It struck a chord with people when Mamata Banerjee, the West Bengal Chief Minister, tweeted in the afternoon of December 27 that she was “shocked to hear that on Christmas, Union Ministry FROZE ALL BANK ACCOUNTS of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in India!” She expressed her deep anguish that “22,000 patients & employees of MoC was left without food & medicines due to such a step taken by GOI.” “While the law is paramount, humanitarian efforts must not be compromised,” Mamata Banerjee added.
Harvest During Pandemic
Taking undue advantage of the lockdown imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Christian missionaries in India converted as many as 1 lakh people and adopted 50,000 villages in one year. The need for medical aid and two squares meals amidst the financial crisis pushed the economically weaker section into the trap of missionaries. The missionaries also built a record number of churches in thousands of villages where none existed before.
The data was validated by David Reeves, CEO of the unfolding world, an organisation dedicated to church planting and 'translating God's Word — with accuracy and excellence'.
Reeves stated, "Because they could not meet with others during the lockdown, they decided to start specifically praying for unsaved people they know simply. Then, they decided to follow up on those prayers by phone and WhatsApp. They estimate about 100,000 conversions during the lockdown as a result of this approach.
They estimate that churches adopted about 50,000 villages during the lockdown, and 25% now have an "opening" for the Gospel — some believers, a small house church, etc."
While the world was reeling under the pandemic, the Organisation' unfolding words' celebrated the unexpected good news from church planting partners in India. "During 2020 – the COVID year – they've planted more churches than all the 25 years of their ministry work there," Reeves says. The organisation sees the pandemic as a blessing to strengthen its conversion business.
Missionaries of Charity based at Kolkata is the much revered organisation of Mother Teresa which is known to have served the poor and destitute though numerous people rendered vociferous antagonism of this popular narrative. The contrarian view claimed Teresa to be, from behind the garb of humanitarian ground work, Vatican’s own Conversion mafia based in India. Whatever be it, MoC is an NGO that consumes foreign funds, blockade whereof was sure to have jeopardised their country-wide operations. Banerjee’s tweet, hence, could hardly be ignored. People pondered upon the Centre’s sudden massive step which could have dragged significant global repercussions especially when anti-conversion arguments were gaining momentum all over India.
Missionaries of Charity Booked for Conversion
Vadodra District Social Defence Officer Mayank Trivedi visited the Missionaries of Charity in the Makarpura area on December 9 and found Hindu girls were 'forced' to read Christian religious text and participate in prayers.
The FIR has been lodged in the Makarpura police station based on a complaint by the District Social Defence Officer Mayank Trivedi against Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity.
Mayank Trivedi, on the visit, found that the Hindu girls living in the premises were forced to read Christian religious texts and were also forced to participate in Christian prayers.
"Between February 10, 2021, and December 9, 2021, the institution has been involved in activities to hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus intentionally and with bitterness. The girls inside the Home for Girls are being lured into adopting Christianity by making them wear the cross around their neck and placing the Bible on the table of the storeroom used by the girls to compel them to read the Bible. It is an attempted crime to force religious conversion upon the girls," quoted as per the FIR.
This is no isolated case of allegations against the Missionaries of Charity. In an interview with the New York Times (NYT) in 2016, London-based physician Dr Aroup Chatterjee explained his encounters with the misdeeds of her organisation.
"Because Calcuttans think that Mother Teresa is Western, and she's a Western icon, she's very progressive," he said. "And they do not associate her with miracles and mumbo jumbo and black magic just as they do not associate her with opposition to contraception and abortion," Dr Chatterjee in his book titled "Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict," published in 2003.
In the Vadodra case, the Assistant Commissioner of Police SB Kumavat said, "The District Collector had formed a committee after the complaint from the Child Welfare Committee. A team of members of several departments probed the allegation, following which a complaint was filed. Police will probe the allegations and gather evidence to see if the contentions are true." In 2015, RSS Sarsanghchalak Dr Mohan Bhagwat had cautioned about the practices followed by Mother Teresa's organisation. In a programme for the inauguration of an orphanage in Rajasthan, he said, "It's good to work for a cause with selfless intentions. But Mother Teresa's work had ulterior motives, which was to convert the person who was being served to Christianity."
The Makarpura Missionaries of Charity has been booked under IPC sections 295 A (for deliberate and malicious acts to outrage feelings of any class by insulting its religious beliefs), 298 (deliberately uttering words to wound the religious sentiments of a person) and the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003.
It was not for long that India continued to wonder what led the Centre to invite a probable confrontation with the Vatican by freezing bank accounts of Mother Teresa’s organisation. While a countrywide score of sarcasm sored high referring to ‘Saint Teresa' herself to solve the issue from ‘heaven’, clarification came from Missionaries of Charity itself. The revered NGO explained that FCRA registration of theirs was neither suspended nor cancelled. Nor the Ministry of Home Affairs ordered any freeze on any of their bank accounts. However, MoC communicated their FCRA renewal application wasn’t approved. Hence, as a precautionary measure to avoid any legal lapse, the organisation itself issued instructions to all their Centres not to operate any of their Foreign Contribution accounts until the matter stood sorted. MoC clarified GOI didn’t take any such action upon their bank accounts that might appear penal, however, it was precisely clear that their provision of receiving foreign fund was currently suspended.
Missionaries of Charity work extensively to spread Christianity in India. In lieu of food, shelter and treatment to the poor, patients and destitute, Mother Teresa indeed worked copiously for religious expansion while as per Bharatiya values, charity pre-required not to ask for anything in return
Banerjee’s tweet effectively came out to be a fake news. She tried to project Union Government in negative light as one adopting prohibitory methods against those who engaged into charity works for the poor. So tweeted Shashi Tharoor referring to Banerjee’s tweet. “This is indeed shocking. When Mother Teresa wins a Nobel Prize, India rejoices. When her organisation serves the poor and destitute, the Government cuts off their funding. Disgraceful.” However, Tharoor’s statement faced rebuttals as Missionaries of Charity appeared an oxymoron. If their Mission be ‘Charity’ for poor and destitute, central control of Vatican upon them couldn’t be explained. And if their true mission be expansion of ‘Christianity’ through the loopholes of poverty and other crises that indeed exist, the name ‘Charity' seemed misleading and unethical. A section of Indian journalists took to tweeter to condemn FCRA stringency and MHA’s negation of approval. In fact, these journalists seemed distraught about disruption of foreign fund flow for Missionaries of Charity.
FACTSHEET: FCRA VIOLATIONS
Missionaries of Charity works extensively to spread Christianity in India. In lieu of food, shelter and treatment to the poor, patients and destitute, Mother Teresa indeed worked copiously for religious expansion while as per Bharatiya values, charity pre-required not to ask for anything in return. While propagating religion is a fundamental right as per Article 25 of the Constitution of India, the right is not absolute. As the fundamental right to religion is subject to public order, morality and health, propagation of religion in lieu of money and humanitarian assistance not only violates Article 25 but precisely antagonises the Indic value system. It requires due assertion to put it straight that alluring needy people towards material gain in order to convert them to a non-Indic faith and calling it charity by claiming moral high ground is immoral, unethical and hence, violation of Article 25. Such statement is in congruence with the growing argument in favour of Indianisation of Indian Laws & legal system as argued by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana and Justice S A Nazeer. Capitalising poverty for imperial expansion with the help of religious doctrine is anti-humanitarian as per Indic values.
Reportedly, non-approval of FCRA renewal application of Missionaries of Charity followed an FIR by Vadodara Police against the NGO after an inspection by National Commission for Protection of Child Rights found Teresa home was forcibly converting kids to Christianity. In Jharkhand, the NGO was earlier found selling infants too. It was these bad track records of the much revered NGO that finally dragged some Governmental action upon Missionaries of Charity. ANI reported an FIR had been registered against 'Children Home for Girls' run by MoC in Vadodara for alleged forced conversion. According to ACP SB Kumpawat of Vadodara Police NCPCR chairman visited the children's home in August 2021 and found some anomalies at the institute. The Press Release from Government of India expressed— “The renewal application under Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) for the renewal of FCRA registration of Missionaries of Charity (MoC) was refused on 25 Dec 2021 for not meeting the eligibility conditions under FCRA 2010 and Foreign Contribution Regulation Rules (FCRR) 2011. Missionaries of Charity (MoC) was registered under FCRA vide Registration No 147120001 and its registration was valid up-to 31 Oct 2021. The validity was subsequently extended up-to 31 Dec 2021 along with other FCRA Associations whose renewal applications were pending renewal. However, while considering the MoC’s renewal application, some adverse inputs were noticed. In consideration of these inputs on record, the renewal application of MoC was not approved. The FCRA registration of MoC was valid up-to December 31, 2021. MHA did not freeze any accounts of MoC. State Bank of India has informed that MoC itself sent a request to SBI to freeze its accounts.”
SGPC Launches Drive To Counter Christian Missionaries
The Shiromani GurdwaraParbandhak Committee (SGPC) has launched a special drive in rural areas of Punjab to keep a tab on conversion activities of the Christian missionaries.
Amid aggressive proselytisation campaigns run by the agenda-driven missionaries and videos circulating on social media platforms showing mass conversions in Punjab, the SGPC has come under attack from within the Sikh community for not doing enough to protect the faith.
The drive has been named Ghar Ghar Andar Dharamsaal (sacred shrine within every home). The campaign aims to distribute Sikh literature to the people in the villages of Punjab.
SGPC alleged that Christian missionaries, funded by foreign NGOs, are running conversion programmes in the villages of Punjab and luring the poor through cash and other incentives. A major lure offered to them by the Christian missionaries is the opportunity to settle abroad. The role of foreign funds for conversion has been a constant theme in the history of Christian conversion across India.
A majority of these conversions in Punjab are reported from the rural and border belts of Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Gurdaspur, Ajnala, Majitha, Dera Baba Nanak, FatehgarhChurian and Batala.
On October 12, Akal TakhtJathedarGiani Harpreet Singh, the head priest of the Sikh community's highest temporal seat, said that the Christian missionaries have been running a campaign in the border belt for forced conversions over the past few years.
"Religion is a matter of spirituality. Forced conversion or luring someone can never be justified. All Sikhs should support the SGPC in strengthening the campaign against forced conversions. It is a very serious challenge for us, and we have to combat it. SGPC campaign should run all over India. Right now, we have been focusing on the more affected areas" — Akal TakhtJathedarGiani Harpreet Singh.
"When we don't force anyone to join our religion by greed, then no one has the right to ask the followers of our religion to convert by greed or pressure", said the Jathedar of Akal Takht.
Under the campaign, 150 teams, comprising seven preachers each, have been dispatched to the villages in Punjab. The teams will stay in the villages for a week and go from the door–to–door to distribute Sikh literature.
They gather children at the local gurdwara to teach them the correct Gurbani recitation and create awareness about Sikh history, culture, and philosophy. Thereafter, Diwan (religious congregation) is staged by the preachers, Dhadis (ballad singers) and Kavishars (folk singers) to sensitise the community members about their faith and values.
Under the campaign, SGPC will also approach families that have converted to dialogue with them and make them take pride in Sikh beliefs.
The Dalit Sikh community in Punjab constitutes 30 per cent of the population and has been the major target of Christian proselytisation activities. Akal TakhtJathedarGiani Harpreet Singh himself hails from the Dalit Sikh community.
Missionaries of Charity, however, didn’t want to create a fuss over MHA’s non-approval of their FCRA application while Mamata Banerjee’s tweet ended up exposing it in public following which MoC plumped for being assertive about the embarrassing situation they were in. MHA’s silent actions upon issues concerning National Security thus received an unexpected publicity boost & were lauded by many. CPM used to interpret such actions of Mamata Banerjee as “MODI-DIDI-SETTING” as if by tweeting fake news, Banerjee created space for Central MHA’s publicity. However, this time CPM can’t repeat that broken record as the red party now seems to have entered into direct political pact with TMC in West Bengal founding the deadly red-green nexus in the State. It must not shock the reader to note that Surjya Kanta Mishra of West Bengal CPM too tweeted the same content as that of Mamata Banerjee in almost the same linguistic expressions. Both Banerjee and Mishra wrote “FROZE ALL BANK ACCOUNTS” in capital letters while their tweets came at a time gap of 16 minutes in between. Mishra tweeted first at 2.46 pm while Banerjee tweeted next at 3.02 pm on December 27. Mamata Banerjee herself is now reinstating CPM back in Bengal politics. It seems she’s set to allot the opposition slot to CPM corroborative evidences whereof are aplenty in public domain. Mishra-Banerjee tweet-partnership in Missionaries of Charity Case is the latest evidence of TMC-CPM kinship. After CPM helped TMC win West Bengal Assembly for third term, this is TMC's turn to reciprocate back by gifting the State's opposition slot to the red party. Those who are trying to celebrate how TMC can gift it to CPM without people's vote are too naïve of Bengal politics.
Funding Licence Axed
The Union Home Ministry, on December 17, cancelled the registration of two Christian evangelist NGOs over FCRA violations. The evangelist NGOs, Tamil Nadu-based New Hope Foundation and Karnataka-based Holy Spirit Ministries are heavily funded by controversial foreign donor Gospel for Asia.
Multiple lawsuits have been filed against Gospel for Asia and its global arm, Gospel for Asia World, in the US and Canada over fraud and misuse of funds. Gospel for Asia's Indian registration was scrapped in 2017 over FCRA violations.
Under the Ministry of Home Affairs rules, it is mandatory for any organisation that wishes to receive foreign funding to register under FCRA.Initially, the registration is valid for five years and can be renewed if the record of the previous five years is in order. First enacted in 1976, it was amended in 2010. The FCRA provisions were enacted to ensure there was no foreign interference in the country's political matters.
While the Holy Spirit Ministries received over INR 49 crores worth of foreign contributions between 2017-18 and 2019-20, New Hope Foundation received more than INR 42 crores in the same period.
The Union government had informed the Lok Sabha in February this year that in the last 10 years, it had cancelled the registration of over 20600 NGOs over FCRA violations. In 2016-17 and 2018-19, more than INR 58000 crores were received by the Indian NGOs. About 23000 FCRA registered NGOs are operational in the country.
After the amendments in the FCRA, NGOs, which wish to receive foreign funding, must have an existence of at least three years and spent INR 15 lakhs in voluntary activities before they applied for registration under FCRA
Who prompted Mamata Banerjee and Surjya Kanta Mishra to tweet such falsehood is a topic being discussed by people. However, who prompted them is perhaps a less significant question than how they came to know about MoC’s bank transactions’ temporary suspension even before the GOI press release came in. It would be incorrect to assume that TMC and CPM came to know about it directly from the horse’s mouth. It was more probable that MoC would keep such embarrassing information confidential. Hence, who could be the source of information for Mamata Banerjee and Surjya Kanta Mishra is a valid and important question. Whether the Government of West Bengal engaged into any direct financial transaction with the NGO is another question that deserves due attention. It would be pertinent to mention here that the West Bengal Government had been avoiding the process of audit of Government Accounts since long. Moreover, there are reasons to doubt the presence of a mole in the Central Secretariat who perhaps supplies confidential information to the Bengal Government. Otherwise, how did the West Bengal CM know about MoC’s bank accounts suspension before due time? Do Missionaries of Charity release payouts to political parties of West Bengal? Couldn’t such payouts be released as foreign fund flow halted for the time being? Unanswered questions are many.
18 Evangelical Bodies Under Scanner
Union Minister Nityananda Rai on December 21, informed the Lok Sabha that complaints related to alleged religious conversions indulged in by 18 NGOs working in Andhra Pradesh were received by the Government.
These NGOs were alleged to have been indulging in conversion by "inducements, allurement and misrepresentation" since 2018, Minister said in the Lok Sabha.Minister Nityanand Rai further said, "The FCRA certificate of such NGOs may be suspended depending upon the facts and circumstances of the case. Such violations may also lead to cancellation of the certificate," he said.
Nityananda Rai said some cases where violations of the FCRA warrant may be investigated as provided under various sections of the FCRA. Accordingly, appropriate action has been initiated in respect of the complaints as mentioned above, based on the facts and circumstances of each case.
Mamata Banerjee herself is now reinstating CPM back in Bengal politics. It seems she’s set to allot the opposition slot to CPM corroborative evidences whereof are aplenty in public domain. Mishra-Banerjee tweet-partnership in Missionaries of Charity Case is the latest evidence of TMC-CPM kinship
People also speculated in Social Media if Prashant Kishore misled both Mishra and Banerjee to tweet such fake news for some unknown intent of his own. However, careful observation helped identify certain flaws which were grossly improbable if tweets came under the guidance of a professional like Prashant Kishore, keeping in mind PK's goodwill and equity of being a brand himself. On December 27, Surjya Kanta Mishra tweeted “Yesterday, Christmas Day the Union Ministry FROZE ALL BANK ACCOUNTS of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity” while the day previous to December 27 was December 26 which was not the Christmas Day. Such flaws indicated the tweet was drafted on December 26 but was tweeted from Mishra’s handle on December 27. Such flaws were unlikely if done under the direction and guidance of Prashant Kishore. However, the intimacy of TMC’s Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien, an ardent Christian, with Missionaries of Charity is no breaking news. It would perhaps not be wrong to guess Derek O’Brien being the missing link between MoC and Mamata Banerjee and Surjya Kanta Mishra. What loss does TMC and CPM incur if MoC couldn’t operate their foreign contribution bank accounts? Does the revered NGO of Mother Teresa provide significant inputs in the huge and ever-flourishing trans-border trafficking economy of West Bengal benefitting the political ecosystem of the State? Doubts as such are not baseless as Missionaries of Charity are accused of selling infants while West Bengal maintains a track record of criminal trafficking of women and children.