The fear of the 'beast' or the devil in the Christian-dominated state of Mizoram has caused almost 1,000 families to refuse to enroll their names in the National Population Register taken up along with the Census 2011 here from May 15.
The dread stems from Chapter 13 Verse 17 of the Book of Revelations in the Bible that says "... and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark or the name of the beast or the number of his name."
The problem has stemmed from the Unique Identification Authority of India stipulating that none one could buy or sell property without the Unique ID card.
According to adherents of the belief, since buying or selling of property made one a follower of the beast, one having the UID card, which authorised property transactions, automatically made one a follower of the devil.
Those refusing to be enumerated belong to the Mizoram Presbyterian Church and the Baptist Church of Mizoram.
Champhai District Magistrate Vijay Kumar Bidhuri said when he summoned Lalzawna the leader and high priest of a sect he was told that his religious belief would not permit him to register his name and he was ready to face any punishment.
Serchhip Deputy Commissioner H told PTI that adherents of the belief claimed they had the religious freedom to disobey the government and were not afraid of punitive action.
"They are not afraid of being prosecuted for their beliefs as they are more afraid of being identified with the devil," one enumerator said.
The Presbyterian Church Synod, the highest decision making body of the largest Church in the state on June 13 issued a message to all members asking them to cooperate with census officials as it was the duty of every citizen to do so.
"We (the believers) should not be afraid of the beast (devil), rather the beast should be afraid of us as we believe in God who is more powerful," the message said.
The Church said that UID was important to identity bona fide citizens of the country and also help in identifying illegal immigrants and terrorists.
The Church also condemned people who were issuing booklets about the 'Number of the Beast' to terrify church members.
The message of the Presbyterian Church was read out in all church branches in the state, but there were still some who were skeptical, a church elder said.
Enumerators were instructed by district magistrates of all the eight districts in the state to identify those refusing to cooperate on religious grounds.
The reports lying with five district magistrates indicated that there were 939 families who have refused to have their names registered in the NPR, official sources said.
Aizawl district has the largest number of 483 families, including 132 from Aizawl city followed by 158 families in Champhai district.
Serchhip district had 135 families and Lawngtlai district 130 families, while there were 33 families in Kolasib district refusing to be enumerated, the sources said.
District Magistrate Bidhuri convened a meeting for people who refused to cooperate with the census officials on June 11 where only two persons, after being given explanations, agreed to cooperate with officials.
The rest refused to budge from their stand even after the authorities told them that they could be fined up to Rs 1,000 and liable for imprisonment of up to three years. They were also informed that they could be deprived of their right to franchise, ration cards, works under NREGS and other benefits from the government.
"As they have refused to believe our explanations, we may be left with no other option, but to take punitive action against them," one official said.
The fear of the beast is not new among Mizo Christians as many of the sects and cults have refused to enroll their children in school believing enrolment would make them adherents of the devil.
Many have refused to have ration cards to avail rice at a cheaper rate on the same grounds even though most of them belonged to poorer sections of the society.