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Catholics ask Indian state to halt probe into overseas funding

Jharkhand governor told that selective scrutiny of only Christian institutions is a breach of India's constitution reporter, Bhopal reporter, Bhopal

Updated: May 27, 2019 09:39 AM GMT
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Catholics ask Indian state to halt probe into overseas funding

A Catholic delegation from Jharkhand state meets with state governor Draupadi Murmu on May 24 to urge her to dismiss the ongoing selective investigation into Christian organizations’ alleged misuse of funds for conversions. (Photo provided)

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A Catholic delegation in India has sought the intervention of Jharkhand state's governor to end what they describe as “selective” investigations targeting Christian organizations who receive foreign donations.

Auxiliary Bishop Telesphore Bilung of Ranchi led the four-member delegation to present a memorandum to governor Draupadi Murmu on May 24 urging her to dismiss ongoing selective investigations into Christian organizations.

The state has some 500 non-governmental organizations that receive foreign donations. However, the government ordered that only 88 Christian organizations be investigated to see if they “misuse foreign funds for religious conversion,” the memorandum said.

“The selective scrutiny only of the Christian institutions betrays not only the government’s discriminatory stance but is also a breach of the Indian constitution,” it said, seeking the governor’s intervention.

Christians say they began to be targeted after the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014. With a BJP-led government also in New Delhi, administrations have been supportive to Hindu groups working to make India a Hindu theocratic nation, they say.

Hindu groups have routinely accused Christian organizations of diverting foreign funds to use in efforts to convert socially poor tribal and Dalit people in the state.

Over the past five years the state has witnessed hundreds of attacks against Christians and numerous police charges against Christians accused of violating a state law of 2017 that restricts conversion.

The law prohibits converting a person from one religion to another using force or by means of allurement or inducement. Hindu groups have been accusing Christian organizations of misusing overseas funding for conversion under the pretext of social services.

The federal Home Ministry asked the state in July 2018 to investigate if Christian institutions had misused foreign funds they received for religious conversion. The state’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) began the probe within a week, with police chiefs of all 18 districts sending notice to Christian institutions in their districts about the probe into their financial records, the memorandum noted.

“Christian institutions fully complied with the inquiry” but the allegation “is yet to be officially proved,” the memorandum said. It wanted non-governmental institutions that receive foreign funding to be investigated “so as to factually disclose” their sources of financial resources.

Christian leaders say several non-governmental agencies working under Hindu groups use governmental and overseas funding for furthering their sectarian goal of making India a Hindu-nation.

Archbishop Felix Toppo of Ranchi earlier told that church groups have “complied with all provisions of the law without fail. We have nothing to hide. The money is utilized for the purposes for which we receive them.”

Jharkhand has a relatively strong Christian presence comprising 4.3 percent of the population, almost double the national figure.

The state has some eight million tribal people out of its 32 million people. While only some 1.5 million of them are Christians, most others follow their traditional Sarna faith. Some also follow Hinduism.

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