Other States

Poll-bound Meghalaya resents visa hurdle for global Baptist body chief

The Garo Baptist Convention had invited Dr. Paul Msiza, the Johannesburg-based president of Baptist World Alliance, for a four-day celebration at Rajasimla from Thursday.

A part of poll-bound Meghalaya is unhappy with New Delhi for denying visa to the Pope equivalent of the Baptists, who was scheduled to attend a four-day celebration of 150 years of Christianity in a small town in the State.

The Garo Baptist Convention had invited Dr. Paul Msiza, the Johannesburg-based president of Baptist World Alliance, for the four-day celebration at Rajasimla from Thursday.

Rajasimla is in Kharkutta assembly segment of Meghalaya’s East Garo Hills district.

“The denial of visa to Dr Paul for the 150th anniversary of Baptism in Rajasimla has caused a great deal of resentment here. This is not the only case; many of our foreign friends have been denied visa in the last three years despite the fact that they have been coming here on earlier occasions,” Reverend Janang R Sangma, general secretary of Garo Baptist Convention, told The Hindu from Tura, the headquarters of western half of Meghalaya comprising Garo Hills.

“The NDA government at the Centre should realise that this is a celebration, not a mission programme and has nothing to do with conversion. Visa for such religious functions should not be denied,” Reverend Sangma said on Wednesday.

Members of a local Baptist association said they have tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in a tweet asking why Dr. Paul’s visa is still being kept pending. They did not receive any feedback till Thursday morning.

Meghalaya Congress leader and Lok Sabha member Vincent Pala said he was not aware of the visa issue. “I will have to check,” he said.

The party’s leaders in Kharkutta constituency – it is a Congress bastion – said this Dr. Paul episode reflects the Bharatiya Janata Party’s attitude towards minorities.

“People are free to make allegations. One has to first find out if the South African Baptist leader’s papers are in order, or if there are reasons related to security of the country,” Meghalaya’s BJP chief Shibun Lyngdoh said.

The BJP, keen on conquering Meghalaya after Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur in the Northeast, has been struggling to explain its position in the Christian-majority State after a series of attacks on churches and Christians, mostly in northern India.

The BJP was somewhat shaken in June last year when two Garo Hills leaders – Bernard Marak and Bachu Marak – resigned during the peak of the beef controversy.

Meghalaya goes to the polls on February 27.

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Printable version | Mar 29, 2020 9:05:20 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/poll-bound-meghalaya-resents-visa-hurdle-for-global-baptist-body-chief/article22687405.ece

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