Accepted paper:

Rangfraism amongst the Tangsa in Northeast India : old wine in new bottles or a step closer to Hinduism


Meenaxi Barkataki-Ruscheweyh (University of Goettingen)

Paper short abstract:

I take a closer look at a new religion called Rangfraism which is rapidly gaining popularity amongst a section of the Tangsa in Arunachal Pradesh in order to understand the intentions and the processes involved in the formulation of this new religion, and the impact this movement has had in stopping conversion to Christianity even while seeming to play into the hands of certain Hindu organisations.

Paper long abstract:

The Tangsas are a small ethnic community (related to the Naga) who have migrated to India from Myanmar probably within the last couple of centuries and have settled in the north-east Indian states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. In the last few decades, in the course of their migration down from the hills to the plains, many of the Tangsa tribes have embraced standard world religions like Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity. Some Tangsa still practise their old indigenous religion. In recent years there has been a move amongst a section of the educated Tangsa to institutionalise their old 'religion' under a new name -- Rangfraism, by setting up houses of worship in which idols (or images) of Rangfrah have been installed, and by codifying the rituals and other practices around this new religion. In this paper, besides giving a broad view of the religious diversity amongst the Tangsa, I wish to take a closer look at Rangfraism to ascertain how much is new, how much of the old has been retained, what has been discarded, and for what ends. The supportive role played by organisations like the Vivekananda Kendra and secular anti-conversion forums like the IFCSAP will be analysed. I shall also look at what has been borrowed from Christian practices in order to make it more appealing, and the consequent impact Rangfraism has had in stopping conversion to Christianity amongst the Tangsa will also be discussed.

panel G07
Tribal situation in India's North-east: emerging issues and ongoing anthropological attention