One of the unfavourable outcomes the last election to the Meghalaya State Assembly is the fact that the existence of the Niam Phniang was brought to light.
The group which is also more like a secret movement has a huge impact on the outcome of the election and may be this is one issue that the government of Meghalaya will have to take seriously even after the election.
A certain cult-like religious group which was initially started simply as an opposition to Aadhaar enrolment has spread to every nook and corner of the region.
The group opposed Aadhaar enrolment because they claim that the twelve digits numbers is the mark of the demon, it is unscriptural and it is also against the teaching of the church.
During the election, the groups which can be found now almost everywhere in the Khasi-Jaintia region of the State; even prohibited its followers to cast their votes.
Because this group is finding presence in almost every nook and corner of the Khasi-Jaintia hills region; therefore they also affect voters turn up in the area where they exist and their impact was felt in the area where they are in majority.
A report I received is that there are also some candidates who lost the election by a small margin; who blamed the followers of Niam Phniang for their defeat because the candidate know that they support him and he unfortunately lost the election because they refused to exercise their rights.
Of course, it is the right of the citizens of this country to follow and practice any religion as this is guaranteed by the Constitution, but the problem is that there are certain ways of life that the followers of Niam Phniang practice which are not safe for the followers and even the society at large. Certain practices adopted by the practitioners of this faith group could also be a threat to other and can also be seen as it being against the law of the land.
The followers of Niam Phniang not only refused to vote but it was informed they also refuse to have to do with anything related with the government and there are reports that they even refused to access government public distribution system.
And there are reports that some who were government employees who even resigned from their jobs; because they believe the end is near.
People call them Niam Phniang (oil religion) because if any member of the group fell sick; they refused to visit the doctor or get any medication to get cured.
They would rely only on prayer and provide water and rub and massage oil on the patient to get him or her cured and they would flatly refuse to give the patient any medication.
There are few unsafe practices of this group which can also be considered illegal because it denies a section of its followers their basic or fundamental right as guaranteed under the Constitution of the country.
It is alleged that the followers of this group had stopped sending their kids to schools, and the most affected students are those within class ten.
And that is not all, it was also reported that they have even refused to get their babies vaccinated or they declined to even get their babies administered polio vaccines.
This is a very serious matter which the government should take serious note because it has to do with the rights of the infants which cannot decide for themselves.
Recently there were news reports about the activities of this group in the Ri Bhoi district and Mawkyrwat which was carried by the local media.
Followers of this group were found to congregate in certain jungle in these two districts, but the fact is the followers of this particular group can be found everywhere.
It was also found that the followers of this group are predominantly those from the major protestant church like the Presbyterian and in spite of following this new religious practices; they still attend the protestant churches remain steadfast members of the church.
Of all the election-related stories that was mentioned in this column, others can be treated as trivial; but the story of the followers of Niam Phniang is something that the government should look into carefully.
HH Mohrmen is a freelance writer and environment activist based in Jowai, Meghalaya. He can be reached at [email protected]