India refuses to renew foreign-funding licence for Mother Teresa’s charity

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Missionaries of Charity operates nearly 250 homes for orphans, the destitute and AIDS patients in India (AP)
Missionaries of Charity operates nearly 250 homes for orphans, the destitute and AIDS patients in India (AP)

The Indian government has rejected a request from Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity to renew its licence to receive foreign donations under the country’s Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).

The charity was founded by Mother Teresa in 1950 in the Indian city of Kolkata to help the poor. Mother Teresa, who won the Nobel Prize in 1979, was named a Saint by the Vatican in September 2016, nineteen years after her death at the age of 87.

The Catholic organisation currently operates nearly 250 homes the destitute, orphans, and AIDS patients in India.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said on Monday that the renewal application was refused on 25 December “for not meeting the eligibility conditions under FCRA 2010 and Foreign Contribution Regulation Rules 2011”.

While Missionaries of Charity’s licence was valid up to 31 October, it was extended till 31 December along with other applications pending FCRA renewals. The MHA said that the renewal was refused due to “some adverse inputs that were noticed” while considering the charity’s application, but did not give further details.

The government’s statement came amid uproar from opposition leaders who claimed that prime minister Narendra Modi’s BJP government had cracked down on the charity by suspending its bank accounts.

But the government denied that it had frozen any accounts. “MHA did not freeze any accounts of MoC. State Bank of India has informed that MoC itself sent a request to SBI to freeze its accounts,” the MHA statement said.

It added that it hadn’t received any request from the charity for “review of this refusal of renewal.”

The organisation confirmed on Monday that “the FCRA registration of the Missionaries of Charity has been neither suspended nor cancelled. Further, there is no freeze ordered by the Ministry of Home Affairs on any of our bank accounts.”

“We have been informed that our FCRA renewal application has not been approved. Therefore, as a measure to ensure that there is no lapse, we have asked our centres not to operate any of the FC accounts until the matter is resolved,” the statement said.

The Independent has reached out to the organisation for a comment.

The Indian government’s clarification came after Mamata Banerjee, a key opposition leader and the chief minister of West Bengal, the state where the organisation is headquartered, said: “Shocked to hear that on Christmas, Union Ministry froze all bank accounts of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in India!”

“Their 22,000 patients & employees have been left without food & medicines. While the law is paramount, humanitarian efforts must not be compromised,” she added.

Leaders from other opposition parties also hit out at the Modi government.

Congress leader and MP Shashi Tharoor said the government’s move was shocking.

He added: “When Mother Teresa wins a Nobel Prize, India rejoices. When her organisation serves the poor & destitute, the govt cuts off their funding. Disgraceful.”

The move also drew ire from Father Dominic Gomes, the vicar general of the Archdiocese of Calcutta, who called it a “dastardly attack on the Christian community”, reported AFP.

The Modi government has faced a lot of criticism in the past for refusing FCRA licences to limit funding for non-governmental organisations.

However, the Nobel Laureate’s organisation has also been in the crosshairs of the Modi government for alleged religious conversions.

Earlier this month, police in the western state of Gujarat registered a case against the charity for alleged conversions of Hindu girls into Christianity and for hurting “Hindu religious sentiments”. BJP leader and MP Nishikant Dubey had accused the charity of religious conversions and illegally sending children abroad for adoption in the recent parliament session.

The charity also faced heat from the BJP in the state of Jharkhand in 2018, when the then-BJP government arrested two people in connection with alleged child trafficking in one of its centres.

An employee named Anima Indwar, and a nun, Sister Consalia, were arrested and the police had then recommended a CBI enquiry and asked for a probe into the charity’s possible FCRA violations.

The charity’s latest brush with the government has come amid a spate of attacks on Christians by Hindu right-wing groups in recent weeks.

On Christmas day, attacks on churches and statues were reported from several Indian states, including Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Assam.

In October, a report titled “Christians under attack in India” by human rights groups noted that there were 300 documented attacks on Christians across 21 Indian states in the first nine months of 2021.

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