Indian Government Launches War on Terrorism and Missionaries

Saturday, August 4, 2001

by Abhijeet Prabhu

BANGALORE, India (Compass) -- The Indian government has launched its own "war on terrorism" against two fronts: terrorists and missionaries. The Hindu fundamentalist government is planning to introduce two bills that are being condemned as "draconian" by religious minorities in India.

While the government's political opposition is in an uproar over the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO), the Christian community has taken strong exception to the Foreign Contribution (Management and Control) Bill, which the government says is intended to halt the flow of foreign money to terrorist and missionary organizations.

The Foreign Contribution (Management and Control) Bill 2001 has been cleared by the legislative department of the law minister and is awaiting cabinet clearance before being placed before Parliament during the forthcoming winter session.

The new legislation, which will replace the 1976 Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), proposes monitoring all who accept foreign contributions and foreign hospitality by making the states a part of the implementation machinery, sources said.

The All India Christian Council (AICC) has condemned the proposed bill, terming it "anti-poor, anti-Dalit and anti-Christian." In a statement issued in Hyderabad on November 16, Council President Dr. Joseph D'Souza, Secretary General Dr. John Dayal and Rev. G. Samuel, head of the Baptist Church, said that the government was trying to introduce a more "draconian FCRA bill under the guise of curbing terrorism and conversions."

They alleged that it was nothing but a ploy to end the developmental work being done by Christian missionaries among the Dalits and the poor, adding that globalization had further marginalized these communities and that more funding was needed in the areas of education and medical care. The new bill would completely curb work in these fields, they said.

The AICC has appealed to all members of Parliament and the various political parties to stop the passing of the bill, which they termed the "victimization of Christian organizations by the Home Ministry."

Meanwhile, scoffing at the government's proposal to table the above bills, the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee (UPCC) president lambasted the government, comparing its commitment to fascist Hindu ideology to terrorism. "Terrorism cannot be checked while political parties like Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) remain at the helm of affairs," Mr. Sriprakash Jaiswal said.

Speaking in Gorakhpur to the media on November 4, Jaiswal alleged that the BJP and its frontal organizations were fuelling a communalism that was akin to terrorism. The demolition of a Muslim mosque in Ayodhya and murder of Christian missionaries in Orissa and Gujarat were examples of rising terrorism in the country, he added.

Even as the bills are being debated, Christians in the state of Gujarat claim that the police and government security agencies have been gathering intelligence on churches, Christian leaders and other Christian activities in the state. Christians have already been suffering persecution in Gujarat, which has acquired the reputation of becoming a laboratory for Hindu fundamentalism.

Mr. Samson Christian, joint secretary of the AICC, said that the police were collecting information about various churches, their locations, names of the leaders, addresses and telephone numbers. Police in Kagdapith and Ellisbridge areas have been going to churches in Behrampura and Chadavad to collect details in writing, he said.

The Christian community has won a major judicial victory against this harassment as the Gujarat High Court has now directed the Ahmedabad city police commissioner to consider a petition filed by the Christian community earlier in November that protests the gathering of information about the Christian community. Justice H.K. Rathod also issued notices to the home secretary, police commissioner and other officials.

The petition is against the harassing and victimizing of Christians in the name of collecting census information based on an unpublished circular.

Mr. Christian said the police had come out with an interrogative circular in 1999 against the Christian community in a manner violating fundamental rights. Further in 2001, a similar exercise was initiated by the police, virtually implementing the same circular.

Copyright 2001, Compass News Direct. Used with Permission.