Kummanan Rajasekharan, the newly appointed Governor of Mizoram
It all began with the appointment of senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader from Kerala Kummanam Rajasekharan as Governor of Mizoram. Rajasekharan was sworn in as Governor of the state on May 29 and the very next day the Christian organisations raised their voice of concern.
K Rajasekharan was the president of BJP’s Kerala state unit and had close relations with Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) before being appointed as 18th Governor of the north-eastern state of Mizoram that has a majority population of Christians.
According to the ucanews.com, the appointment of Rajasekharan elicited ‘mixed reactions’ from the Christian leaders on the fairness of slotting an ‘ideologically biased politician’ into what is supposed to be an ‘apolitical role’.
Interestingly ucanews.com quoted Bishop Stephen Rotluanga of Aizwal who had attended the oath-taking ceremony along with other Christian leaders, as saying that he did not “see the appointment as pushing any Hindu agenda”.
However, Rajasekharan’s appointment came under criticism from the Christian groups that see this as the BJP’s plan to influencing the state from the election point of view. Mizoram is going to polls in December this year.
“We can’t predict if his appointment will have any say in the outcome of the state election. People here have lived in harmony for years regardless of caste or creed,” Bishop Rotluanga told ucanews.com.
“Everyone must abide by the constitution of India, including the President of this country and all the state governors, so we hope Gov. Rajasekharan will respect that, too,” the prelate said.
But some Christian organizations have expressed their fear that this appointment could compromise their struggle for equal rights for Christians in the region.
Leading the criticism, the People's Representation for Identity and Status of Mizoram (PRISM), a Christian-backed political party, and the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) both issued statements describing the Governor as a “radical Hindu.”
GCIC President Sajan K George told ucanews.com that the appointment “surprised and shocked” him given Rajasekharan’s track record of leading Hindu groups when conflict broke out between them and Christians in the southern state of Kerala in 1983.
In his statement, George appealed to President Ram Nath Kovind to replace Rajasekharan with a more “sober and fair-minded person.”
PRISM’s objections were chiefly based on Rajasekharan’s recent role in Kerala. The group said it was unprecedented to have an active politician as a governor in Mizoram, a tiny state sandwiched between Bangladesh and Myanmar.
Christians represent around 87 percent of the state's 1.1 million people. Another 8 percent are Buddhists, leaving Hindus with just 2.7 percent.
These demographics contrast with the national average which sees India composed of 80 percent Hindus and 2.3 percent Christians.
In Meghalaya and Nagaland, Christians also make up close to 90 percent of their respective populations.
The BJP consolidated its power in the northeast during the elections in March, winning a landslide in Tripura to overturn a quarter-century of communist rule in the state, but the nomination of Rajasekharan is seen as a more controversial development.
According to reports, PRISM has appealed to churches, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and political parties to come together to oust the "radical Hindu leader" from the state.
According to The Mizoram Post, the letter was sent to Mizoram Kohran Hruaitute Committee (MKHC) - a conglomerate of 13 major churches in the state - and political parties and civil organisations. In the letter, they called Kummanam “anti-secular”.
The New Indian Express reported portions from a statement released by PRISM that listed how Kummanam has headed various Hindu organisations in Kerala:
“We all know that Mr. Kummanam Rajasekharan was newly sworn in as the Governor of our state. He is well-known for his anti-secularism that goes against the Indian Constitution. He has been a hardcore member of RSS, Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Hindu Aikya Vedi; well known as being against Christian missionaries and Christians in general. He was the general convener of Nilakkal Action Council and was directly instrumental in the Nilakkal Hindu-Christian conflict of 1983.”
The statement issued by the party’s president Vanlalruata and general secretary Lalrinzuala Chawngthu added that Kummanam was also one of the key accused when the American missionary Joseph Cooper was attacked and injured.
“He was actively involved in attempting to drive out about 50 Christian missionaries they had listed in 2003. He was the person who had asked the then Governor to take action against the then Chief Secretary when Kerala Chief Secretary delivered God’s word in the bicentenary celebration of Malankara Orthodox Church in 2015,” the statement read.
Against this rabid opposition Kummanam Rajasekharan maintained that his role “henceforth will be apolitical”, but PRISM felt that appointing him as the Governor was a political tactic by the BJP.
While some argued that the people of Mizoram were being intolerant to a Hindu leader, some others argued that they were not against Hindus, but against Hindutva.
Some pointed out that Vaikkom Purushottaman, the Kerala leader who previously served as Mizoram Governor, was also a Hindu, as was Nirbhay Sharma who preceded Kummanam.
When TNM reached out to K Surendran, BJP’s general secretary in Kerala, he said that the party does not consider the campaign seeking to ‘oust’ Kummanam Rajasekharan seriously at all.
“This is being carried out by certain fringe elements and not by mainstream political parties. Nowhere have we heard about such a campaign against a Governor; there's no basis for this campaign,” Surendran said.
He added that PRISM’s stand of opposing to Kummanam Rajasekharan because of his RSS roots, does not make sense.
Surendran asked: “Our Prime Minister and President have RSS roots, and now some people are raising objection to Kummanam Rajasekharan’s RSS connection?”