Aizawl/Lungeli, Nov 9: A prominent Christian leader and a former Minister in Mizoram, Rev H Lalruata is now a BJP candidate from Lunglei East and has given ‘political legitimacy’ to the saffron party - known for its proximity to the pro-Hindu group RSS and at times alleged to be 'anti-Christian'.
Of all factors, he suggests Prime Minister Narendra Modi's pro-Israeli tilt is one reason that had led him to join the BJP fold. "I joined the BJP through online," Rev Lalruata told UNI adding he was impressed by PM Modi's development plank and especially by his "close friendship with the US and Israel and a strong bond with Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu".
The former Pentecostal Pastor is not the only one who is enthusiastic about Modi's pro-United States and pro-Israeli foreign policy. "We believe Prime Minister Modi is doing a good job by improving ties with Israel. It is good for Christians and Mizo-Jews like me," said 35-year-old Mary Winchester Zolut.
BJP leader H. Lalruata and others say ethnic Mizo people were also "happy" to see PM Modi's government moving away from the foreign policy of Congress governments that was more closer to communists Russia and the erstwhile Soviet Union. "Earlier, the governments led by Congress and other parties had distanced India from the U.S and Israel. But, Mr Modi is improving India-Israel relations. This bodes well for Christians," says another Mizo youth R Z Thangzuala, 28.
A substantial number of Mizo-Jews claim to be 'Bnei Menashe (sons of Menasseh)' or descendants of a lost tribe of Israel. Infact, the number of these people runs into a few thousands. This section of Mizo people who follow Judaism seem to endorse H Lalruata's support for the BJP based on PM Modi's friendship with his Israeli counterpart Netanyahu.
Locals here recall with much fondness that in July 2017, Mr Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel, 25 years after bilateral ties between India and Israel were established in 1992. Many Mizo Christians do agree it was due to Government's pro-Palestine stance for decades that Indian Christians could not go to Israel, even with diplomatic passports.
“I go to Synagogue almost daily,” said Mary Winchester Zoluti and maintains that the emergence of BJP’s neo-Israel friendly politics would augur well for someone like her. There are few more ‘Mizo-Jewish’ like her who seem to endorse the Modi-Netanyahu friendship.
However, a 55-year-old native entrepreneur – on the condition of anonymity – said “It will not be proper to link some politicians or a Christian leader joining BJP with the emotive Mizo-Jewish links. It is more about faith while politics is all about power game”.
Local sources say there are two Synagogues in Mizoram-capital Aizawl itself and there are also some in smaller townships and hamlets like Verante, Kolasib, Sialhok, Bhairavi, Lunglei and Kolkul.
“Initially, it was a theory. When we said we believe in being mythical ‘Lost Tribe’ of Israel, people laughed around. But this theory was given a sort of authenticity in April 2005 when the Sephardi Chief Rabbinate of Israel, Shlomo Amar, ‘recognized’ us as the descendants of the ancient Israelites or Bnei Menashe," said one of them.
“On the face value, all are same and there is no discrimination. But we do face discrimination in terms of political legitimacy and even marriage,” says another woman in Lunglei.
A few Mizo-Jewish whom one interacted with declined to share details of their personal life merely adding that in many cases ‘marriages have been broken’ and ironically – but not surprisingly – in most cases women are victimized more.
But the community is also getting organised in Mizoram slowly and locals have set up even the Jerusalem Market in small hubs such as Mualthan North in South-Central part of Mizoram.
Ms Zoluti avers how much of BJP’s politics in Mizoram would be helped by the Mizo-Jewish remains to be seen.
However, she is firm about one thing: “We are proud of the socio-religious culture....going to Synagogue and so on; and will definitely preserve the same”.
In the past, Naga leaders like Thomas Ngullie, a former Minister in the Christian-dominated state, had lauded Prime Minister Modi's July 4-6 (2017) visit to Israel.
Another Naga leader and a former Rajya Sabha MP Khyamo Lotha appreciated PM Modi acknowledging Jerusalem as a place of Christian pilgrimage.
The veteran politician has said he was the ‘first’ to stress the need for improved Indo-Israel relations as far back as 1991 – when the Congress leader P V Narasimha Rao was the country’s Prime Minister. (UNI)