills
Judas Iscariot sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Today’s value is about Rs 25,000. The betrayer led Jewish authorities to Christ in Gethsemane. Realizing his foolishness the ‘finance in charge’ attempted to return the ‘blood money’ to the chief priests and later hanged himself. The love for money caused Judas’s own demise and contributed to Christ’s death.
Christians in India celebrated Easter against the backdrop of the upcoming general elections. The present government boasts of massive development in the last ten years, of having met the aspiration of young Indians and of having modernised the country. The merits of the claims are debatable. The ‘Acche Din’ has not arrived. Modi’s nine-year reign is dubbed ‘disastrous’ by critics. Sceptics say there is hardly any smart city, no ideal village, no district where every house has a toilet, no district where new hospitals are running well, no sector where one lakh jobs were provided and so on. Regardless, it is undeniable that more development happened. The point is, the obsession for economic progress has also caused certain ‘deaths.’ Many a citizen feels that democracy is in real danger. Another term for Narendra Modi, with the same or a greater majority could end the India we know and love. The Constitution could be changed. Secularism could be deleted. India could become a Hindu state. Hence there are other ideals more important than economic prosperity. Riches are meaningless if democratic rights are absent and pluralism is denied. It is commendable that some Christian leaders are openly speaking up against bringing back the Hindutva forces to power.
The BJP possesses unmatched resources. It is possible that MLAs from other parties in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Manipur and other states were paid crores to join the Party. The democratic process was subverted by money power. The misuse of the ED and other law enforcing agencies made opponents run to the ruling dispensation. Should we still support a party that pays scant respect for the will of the people under the pretext of economic welfare?
The electoral bond is the biggest scam in independent India. The cash of the BJP alone is almost equal to that of the combined opposition. With the scheme being declared unconstitutional quid pro quo links will be established. This enormous wealth could have been used to ‘kill’ rivals and gain undue advantage. However, this humongous asset could lead to electoral ‘death’ of the ruling party.
In our state we talk of political parties and candidates purchasing voters during elections. This easy money has killed our conscience. Our ‘inherent value’ a ‘riew tip briew tip Blei’ race (a God fearing race) and ‘kamai da ka hok’ (earn through honest means) is supressed. The ‘Christian teaching’ of honesty is forgotten. The ‘Christian’ state feels no guilt over sin. Judas still has lots of fans, among them are the ‘closer’ disciples who readily grab the ‘election money’.
Rules flouted
After his arrest Jesus faced six trials – three religious and three civil. First, he was taken to the former high priest called Annas, then to the current high priest Caiaphas and then to Sanhedrin, the Jewish court. The charge was blasphemy. The decision was death. The trials had serious illegalities. The religious leaders flouted the rules they themselves enacted. Among other practices, no one was to be judged during the festive days, no accused was to be tried at night and each member of the court had to vote individually to convict or acquit someone. Jesus was tried before and after midnight. The trial took place during the feast of the Passover at lightning speed and Jesus was convicted by public acclaims. Throughout the trials Jesus was given no legal representation though the rules said otherwise.
Since the Jews had no authority to execute Jesus, he was taken to Pilate. The charge was changed from blasphemy to treason. The Roman governor in Judea found Jesus not guilty. Pilate sent Jesus to Herod – the tetrarch (ruler of a minor principality) of Galilee since Jesus was from there. Found innocent Jesus was re-despatched to Pilate. For the second time Pilate found that Jesus committed no crime. But since the crowd was enraged they persistently shouted, ‘crucify him’. To Pilate a riot was imminent. To satisfy the mob Pilate ordered Jesus to be flogged. Roman flogging was to extract flesh from the body. However, the crowd wanted nothing less than death by crucifixion. Pilate made a last attempt to save Jesus. He proposed a hard-core criminal, Barabbas to be crucified in place of Jesus. Astonishingly the blood thirsty mob, filled with hatred for Jesus, preferred to free Barabbas. Pilate washed his hands off the matter and handed Jesus over to the Jewish authorities.
Flouting of rules by lawmakers and custodians of the law happens even today. Everyday we see convoys bypassing traffic. Eager policeman wave their flags signaling that everyone else should literally make way for their bosses. At times these escorts shout at drivers and passers-by for being ‘slow’ at clearing the path. Politicians inside SUVs must be enjoying the privileged status. VVIPs often stop traffic for hours. Even ambulances with patients are not allowed to proceed to hospitals. Deaths have occurred in ambulances due to VVIP movements.
Pilate signed Jesus’ death sentence purely on popular demand. The trial was a mockery. Though innocent, Jesus was condemned to die. Passion and hatred decided the outcome. To save himself Pilate blamed the crowd. Even today we come across court judgments being influenced by charged-up public opinion. Worse, passion rules the roost. The unwarranted killings in Ichamati the day before Good Friday is due to irrational hatred for others. Cases of lynching on suspicion of being witches (menshohnoh) are regular here. Ugly scenes of mob lynching suspected criminals are also quite common. Homicides are committed based on passions. Individuals are not even given the chance to defend themselves. Shockingly, a large section of the public seems to be okay with such cold- blooded murders. Apart from the BJP no party has condemned the Ichamati killings.
Political decisions are also made under popular pressure. In December 2019 the whole Legislative Assembly succumbed to an emotional public call and adopted the resolution to implement ILP in the state. Till date the issue hangs fire. The previous year, the resolution for inclusion of Khasi and Garo languages in the 8th schedule was also passed without doing the ground work for one of the two. The fear of displeasing a community led to the thoughtless action. Where is the logic that both the languages must get recognition at the same time? And then an MP is rumoured to have objected because only one language is ahead!
Back to the very first paragraph! Resurrection is not only in the next world. Easter is for the living. It is meaningful only if we make efforts to defeat the ‘deaths’ of the here and now. According to statistics Christians drink the most (28%). All others are behind. Studies also show that tribals drink more than non-tribals. Alcohol consumption cause chronic diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver, kidney disorder and different types of cancers. A WHO report says Alcohol kills 2.6 lakh Indians every year. World-wide there are about 2.0 million premature deaths and 117.2 million become disabled annually due to alcohol use.
The second war is against tobacco. Smoking leads to cancer, heart diseases, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, tuberculosis and other illnesses. Nearly 1.35 million deaths occur every year in India due to tobacco use. Annually, Easter celebrants sing, pray and chant ‘Christ has risen, Christ has defeated death and sin, we are also risen and we are a new people.’ But we continue to drink, smoke and use tobacco. Thousands fall sick. Thousands go to Vellore and other hospitals for treatment. Many of them smoke and consume tobacco. Crores are spent. Liquor and tobacco have snatched away innumerable lives and impoverished countless households.
Destruction of the environment is another ‘death’. Images of air, water and soil pollution, the indiscriminate deforestation and earth cutting are daily images before us but who cares? The evils of plastic use needs emphasis. The principle of reduce, reuse, recycle has to be practised. Plastics takes anywhere between five years to 600 years to decompose. An ‘exhibition’ of the above three ‘deaths was created in the church compound. The video of the model was shared with local WhatsApp groups.
We have to rise up from these ‘deaths’. Easter is alive and relevant.


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