By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife) -- Lawyers for a major evangelical mission group said Tuesday, June 20, they plan to file an appeal to the Supreme Court of India against the government of Rajasthan state which threatens to take over its institutions, serving thousands of orphans.
"The government cannot take over the institutions or the property and that is not what is happening," lawyers of Emmanuel Mission International (EMI) told BosNewsLife.
EMI leads a native church movement that supports 10,000 orphans, including many ‘Dalits’, also known as the "untouchables," as they are considered "the lowest caste" in India’s ancient system of Hinduism.
These children, who were either abandoned or whose parents died, are served through humanitarian and educational work of Emmanuel Anath Ashram Orphanage, Emmanuel School Society, Hospital Emmanuel Chikitsalaya Samiti, Emmanuel Believers Fellowship and Emmanuel Bible Institute Samiti.
The High Court reportedly dismissed writ petitions filed by EMI challenging the Registrar of Societies’ decision earlier this year to revoke registration for these institutions.
"However the rejection of the last "writ petition" does not give anyone the right to take over the property or institutions listed," the defense team said. The lawyers linked the "threat" to Hindu militants opposed to the spread of Christianity in the tense, Hindu-led state.
"This is only a threatened action of the Social Welfare Ministry under the leadership of the militant Hindu Social Welfare Minister Madan Dilawar to observe the children for their protection," said the lawyers, adding that “this action is limited to the EMI outreaches in the Kota area."
They said "a second appeal has already been filed with the High Court in Jaipur so there is a legal stay on any "takeover" of the institution.” If the second appeal is rejected, “we will appeal to the Supreme Court in New Delhi," the defense team told BosNewsLife.
It came as a setback for EMI founder Archbishop M.A. Thomas and his son, EMI President Rev Samuel Thomas, amid fears among supporters they may be re-arrested.
Samuel Thomas was released in May on bail after 47 days in prison under previous charges related to alleged anti-Hindu activities and "forced conversions" along with other workers, while his father had received an arrest warrant on similar charges, including the publication of a perceived anti-Hindu book.
The book 'Haqikat' or "a bunch of truths", was written by a Kerala attorney, M.J. Matthew who is in hiding in South India after death threats, BosNewsLife learned.
EMI and its US-based supporter Hopegivers International (HI) reportedly did not publish or distribute the book. However following the controversy, Rajasthan authorities froze bank accounts and suspended licenses to operate.
Samuel Thomas is making "almost daily appearances through his lawyer to the High Court in Jaipur,", a well-informed source told BosNewsLife on condition of anonymity because of security reasons. Several staff members are said to been detained or threatened.
Thomas is asking "for relief from the license suspensions for the 66 schools and 16 orphanage and for bank accounts to be unfrozen, and to the Supreme Court in Delhi seeking bail on the second set of charges," the source added.
BosNewsLife established earlier that father and son received death threats, forcing them to postpone an annual graduation ceremony for orphans and Christian students. Christian investigators have accused the ruling Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party of encouraging the Rajasthan authorities, including the justice, law and civil administrations, to oppose Christians in Rajasthan’s Kota district.
The cases have underscored growing concern among Indian Christians and missionaries about what they say as growing resentment towards them in the predominantly Hindu nation of over 1 billion people. (With BosNewsLife News Center and BosNewsLife Research).
Copyright 2006 BosNewsLife. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without our prior written consent.