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Defining religion

 Editor,

In the wake of demand to recognise tribal faith groups-Niamtre, Niam Khasi and Songasareks as a distinct ‘religious minorities’ in the State of Meghalaya, a question is being raised whether Niam Khasi is a ‘religion’ (The Traditional Religion of the Khasis by Fabian Lyngdoh, ST January 7 ). The writer argued that Niam Khasi is not a religion and goes on to state that it is a Niam Kur. The word ‘religion’ is derived from the Latin word religio, used by Romans of the pre-Christian era. Religion in the words of E.B.Tylor can be described as ‘the belief in spiritual beings’. In his famous work Primitive Culture, he argues that all religion share a common root, which is also their essence, through ‘animism’. Animism is the first philosophy of life and nature. It shaped the first human societies, the first religion from which the rest flowed. However, religion can hardly be defined precisely as it admits of the widest diversity of interpretations. It is not necessary to go into greater detail of the various interpretations. But in the backdrop of the issues of ‘religious minority’ for Niamtre, Niam Khasi and Songasareks we need to look at the Supreme Court interpretation of the meaning of the word ‘religion’. The Constitution of India uses but does not define the expression ‘religion’ and ‘religious denomination’ and therefore the Courts have found it necessary to explain the meaning and connotations of the words. In the S.P. Mittal vs Union of India, AIR, 1983 SC 1, the Supreme Court observed, “In the background of the provisions of the Constitution and the light shed by judicial precedent we may say that religion is a matter of faith. It is a system of beliefs or doctrines which are regarded by those who profess that religion as conducive to their spiritual well being. It concerns the conscience, i.e., the spirit of man. It must be capable of expression in word and deed, such as worship or ritual”. Niam Khasi & Niamtre is a religion which is based on the belief that God, U Blei Nongbuh Nongthaw is the Supreme Creator. We believe that our Niam (religion) is God-given, not founded by man and comes to this World by God’s Decree. The three cardinal principles dictated by God are kamai ia ka hok, tipbriew tipblei and tipkur tipkha. They signify right living and practice based on right livelihood; fulfillment of duties toward fellow men in order to reach God and show respect to the members of father’s and mother’s clan. Therefore Ka Niam Khasi stresses equal weight to be given to fellow men in order to attain God realisation. Whether you call Niam Khasi or Niam Kur we deserve protection from likely deprivation of our religious, cultural and educational rights.

Yours etc.,

Dr. Omarlin Kyndiah

Shillong-2

Cooperate not pressurize,

Editor

A brickbat to Sanbeer Singh Ranhotra who wrote the article ‘False Predictions’, (ST Jan 14,2016), In his letter Sanbeer criticised the work of the earthquake predictors. He had also gone to the limit of calling them ‘Environment Terrorists’. I think that the predictors are doing their level best and we should be grateful to them for keeping us informed. Sanbeer has criticised the predictors without studying the depth of their prediction. In their prediction, they did not mention a time-range of the predicted earthquake. They simply said that a major earthquake is going to strike the Himalayan Plains in the ‘near future’. Also, predicting earthquakes is not such an easy job as Sanbeer is thinking. There is a lot of research and study involved in this department. So instead of pressurizing them, we should cooperate and we grateful to them.

Yours etc.,

Pratham Sharma,

Via email

Selective treatment of issues!

Editor,

Apropos the editorial “West Bengal rumblings”(ST Jan 14, 2016), to view only one side of the coin has turned out to be the latest “fashion” in India! Persons seen to be extremely vocal against the forcible expulsion of the Pandits from Kashmir Valley just “fail to see” the barbaric Gujarat pogrom in 2002 and vice versa! In this supremely biased environment, it is absolutely natural that the protesters against Dadri lynching or the cold-blooded murder of the intellectuals opposing the saffronisation of India will remain silent on Kaliachak(Malda district, West Bengal) mayhem. When will we learn to become true human beings and protest against communalism of all hues irrespective of the racial or religious identities of those enemies of humanity? While infringing upon the dietary habits of certain communities and banning consumption of beef are extremely disturbing and unconstitutional, branding some religious groups as “holy cows” and treating them with kid-gloves despite their exercise of muscular might is also not done!

Yours etc.,

Kajal Chatterjee,

Via email

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