No ‘Ideological’ Reason Behind Compassion International Ban: MEA

Donor NGO, Compassion International, will shut its doors in India on 15 March.

The reports of the shutdown came amid allegations that the charity was engaging in religious conversion.

The Ministry of External Affairs has dismissed the Colorado-based NGO's allegations that they have been forced to close down over "ideological" reasons.

The New York Times reported that the Christian NGO had accused an RSS activist in the US of suggesting that they re-route some of their funding through the BJP’s ideological parent. The MEA slammed the allegation, calling it “totally extraneous to the law enforcement action,” The Hindu reported.

The daily reported that the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh too had “distanced itself from the issue”.

Compassion International CEO, Santiago Mellado, told The New York Times that a briefing on the issue would be submitted to the US president Donald Trump this week.

The Christian charity is India’s largest single foreign donor and reportedly invests around $45 million in the country every year. The funds were used to provide education, medical aid and meals to children in need.

The NYT report pointed out that the charity has been asked to shut down because it is considered “detrimental to the national interest”.

The report quotes Compassion International as saying that they “found themselves in murky back-channel negotiations with a representative of the RSS”.

Compassion International CEO, Santiago Mellado You think, ‘Wow, am I negotiating with the government or am I negotiating with an ideological movement that is fueling the government?’

US Responds

Commenting on the issue at a press briefing on Wednesday, Mark Toner, Deputy Spokesperson of US Department of State, said:

I think, unfortunately, we’ve seen over the past couple of years a number of foreign-funded NGOs in India that have encountered significant challenges in continuing their operations. And we believe it’s imperative that all parties work transparently and cooperatively in a way that, obviously, respects India’s laws but also encourages a transparent process, and these are views that we’ve made clear to the Indian government.

250 Children Asked Not to Return

The organisation will close its India operations on 15 March. (Photo Courtesy: Compassion International)

Around 250 children, who have been receiving care at the New Delhi centre, have been asked not to return. According to the NYT report, 15,000 of the 1,45,000 Indian children under the NGO’s care have been severed from the program.

One of the children is Priya Saxena, a 13-year-old daughter of a vegetable vendor. She told NYT:

Priya SaxenaNow I do not know what the future holds for me. I hoped to become a doctor. But now that we are told we will no longer have sponsors to see us through the education, I don’t know what will happen. This place taught me to have a life. It is finished now.

Calling the process “irreversible”, Mellado said that setting up a network again which aids 145,000 children, which was the reach of Compassion International, would take years.

Effect on Other Religious Charities in India

The Compassion International case has forced religious charities - the top foreign donors in India - to sit up and pay attention.

Santiago MelladoWhat we hear from our friends in India is that it would be tragic if they were successful in shutting down Compassion, because that would leave other ministries very vulnerable. They are feeling like they’re next.

In December 2016, the Modi government cancelled the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) license of about 20,000 NGOs in the country. They were allegedly violating various provisions of the FCRA, thus they were barred from receiving foreign funds.

The exercise of reviewing the working of the NGOs was started about a year ago and the process is still continuing. As per FCRA, if an NGO is put under prior permission category, it is barred from receiving foreign funding from abroad without taking permission from the Home Ministry.

Also Read: Govt Cancels FCRA Licence of 20,000 NGOs Over Violation of Laws