Rayomand Coins

Crucifying the charities

The refusal by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to renew the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) registration of the Missionaries of Charity (MoC) founded by Nobel laureate Mother Teresa is extremely disturbing. The government justified the decision on Christmas day claiming, "While considering the MoC’s renewal application, some adverse inputs were noticed." Not wanting to face further coercive action, MoC reportedly asked "our centers not to operate any of the FC (foreign contributions) accounts until the matter is resolved." The freezing of accounts is causing financial hardship to the organization’s social and charitable missions.

"The Catholic organization runs more than 240 homes for orphans, the destitute and AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) patients across India," noted the online news portal, Scroll. As West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted, "While the law is paramount, humanitarian efforts must not be compromised." Trinamool Congress member of parliament Derek O’Brien likened the government’s action to a "filthy hit job," reported The Indian Express (IE) of December 28, 2021.

In the normal course of events one could charitably describe the government’s refusal to renew a procedural decision as routine and bureaucratic. After all, trusts have to comply with a slew of requirements introduced by various governments, past and present, to control the inflow of foreign funds into the country. In September 2020, further draconian amendments were introduced to FCRA by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to curb the influx of funds. As the Centre for Advancement of Philanthropy director and chief executive officer and Bombay Parsi Punchayet trustee Noshir Dadrawala stated at that time, the amendments "will have a devastating effect on organizations which are already crippled under existing FCRA compliance. To call this Bill draconian would be an understatement."

The government’s intention apparently is to deny foreign funding to as many organizations as possible, no matter how worthy the cause. The requirements they have introduced make complying with myriads of regulations a Herculean task. In light of the government’s pro Hindutva agenda, one has to wonder if the refusal is one more volley fired against minorities, especially Muslims and Christians.

MoC joins a long list of reputed nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) such as the Ford Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, Greenpeace India, Amnesty International, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative to be victimized by the present government. The MHA "often invokes Section 13 of the FCRA to stall NGOs’ foreign funds," stated the IE report. A suspension of FC accounts lasts 180 days and can be extended for another 180 days or even cancelled.

When citizens criticize the government and/or the ruling party, charges of sedition and unlawful activities are leveled against the so-called "dissidents" and "anti-nationalists." Students, comedians, social workers are amongst those indefinitely detained. But when calls are made by hardline Hindutva proponents to kill Muslims or attack Christian missionaries, or term the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi a patriot, symbolic or no action is taken. Realizing the government’s bias against religious minorities, 76 advocates of the Supreme Court (SC) of India wrote a letter on December 26, 2021 to the Chief Justice of India asking him to take suo motu cognizance of the hate speeches at religious events held in the holy city of Haridwar and in Delhi between December 17 and 19 comprising "open calls for genocide of Muslims in order to achieve ethnic cleansing." The letter also noted that "no effective steps have been taken…in respect of the earlier hate speeches." Neither Prime Minister Narendra Modi nor his home minister Amit Shah has condemned the utterances or the utterers.

As retired police commissioner of Bombay Julio Ribeiro noted over a year ago in the IE of September 17, 2020, "I realize that it is difficult, indeed impossible, to justify the licence given to the three BJP stalwarts — Kapil Mishra, Anurag Thakur and Parvesh Verma — licence to rant, rave and threaten those who were peacefully protesting perceived wrongs. If the speakers were Muslims or Leftists, the police would have surely taken them in for sedition."

Despite the flak received from liberals, fanaticism still continues. On December 23, 2021 the BJP controlled Karnataka assembly passed the controversial anti-conversion Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill that seeks to "prohibit conversion by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means," stated The Free Press Journal of December 24, 2021.

The front page in The Times of India (December 27, 2021) carried a report about vandals targeting two churches in Haryana and Assam a day after Christmas and desecrating a statue of Jesus Christ "on their way out."

Even Parsis are not immune to being the object of hate mongering. A 13-minute video titled "Are Parsis Extraordinary People? Did They ‘Help’ India?" circulating on several WhatsApp chat groups features a self-styled, non-Parsi historian who claims Parsis grew prosperous because of the "special treatment," "bestowed favors" and the "largesse" the British showered on them "at the expense of everyone else in India." The British objective was to "create artificial divisions" between communities. For 800 years Parsis "achieved nothing," says the speaker. Whatever they accomplished was due to "British munificence." Parsis got close to the English by serving as their servants, chauffeurs and so on, he contends. Aside from his apparent bias, even his so-called "history" comprises half-truths and distortions, a classic example of "fake news."

Parsis can no longer keep silent when other minorities are being targeted. While many Parsis dislike and discriminate against Muslims, despite having prospered in Muslim run states and countries, they harbor no animosity towards Christians. Many studied at missionary schools and colleges. Parsis have to ask themselves why Christians are being discriminated against in India. And how much longer before we become the next target? If we speak up for others, they will do the same for us. If we remain silent, who will speak up for us in our hour of need?

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The winds of change are blowing, whether we like it or not. It is time that Parsis speak out as you have articulated. Thank you.
- Homi D Gandhi
- 17-Jan-2022

A very well written editorial and something which all Parsis need to reflect on. To my dismay, I quite often find anti Muslim vitriol on Parsi WhatsApp groups. I hope Parsis realize that it will not be long before we too are targeted by the hindutva hordes and there may be nobody left to speak up for us then
- Pouruchisti Meherhomji
- 10-Jan-2022


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