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MEA denies RSS interference in govt action against Compassion International, rejects US 'lack of transparency' claim

Ahead of the US-based donor NGO Compassion International shutting down its India operations, the Ministry of External Affairs denied the NGO's allegations that it is being forced to shut down operations because of "ideological reasons."

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay has clarified that the government action has nothing to do with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's repeated allegations that the NGO is routing money to convert Indian families to Christianity. The official further added that the NGO's allegations are completely "extraneous to the law enforcement action".

"Any NGO, foreign or Indian, is to operate in India or for that matter anywhere else in the world within the laws of the country. The process has been very transparent. We have been fully transparent in this regard, including in our conversations with the concerned on the prevalent situation. There have been meetings of senior government officials and representatives of the NGO concerned. And we had made our position very clear to them and to all those who have spoken to us about it," Baglay said.

File image of Gopal Baglay. Twitter @MEAIndia

File image of Gopal Baglay. Twitter @MEAIndia

Baglay also asserted that there is a well established legal framework for NGOs for conducting their operations in India, which has one of the largest network of NGOs in the world. Asked about reports in the US media about the RSS' role in the banning of CI, he said, "The alleged suggestion is totally extraneous to the law enforcement action concerning the above-mentioned organisations."

Meanwhile, RSS has also distanced itself from the controversy stating it had no role to play in the government action against the Christian NGO, which was put on the government watch list for foreign donations ten months ago.

The Compassion International, according to a report in The Financial Expresshad earlier alleged that the NGO tried to negotiate with the RSS personally but that made things "worse for them."

“We understand that the BJP and the RSS are tied together somehow, so it seems to us that we also need to be talking to the R.S.S. Wow, am I negotiating with the government or am I negotiating with an ideological movement that is fueling the government? ,” the report quotes Compassion International President and CEO Santiago Jimmy Mellado as saying.

Shekhar Tiwari from Washington DC, works with a powerful Indian-American lobby group, according to The Hindu report. The newspaper reported that Tiwari has accepted that the NGO's official's did approach him in 2016 and asked for "advice." He, however, denied telling the CI official at any point that he was intervening on behalf of the government.

Meanwhile, the RSS termed as "false" reports of back channel negotiations with the NGO, adding that no meeting between its representative and the US-based NGO ever happened. It also insisted that it has no representative in any foreign country including the US while condemning the attempt to malign the image of the Sangh.

"The news published regarding Compassion International's so called 'back channel negotiations with RSS representative in Washington DC' is unfair and totally false," Manmohan Vaidya, RSS All India Prachar Pramukh, said in a statement. "RSS works only in Bharat (India) and has no representative in any foreign country including USA. We condemn such an attempt to malign the image of RSS," he said.

Compassion India has been functioning in India for more than 48 years but was recently criticised by Hindu right-wing groups of using it's funds to convert Indian families. It was also under the government scanner for misappropriation if funds.

"The Income Tax officials revealed in 2015, Caruna Bal Vikas (CBV) was receiving a funding of Rs 10 million per year from Compassion International but only 10 percent of that amount was being used for child development and the rest was diverted to other organisations," The Financial Express report states.

Another report in The New York Timesmaps the crackdown against the Christian charity directly with Narendra Modi's rise to power.

"More than 11,000 nongovernmental organizations have lost their licenses to accept foreign funds since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in 2014... India has long had a law regulating the use of foreign aid, but Mr. Modi’s government has applied it in rigorous fashion, canceling the registrations of more than 10,000 nongovernmental groups, mostly small ones, in 2015," the report states.

The Ney York Times report also quotes an anonymous foreign ministry official stating that the government has found that the NGO is violating Indian law by indulging in religious activity. He also added that the NGO rejected the government offer to re-register as a religious organisation which would have allowed it to continue its operations in the nation.

Indian authorities had put CI under prior permission category in May last year following allegations of funding religious conversions, barring it from receiving foreign funds without the government's approval, after which US had raised up the issue with India alleging lack of transparency.

The State Department's acting spokesman Mark Toner expressed concern over the Christian charity closing down it's operations in India. "NGOs do valuable work overseas. Certainly these countries and governments have their own reasons for the laws they pass, but we believe it should be transparent and clear why they're shutting down these organisations," Toner said.

India, on it's part rejected the US' contention of lack of transparency, insisting the matter was of "law enforcement", a euphemism for the US-based Christian NGO allegedly having
violated Indian laws.

In December, the home ministry had said it was unlikely to reconsider the decision, notwithstanding the appeals by American authorities.

With inputs from PTI


Updated Date: Mar 10, 2017 12:16 PM

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