Inside Vidya Bharati’s Donyi Polo Vidya Niketan, the Donyi Polo symbol of sun. Snigdhendu Bhattacharya

Tribes in states like Nagaland which used to practice indigenous animist religions of Heraka, Zeliangrong and Arunachal Pradesh, who used to practice religions like Dony-Polo, Amik Matai, Rangfrah found these pushed underground with the advent of Christianity which came with the advent of all stripes of the missionary from the West.

Today, Nagaland is the largest Baptist state in the world with over 90 per cent population practising Christianity. Similarly, with 30.26 per cent of the population practising one or other types of Christianity, Christianity became the dominant religion even in the farthest east state of Arunachal Pradesh.

However, with the increasing presence of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a new religious push is being seen in these states — that of Hindutva. The interesting fact is that this is not being done as directly as expected, as the connecting religion between NE India and the rest of India. It is being done by incorporating elements of Hinduism into the indigenous religions of these states and by popularising a narrative that all indigenous religions fall under the Sanatani dharma.

After becoming the Prime Minister in 2014, in his first visit to Nagaland, in a move with significant geo-political implications, Narendra Modi met with the leaders of an indigenous religious movement, the Zeliangrong Heraka Association. The leaders demanded from the Prime Minister that their leader, Rani Gaidinliu, who was against Christian proselytisation must be honoured by imprinting her image on coins, setting up a central university in her name in Nagaland with a department dedicated to the promulgation of the “eternal religion and eternal culture of Nagas”. Notably, Rani Gaidinliu was a freedom fighter and also opposed the Naga National Council, an organization of Christian Naga leaders who led a movement for a ‘separate Nagalim’, (separate Naga nation) out of India.

A year later, in 2015, Gaidinliu’s birth centenary was celebrated all over the country, where in many parts her name was unheard of before.  A special event held in New Delhi with the Prime Minister, and the Finance and Home Ministers in attendance too. This development is seen as an attempt to sideline the Christian narrative of nationalism by promoting a non-Christian leader who fought for India’s independence which goes well with the concept of Akhand Bharat.

This story was originally published in . Read the full story here