Jharkhand to probe NGOs for ‘diverting’ foreign funds for religious conversions; Catholic bishops decry CM’s “divisive statements”

October 23, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Jharkhand, October 22, 2016: Jharkhand police will probe alleged diversion of an estimated Rs 310 crore foreign funds by NGOs for suspected religious conversions, official sources said on Saturday amid a raging controversy over activities of Christian missionaries in the tribal-majority state.

Chief minister Raghubar Das ordered the probe by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) after intelligence reports on the activities of at least 106 Christian-affiliated NGOs, the sources told HT.

After the BJP government assumed power in the state, the right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) flagged what it said was large scale conversion of tribal people by Christian missionaries, allegedly through allurement of cash and kind.

Most of the tribals, constituting 26.2% of the state’s 3.29-crore population, are followers of the Nature-worshipping Sarna faith. The RSS claims the tribals are Hindus, a point of friction between the outfit and tribal organisations.

The latest report submitted to the government by the Special Branch said the NGOs under scanner received around Rs 310 crores under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FRCA). HT has a copy of the report.

Though the funds were granted to the NGOs for running schools and carrying out development work for poor, especially tribals, bulk of it was used for religious conversions through force and allurements, the report said.

The chief minister had recently announced that his government will not tolerate anyone forcing or luring “gullible tribals” to convert.

Additional director general (ADG) of CID Ajay Kumar said his department was yet to receive any directive from the government on probing the role of NGOs.

Sources in the special branch said the government was also concerned over the alleged misuse of government money by some NGOs for conversions.

They said the government doles out lakhs of rupees to every district under the Primitive Tribe Group/ Integrated Tribe Development Authority for generating employment avenues among them through NGOs, but this money is routed for conversion.

“These are all gimmicks and false allegations,” tribal activist Ratan Tirkey, a catholic by faith, told HT. He said several NGOs could be siphoning money in the name of Christianity but they are not into conversions.

Premchand Murmu, president of the Adivasi Buddhijivi Manch said out of the 16 Christian denominations in Jharkhand, the bigger ones as the Roman Catholic, German Lutheran and Church of North India never indulge in conversions.

The NGOs being suspected could be affiliates of smaller churches, he added.

– hindustan times

Catholic bishops decry Jharkhand chief minister’s “divisive statements”

New Delhi, October 23, 2016: The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) on October 23 deplored Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghuvir Das’ statements against Christians as unconstitutional and divisive.

“The chief minister should refrain from using divisive tactics and interfering in the legitimate rights given to us under the Constitution and devote himself to serious issues like malnutrition, illiteracy (and) unemployment” in his eastern Indian state, says a press release from CBCI secretary general Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas.

The Church statement came a day after media reported that Das has ordered a probe by the Criminal Investigation Department into the activities of at least 106 Christian-affiliated NGOs in Jharkhand.

The state’s intelligence department has alleged that these agencies have diverted estimated 3.1 billion rupee funds they received from overseas for religious conversion activities.

The probe comes amid a raging controversy over activities of Christian missionaries in the tribal-majority state, The Hindustan Times reported.

The latest report submitted to the government by the Special Branch said although the funds were granted to the NGOs for running schools and carrying out development work for poor, especially tribals, bulk of it was used for religious conversions through force and allurements.

The chief minister had recently announced that his government would not tolerate anyone forcing or luring “gullible tribals” to convert.

Bishop Mascarenhas, who is also the auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Ranchi, the chief minister’s statement have saddened the Church and urged him to protect the rights of the tribals.

Ranchi is the capital of Jharkhand and the nerve center of a vibrant tribal Church in eastern India.

The Catholic prelate demands the “immediate withdrawal” of the chief minister’s “appalling” attempts to divide the tribal population on the basis religion. He urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to pull up the chief minister from his party who has apparently gone against the premier’s slogan to be with everyone and work for everyone’s development.

Jharkhand’s coalition government is headed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, Indian people’s party), which is considered the political arm of Hindu rightwing groups who are opposed to Christian missionaries.

The CBCI press release reiterates the Church’s commitment to nation building, to the empowerment of the tribals and dalits and for the uplift of the poor. “However, it will not accept any infringement on the rights of the minorities and constitutionally guaranteed freedom of conscience and the right to freely to profess, practice and propagate religion,” it asserts.

The Hindustan Times report says that after the BJP government assumed power in Jharkhand, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS, national volunteers’ corps), the umbrella organization of Hindu radical groups, flagged what it said was large scale conversion of tribal people by Christian missionaries, allegedly through allurement of cash and kind.

The report noted that tribals form 26.2 percent of the state’s 32.9 million people and most of them follow Sarna religion of nature worshipper.The RSS claims the tribals are Hindus, a point of friction between the outfit and tribal organizations, it added.

Meanwhile the state’s additional director general of CID Ajay Kumar said his department has not received any directive from the government on probing the role of NGOs.

Bishop Mascarenhas reminds the chief minister that some 3.4 million out of 6.9 families in Jharkhand now live below poverty line and that the state falls short of the national average in all development indicators.

The bishop thanked tribal leaders and political parties in the state for opposing “the venom being spewed by the chief minister even during his official functions against our peace loving community.”

The Catholic leader said the Church along with tribal leaders from sections, including the Sarnas, will continue to protect the legitimate rights of the indigenous people.

He bemoaned that the “just aspirations of the tribals are being threatened by amendments to the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act and the Santhal Pargana Tenancy act as well as provisions of the CAMPA (Compensatory Afforestation Fund) Bill 2016.”

The two acts and the bill aim to protect lands owned by tribal people.

Earlier, tribal activist Ratan Tirkey, a Catholic, told The Hindustan Times, dismissed the chief minister’s probe order as “all gimmicks and false allegations.” He said several NGOs could be siphoning money in the name of Christianity but they are not into conversions.

Premchand Murmu, president of the Adivasi Buddhijivi Manch (forum for tribal intelligentsia), said out of the 16 Christian denominations in Jharkhand, the bigger ones such as the Catholic, German Lutheran and Church of North India never indulge in conversions. The NGOs being suspected could be affiliates of smaller churches, he added.

– matters india

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