The licence of Missionaries of Charity (MoC) for receiving foreign funds was not renewed by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) citing “adverse inputs”. This action was taken on Christmas day and attracted criticism from various quarters.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was the first to act, putting out a tweet that went viral December 27 afternoon.
She said this move has left Missionaries of Charity's 22,000 patients and employees without food and medicines. "While the law is paramount, humanitarian efforts must not be compromised," she noted.
CPI(M) West Bengal Secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and Trinamool party leader Derek O’Brien were among those who found fault with the action, alleging that the Narendra Modi government has frozen the MoC’s accounts.
In the evening Sister Prema, the Superior General of the congregation issued a statement clarifying that its FCRA registration has neither been suspended nor cancelled and that there was no freeze on its accounts. “We have been informed that our FCRA renewal application has not been approved. Therefore, as a measure to ensure there is no lapse, we have asked our centres not to operate any of the FC accounts until the matter is resolved.
Referring to the MoC statement, O’Brien said, “first the government of India intimidates. For weeks, right through to December 25. And then they pile on the pressure to extract this. Shame on the MHA and its shameless damage control tactics.”
On its part, the MHA issued a statement and said the State Bank of India (SBI) has informed that MoC itself sent a request to the bank to freeze its accounts.
According to the MHA, the renewal application under Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010 (FCRA) for the renewal of FCRA registration of Missionaries of Charity (MoC) was refused on December 25 “for not meeting the eligibility conditions” under relevant rules.
It said no request or revision application has been received from the MoC for review of this refusal of renewal.
The validity of MoC’s FCRA licence was valid up to October 31 and it was subsequently extended to December 31 along with other NGOs, whose renewal applications were pending.
Missionaries of Charity was officially established on October 7, 1950, by Mother Teresa who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 “for bringing help to suffering humanity”
Incidentally, on December 12, the organisation was booked under the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003, for allegedly “hurting Hindu religious sentiments” and “luring towards Christianity young girls” at a shelter home it runs in Vadodara. It has rejected the charge.
O’Brien tweeted, "after a filthy hit job on Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity on December 25, now MHA is doing what it does best: spin doctoring and a cover up. India has an Opposition that will fight the good fight."
Father Dominic Gomes, the Vicar General of Archdiocese of Calcutta, said the government agencies have given a cruel Christmas gift to the poorest of the poor. "We condemn the government action against the MoC and are appalled by the timing and lack of empathy to consider the humanitarian disaster this decision will cause," he said.
“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,” Congress MP Shashi Tharoor tweeted.
CPI(M) West Bengal secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra also took to Twitter and tagged the move as “shocking news.”
Expressing “shock”, Angelina Mantosh Jasnani, president, Catholic Association of Bengal, asked the Home Ministry to find a way to ensure that the poor don’t suffer and at the same time, all the required norms of the FCRA are met.
Sunil Lucas, past National President of Signis India, the social communications wing of the Catholic Church said, "The MoC's application for FCRA renewal was rejected on December 25. As dutiful citizens they requested SBI Delhi to put a credit freeze on the FC account so that there is no violation of the rules. But non renewal of the FC account or delaying the same will lead to problems in the future. The situation is being keenly monitored."
A plan of action?
Political observers and social analysts say that various incidents in December were a build-up to targeting the MoC.
In the Vadodara case, the FIR lodged at Makarpura Police Station against the NGO is based on a complaint from District Social Defence Officer Mayank Trivedi who said that he had visited the Home for Girls run by Missionaries of Charity in the area on December 9, along with the chairman of the district’s Child Welfare Committee.
The FIR states that during his visit, Trivedi allegedly found that girls were being “forced” to read Christian religious texts and participate in prayers, with the intention of “steering them into Christianity”.
During the recent winter session of Parliament, BJP MP Nishikant Dubey had accused Missionaries of Charity of indulging in religious conversions and illegally sending children for adoption abroad.
In July 2018, the police in Jharkhand, then ruled by the BJP, had arrested a woman employee, Anima Indwar, and a nun, Sister Consalia, for allegedly trafficking children born in a centre run by Missionaries of Charity. The police had then recommended a CBI enquiry and asked for investigations into FCRA violations, if any, by the NGO.
Says Jesuit social activist Cedric Prakash: This past month - particularly, the days before and on Christmas day- have seen a surge of this orchestrated campaign against the Christians in several parts of the country and very specially in states ruled by the BJP.
"False cases are now foisted on the Sisters like that of 'conversion'; besides, latest reports say that the Foreign Accounts of the MCs have also been frozen. Very sad indeed!
The 'bogey' of forced conversion, the desecration of sacred objects, the attacks on Christians and their places of worship and institutions, the myriad threats, intimidation and harassments, the spreading of canard- are all part of a wider game plan to polarize the majority community and put Christians in bad light!", the Jesuit priest noted.
Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.” Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.