India, US battle over allegations of conversion by Christian NGO

India today reacted strongly to concerns expressed by top US lawmakers over the alleged curbs imposed by the government on a Christian NGO, saying it is based on “limited understanding of India, its society, Constitution and laws” and asserted that it welcomes lawful operation of foreign NGOs.

External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said Indias credentials as a vibrant democracy and pluralistic society with a strong civil society are well known and need no reiteration.

He also emphasised that the government is fully committed to the Constitutional principles which “underpin the nation of 1.25 billion people as a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society with an abiding commitment to inclusion and tolerance”.

Ministry of Home Affairs had put Compassion International (CI)on the Prior Permission (PP) list, after its affiliate, Caruna Bal Vikas (CBV), Chennai (FCRA-NGO), distributed the money it (i.e., CBV) received to other NGOs, which were not registered under FCRA. The transfer of such foreign funds by an FCRA-NGO to organizations, which are not registered under FCRA is a violation of Section 7 of the FCRA (2010).

Inputs from sources at MEA indicate that since 2009, the inflow from worldwide Compassion offices (primarily from Colorado) to FCRA-NGOs in India has been: Rs. 230 crore in 2013-14 calculated from FCRA returns corresponds to about USD 40 million, which amounts to 80% of what Compassion International claimed as its “donations” to South Asia in its US tax return.

“Our attention has been drawn to a recent Congressional hearing in the US regarding placing of an American NGO in the Prior Reference Category by Ministry of Home Affairs. The hearing appears to be based on limited understanding of India, its society, Constitution and laws.

“There is a well-established legal framework for NGOs to conduct their operations in India. This is borne out by the presence of over three million NGOs in the country, one of the largest NGO networks in the world. India welcomes lawful operation of foreign NGOs in India.

“Government of India looks forward to continuing to work with the US Congress and Administration to foster mutual understanding and deepen India-US bilateral relations,” he said.

Top American lawmakers had yesterday expressed concern over the alleged curbs imposed by India on a Christian charity organisation whose representatives appeared before a Congressional hearing seeking change in New Delhi’s policies related to foreign funding of NGOs.

Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman of the powerful House Foreign Relations Committee, joined by some other lawmakers and representations of human rights bodies and Compassion International (CI), had rued that the recent effort to regulate foreign funding and enforce taxation laws had made it impossible for them to carry out work among poor children in India.

CI, a Christian charity organisation has often been accused of being engaged in religious conversions in India.

Savio Rodrigues

Savio Rodrigues Founder & Editor-in-Chief GoaChronicle.com

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