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BJP-RSS hounding Missionaries of Charity, drying up ocean of love filled by Mother Teresa

The Modi govt's Christmas present to MoC by refusing to renew registration is in contrast with brazen amendment of FCRA in 2016 to save the BJP from penal action.

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On 25 December 2021, the Narendra Modi government’s Ministry of Home Affairs gave a Christmas present to the Mother House of the Missionaries of Charity and its sisters by refusing to renew their registration under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010. The ministry said that the organisation’s application was rejected because “while considering the MoC’s renewal application, some adverse inputs were noticed.”

At the time of her beatification in 2003, the Missionaries of Charity (MoC) in Kolkata circulated this poignant quote from Mother (now Saint) Teresa: “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean but the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” It was not an ordinary drop, but a drop of love, the very elixir of life! My family and I had the rare opportunity to experience this ‘drop of love’ in Chandigarh once.

My association with the MoC commenced towards the end of 1975 when Mother Teresa visited the “City Beautiful” at my invitation. Beneath the veneer of physical beauty, Chandigarh and its neighbouring areas had their share of the wretched, the poor, the unwanted, the abandoned, the leprosy patients, and the dying destitute. We wanted a healing hand to take care of these “lesser children of God.”

We thought that Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity were best suited for the purpose since they “served the poorest of the poor, irrespective of all castes and creed, nationality, race or place – giving the individual person whole-hearted and free service.” To them, the “poorest of the poor are the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the homeless, the ignorant, the captives, the crippled, the lepers, the unloved, the alcoholics, the dying and the sick destitute, the abandoned, the outcastes, all those who are a burden to human society, who have lost all hope and faith in life.” Fulfilling these purposes, ‘Shanti-Dan’ came up at Chandigarh in 1977 and since then has been rendering yeomen service.

All over India, the MoC has over 240 homes for orphans, the destitute and AIDS patients. The worldly possessions of the sisters who run these homes include: three saris, two or three cotton habits, a girdle, a pair of sandals, a crucifix, a rosary, some cutlery, a cloth napkin, a canvas bag, and a prayer book. These sisters must adhere to the vows of chastity, poverty, obedience, and of giving “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor.” Their motto is taken from the Bible: “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren you did it to me.” (Mathew, 25:35-40).

Also read: For BJP, Modi-Pope meet a route to Christian votes. But Francis’ gift has the real message

Duplicitous on FCRA

In the event of the Modi government’s refusal to renew, the MoC’s registration expires on 31 December and after that the bank accounts under FCRA cannot be operated. There was no clarity as to what the ‘adverse inputs’ that the government claimed it had noticed were.

This sordid development follows a spate of attacks on Christians around Christmas. Hindutva extremists disrupted Christmas celebrations in two schools in Gurugram (Haryana) and in Pandavapura (Karnataka) on Saturday. A day later, a statue of Jesus Christ at the Holy Redeemer Church in Haryana’s Ambala was vandalised by a Hindu mob. Karnataka also enacted a draconian anti-conversion law.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted that the Union government had frozen all bank accounts of Mother Teresa’s MoC in India. But Sister M Prema, Superior General of the MoC, issued this clarification: “… There is no freeze order by the MHA on any of our bank accounts. We have been informed that our FCRA renewal has not been approved. As a measure to ensure there is no lapse, we have asked our centres not to operate any of the FC [foreign currency] accounts until the matter is resolved.”

Semantics apart, the MHA’s refusal to renew the FCRA registration would disable the MoC from utilising the funds and result in effectively ceasing all their services and activities. This ipso facto would amount to freezing of bank accounts as stated by Mamata Banerjee.

Father Dominic Gomes, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Kolkata, described the Centre’s move as “a cruel Christmas gift to the poorest of the poor.” He was emphatic when he said: “This latest attack on the Christian Community and their social outreach is even more a dastardly attack on the poorest of India’s poor, who the MoC congregation serves.”

Contrast this with the Modi government brazenly amending the FCRA retrospectively in 2016 to save the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from penal action in a matter on which the Supreme Court had passed an order. This amendment excluded the Indian subsidiaries of foreign companies from the definition of a “foreign company”, thereby permitting any foreign entity, desirous of funding the political parties in India, to do so by merely setting up a subsidiary in India that could be a shell company. This opened the floodgates of massive corruption and contributions to opaque electoral bonds that are filling up the coffers of the ruling party.

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A hate campaign long in the making

The recent intensive hate campaign could be the trigger for this Christmas present after Prime Minister Modi had embraced Pope Francis at the Vatican. But the targeting of Mother Teresa and her MoC, by the RSS/BJP big guns has been going on for quite some time. At the height of the deeply polarising ‘ghar wapsi’ (homecoming) campaign soon after the BJP came to power in 2014, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had this to say about Mother Teresa while inaugurating a mahila sadan (women’s home) at Bharatpur, Rajasthan: “Her service may have been great but there was an objective behind her social work: she wanted to convert people to Christianity.”

Later at Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, then Member of Parliament and current UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath dropped these pearls of wisdom: “Teresa was part of a conspiracy to Christianise India…When people are not able to provide medical aid to their sick or differently-abled children due to poverty, these people (missionaries) provide them facilities. During that period, they brainwash and make them Christians.” Given the minuscule population of Christians in India, these utterances are incomprehensible.

The fact is that Mother Teresa and her MoC have been the beacon-lights of Christianity and its core values of love and compassion. It looks as if drying up of these has been long coming.

M.G. Devasahayam is a retired IAS officer and chairman of People-First. He also served in the Indian Army. Views are personal. 

(Edited by Prashant)

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