Mizoram 2018

Mizoram assembly elections 2018: Small sects wield big influence

Ziona Chana  

A Christian cult with some 2,000 members could play a crucial role in Wednesday’s elections in Mizoram, a State with an average of just 19,204 voters in each of its 40 Assembly seats.

And it is no surprise that the six candidates contesting the Tuikum seat made it a point to visit 73-year-old Ziona Chana, the polygamous patriarch of the Chana cult, at Baktawng village about 100 km south of the State capital Aizawl.

The cult practises a variant of Christianity that puritans do not approve of. But the Mizoram Kohhran Hruaitute Committee, the apex body of churches of various denominations, agrees that Mr. Chana and leaders of some 20 other cults or sects have tremendous influence over their followers.

“I maintain a good relationship with Ziona Chana’s family, and made a few trips to the village during the campaign,” Sangzela Tlau, the Congress candidate for Tuikum, told The Hindu.

The cult leader’s family — he has 38 wives, some 90 children and dozens of grandchildren — alone accounts for more than 200 votes. Baktawng has close to 1,400 voters. With almost 80% of the population being followers of Ziona Chana, his word could swing it for the candidates.

“Every single vote is crucial when you consider the fact that the sitting MLA and Mizo National Front candidate (Lalrinawma) won the Tuikum seat in 2013 by only 14 votes,” Mr. Tlau said, confident about the Congress wresting the seat.

Six candidates are vying for the Tuikum seat. All of them, including the BJP’s Lalnunmawia Chhakchhuak have campaigned in Baktawng.

Further south, in Lunglei district, the Zero Christianity cult consists of some 50 families in Rawlvang and Chhuahthum villages. Members of this cult do not send their children to school for fear of being brainwashed by the devil. Aizawl has the more organised and non-denominational sect called Kohhran Thianghlim with more than 20,000 members. Founded by Lalbiakmawia Sailo in 1984, the sect constructed the Solomon’s Temple that sports the Christian crosses as well as the Judaic Star of David.

“Mizoram does have 87% Christians, but there are many denominations and sects whose leaders may not follow our appeals (on choosing the right party). One cannot rule out the possibility of influencing voters through such leaders,” Rev. B. Sangthanga, executive secretary of the Mizoram Synod, said.

The Synod is an assembly of the clergy belonging to the Presbyterian church, the largest of the Christian denominations in Mizoram. The other churches in the State include the Baptist Church of Mizoram, United Pentecostal Church, the Salvation Army, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Roman Catholic, Lairam Jesus Christ Baptist Church, Independent Church of India, and Evangelical Free Church of India.

Some churches are area or community specific. One of them is the Evangelical Church of Maraland catering to the Mara community in southern Mizoram’s Siaha district. The BJP has roped in the most prominent Mara leader, former Assembly Speaker Hiphei, from the Congress. Mr. Hiphei is the BJP candidate for the Palak seat.

Mizoram votes on November 28. The campaigning for the polls ended on Monday.

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Printable version | Mar 2, 2021 9:14:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/mizoram-assembly-elections-2018/mizoram-elections-2018-small-sects-wield-big-influence/article25600289.ece

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