Social identity of relations between Hindu organisations and Zeliangrong religions
There is a growing but under-researched phenomenon of relationship between Hindu organisations and tribal religions in the context of Manipur. Notwithstanding the language barriers and incompatible cultural features, Hindu organisations and Zeliangrong religious groups maintain a close relationship. Despite their enduring relationship, Zeliangrong religious groups are seen to be continuing with their belief systems and even growing stronger. Their association with the dominant and sometimes rigid Hinduism has not affected their religion and culture.
Hindu religion is seen to be growing in relevance and competence in the collective efforts towards reinvigoration and sustenance of the scathingly attacked tribal religions which continue to be condemned as heathenism, animism and Satan worship by many Christians. The strong discriminatory nature of castes of Hinduism has never been a hindrance in achieving a harmonious relation between Hindu organisations and tribal religions in Manipur.
Hindus and the tribal people collectively identify themselves as adherents of Sanatan Dharma or ancient and eternal religion. Conventionally, the terms ‘Hindu’ and ‘Hinduism’ are associated with Hinduism as religion. However, some tribal leaders—with not even a tinge of doubt—use Hinduism as ‘a way of life’ and even call themselves as ‘Hindus’ in the sense of national identity. A Zeliangrong leader, N.C. Zeliang stated, ‘Hinduism is very clearly defined in our constitution. Those who are not Christian and Muslim, they all fall under the category of Hindu. Hindu is not the way of worship. It is the nationality of India. It is a way of life. One should not be confused about it. Hinduism is free from way of worship, the habit of foods and customary dresses. Any religion, cult or faith originated from the soil of India, they all fall under the category of Hindu’ [sic] (Zeliangrong Heraka Association, 2000, p. 40). Such conceptions of Hinduism and Hindu promote close co-ordination and co-operation between Hindu organizations along with Hinduism and several tribal religions while distancing from Christianity, considered to be essentially foreign and threat to the existence of the tribal religions because of its condemnatory and proselytizing natures.
The relation between Hindu organisations and Zeliangrong religions is informal, and the entities are independent of each other on religious affairs. The social identity processes enhance their proximity and build a non-threatening collaboration despite their religious differences. Accepting Hinduism as an indigenous element of India with a collective sense of belonging to Hindu identity, and othering Christianity as a foreign element underscores the social categorisation of social identity theory. The comparison with Christianity primarily because of its proselytising role underscores the comparison process of social identity theory.
The study aims to fulfill the following objectives:
1. To understand the basic tenets of Zeliangrong religions.
2. To study the various activities of Hindu organisations.
3. To understand the nature of the relationship between Hindu organisations and Zeliangrong religions.
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