~ Wati Longchar (Serampore)
“Review of NLTP Act: Yes or No” was the motion for debate in the “Rethinking Socially” group. Women, children, and the elderly were unable to roam freely at night in the 1980s. Robbery and drunkenness started to pose a threat to peaceful coexistence. Dropouts, divorce, domestic violence, and premature death plagued many families. Dr. Menji Jamir further adds, “To move around being drunk in towns became a fashion.” After the NLTP Act, Dr. Eyingbeni Humtsoe-Nienu questions, “Has alcohol abuse reduced? Has the divorce rate decreased? Has wife battering/domestic violence stopped? Except for revenue loss, what else has changed for the better in the last 30 years?” Unfortunately, NLTP could not curb the menace of alcoholism. Instead of curving, Dr. Imkongmeren Longchar says that “Corruption, syndicate suppliers, adulteration, and spurious drinking have killed more young people prematurely.” Both the government and the churches appear content with the sporadic seizing and destroying of liquor. However, due to tremendous demand, illegal businesses continue to thrive. Dr. Longchar further writes, “Assam border towns and villages near Nagaland have multiple Wine and Alcohol shops both licensed, or none opened in disproportionate to the existing population of the towns.” We must accept that we have failed as a group. It is not time for us to blame each other but act together and discern the best for the future of Naga society.
Referring to Naga’s popular view on the relationship between sin, salvation, and alcohol, the group was of the opinion that salvation comes from God, which requires doing the will of God. It is only by doing the will of God that one attains salvation. The biblical teaching is very clear on the abuse of alcohol. “Abuse of alcohol ruins life, family, children and kills oneself,” says Ms. Seno Tsuhah. It is not only the Bible, but “All scriptures condemned the abuse of alcohol”, says Mary Chang. Dr. ZK Pahrü points out that “Bible values life more than revenue and anything else.” Has NLTPA protected life? Dr. Imlirenla Walling opines that “Nagas have been debating this subject for more than 30 years, and it is high time for it to be reviewed.” Therefore, people and institutions, including the church, should welcome the proposal for review since it is no longer effective and applicable in today’s context. Dr. Imkongmeren Longchar further elaborated that “Prohibition could be good or bad. It is entirely determined by people’s attitudes and mindsets toward alcohol usage.”
Referring to whether church leaders should participate in the protest movement, Dr. Wati Longchar says, “It is wrong to say that the church’s duty is spiritual/soul-winning alone. The Bible never teaches that. The church’s calling is a holistic ministry that involves both body and soul. It involves resistance against an unjust system, unjust law, and practices. The Bible is the book of resistance for justice in defence of the oppressed and exploited. The prophets resisted unjust rulers who trample down the poor for want of power and wealth. Resistance against the power and principalities led Jesus on the cross. Following the footsteps of Jesus, many disciples were martyred for justice. In our times, pastors Martin Luther King Jr, Deitrich Bonhoeffer, etc were assassinated/executed for resisting the dictators and unjust systems.” Therefore, it is not biblical and historically correct to say that the church cannot participate in protest movements, hunger strikes and fast unto death. Rev. Walu Walling added that “Resistance for justice for the protection of life is an integral part of Christian teaching and tradition. Baptist as a denomination was born out of resistance, and this is our history.” Resistance is a democratic right. “The church should become a force for social change and transformation”, adds Seno Tsuhah.
Dr. Solomon says that “Government exists for the welfare of people. To legislate the laws for the welfare of the people is the mandate of the government. So to review, or either partial or total lifting of NLTP is also the duty of the government. If the law promotes people’s well-being, social and economic development, especially the poor and marginalized, the civil societies and the church as an institution must stand with the government.” On the other hand, “If it benefits only the rich and creates problems in society, the people and organizations must stand together and challenge the unjust system. More importantly, the government should invest on creating support system for alcoholics and families affected by alcoholism” Dr. Resenmenla Longchar further added. There are many countries where people live peacefully even without alcohol prohibition laws. Because “they have strict regulations for those, who drive, public servants on duty, domestic violence and those who create nuisance and harassment in public places after drinking alcohol,” says Kivi Zhimo. She adds, “People who violate are fined, jailed, and terminated from the service.” Hose Sangtam, a research scholar in Taiwan, says, “The law enforcement agencies have adequate technologies to monitor the abuse of alcohol in public places. When the law enforcing agencies violate, they are doubly fined, jailed and terminated from the service.” Dr. Imlirenla Walling believes that “If a member of the staff is found to be an alcoholic while serving in public office, they should be sent to a detox centre or fired.” Instead of total prohibition, “a more stringent regulation on violators and law enforcement agencies will be more practicable”, she adds. As a result, debating the pros and cons based on the NLTP Act of 1989 will be fruitless. It is outdated and impracticable. While we wait for the government to pass new amendments, Dr. Sentiwate Aier suggests that “the church should come out with a clear prophetic mission and vision to address challenges like alcoholism, insurgency, multiple taxes, unemployment, power abuse, and corruption in public life.” More importantly, he further adds, “churches need new ministry of nurturing spiritual well-being of the members who are effected and affected by Covid-19.” It is also important that church should have a planned program for health care services and counselling.