SHILLONG | Oct 09, 2019:
East Khasi Hills Deputy Commissioner, Matsiewdor War Nongbri informed that she received an email on Wednesday morning from the Legal Rights Observatory (LRO), seeking the removal of copies of The Bible from the Shillong Civil Hospital and other government-run hospitals in Meghalaya.
“I have also sought a report from the District Medical and Health Officer (DMHO) of East Khasi Hills on this,” Nongbri informed while speaking over telephone here today. Replying to a query, she said that she will be able to decide on this matter only after receiving the report.
When contacted, Shillong Civil Hospital Superintendent, Dr. W.W. Phira said that he had read about this only in the media reports. “I have not received any directive from the Government regarding this issue,” Dr Phira informed.
Earlier, the NGO had written to Meghalaya Chief Secretary, health secretary and deputy commissioner of East Khasi Hills district seeking their intervention to remove copies of The Bible from the government run hospitals.
The NGO had come up with the demand following the demand of Jaintia Students’ Union (JSU) to remove an idol of Lord Ganesha from the National Institute of Technology (NIT) campus.
The LRO said, “In continuation of the ‘NIT idol precedent’, we request you to immediately remove all The Bible copies placed near patients’ beds from Shillong civil hospital.”
According to the NGO, placing a copy of The Bible and urging or forcing followers of Niam Tynrai/ Niamtre religion, who are non- Christian patients, in physical and mental stress to read Bible for medical cure is gross violation of his/her personal liberty. The NGO alleged that it is against the spirit of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations.
Apart from removing a copy of the Bible, they have requested to immediately order all district medical officers/ health directors to inspect and sanitise all Meghalaya government-run hospitals by removing all Bible copies and religious materials.
Furthermore, the NGO has also sought to impose a carpet ban on all visits of evangelists to government hospitals urging followers of Niam Tynrai patients to read The Bible and worship Jesus for medical cure. And also to start helpline/ call center to report the presence of any such religious books, material, forced visits of evangelists in Meghalaya government-run hospitals and medical facilities.
The LRO stated, “If no visible action is taken on this letter, then we would approach the Union health ministry to intervene in the matter and legal action against erring officers.”
It may be mentioned that the LRO’s statement went viral on Whatsapp since last week though the district administration had earlier stated that they did not receive any official letter from the NGO but read the same only on social media.
It may be reminded that the JSU had sent out a notice on September 29 to NIT administration to remove Ganesha idol stating that it could undermine the institute’s secular fabric and “incite communal sentiments” among the students and staff belonging to other faiths.