Conversions, Missing the Wood for the Trees

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First  published click here to read.

Thanks to “Ghar  Vapasi” programs, the issue of conversions is in the news again.  Unfortunately, no one seems to be going into the cause of  conversions. Unless these are addressed, protests about conversions  will influence only TRPs of TV channels

One, money power!

NGOs receive large  contributions from foreign entities. These contributions from abroad  are governed by the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) which  requires the recipients to get prior approval from the Home Ministry  (HM). The recipients could be religious, social, educational,  cultural or educational organisations. The NGO has to annually submit  audited accounts to HM who collate accounts to present the FCRA  Annual Report. HM does a detailed check of randomly picked  associations. The last available report is for the year 2011–12.  Here are some key data:

- There are approx.  42,000 registered NGO’s.

- Over  80% of top 15 donor and recipient organizations are Christian,  ironically in a country where roughly 80% of the population is  Hindu. 

- 148 organizations  received more than Rs 10 crs (99 in 2005-06).

- Between 1993-94 to  2011-12 NGOs received Rs 1,16,073 crs.

Top five donors were Compassion  International USA (Rs 183 crs), Church  of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints USA (Rs 131 crs), KNH,  Germany (Rs 52 crs), SOS  Kinderdorf International, Austria (Rs 43 crs), General  Conference Seventh Day Advent, USA (Rs 41 crs).

Top five recipients are World  Vision of India Tamil Nadu (Rs 233 crs), Believers  Church India Kerala (Rs 190 crs), Rural  Development Trust Andhra Pradesh (Rs 144 crs), Indian  Society of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Rs  131 crs) is Associate of Compassion Internal U.S.A., Foundation  of India Delhi (Rs 130 crs).

The moot point is why are  these organizations (biggest donors consistently USA, Germany and UK)  pumping in billions for charity? Do they see the West as the sole  custodian of poverty alleviation, education and health? As if donor  countries are the epitome of prosperity, per capita incomes and  social harmony! Read How  AmeriKKKa Killed the Black Middle Class. 

Critics might argue  that RSS/VHP also receive funding from abroad. There is a difference  – they receive donations from Non-Resident Indians. Here the donors  are Religious MNCs! Thus their contributions need to be regulated  like foreign direct investment as articulated by ex IITian Sankrant  Sanu. 

Conversions in Tamil Nadu  and undivided Andhra Pradesh are rampant which are amongst the  biggest recipients of foreign aid. From 2002-03 to 2011-12 TN  received Rs 14,738 crs whilst AP got Rs 10,622 crs. (By the way Delhi  got Rs 16,404 crs).

Donors might argue there  are no free lunches for e.g. post Tsunami contributions to Tamil Nadu  doubled and resulted in conversions as pointed out by Aravindan Neelakandan. Correct, but then did the  Government invite these NGOs to assist in relief efforts?

On one hand Hindus are  not governed by a Church like organization, do not pay tax to the  Church like the Germans and, do not convert. Conversely the Church is  super rich and well-organised where conversion is The Agenda.  One believes in live and let live whilst the other is obsessed with  spreading the Cross.

Those who talk about  freedom to propagate religion and Article 25 of the Constitution must  realize there is a fundamental difference in structure, thought and  practice between the Followers of Dharma and Christianity. The former  are well within their rights to frame laws based on their social  systems and culture.

Critics might argue that  nothing prevents Hindu Temples from spending money for the poor. Good  point, the problem is temples are controlled by the Government, more  about this later.

Critics could then  refer to schools run by the Church. Notwithstanding that many of  these schools were established by the British, (author went to a  school established in 1871) some good work happens but the underlying  agenda today, esp. in backward areas is conversion. The author was  told this during visits to Jammu region, Manipur and Arunachal  Pradesh and saw Churches coming up all over!

Who is funding  large-scale construction of churches and schools?

The above is  substantiated by what former Infosys Director TV Mohandas Pai wrote,  “I have a personal experience of evangelical groups trying to  convert members of my family. Two house maids who converted said that  the school where their children went raised fees and due to their  inability to pay, they were told they would waive it if they  converted (which they were forced to do). Of course, the school was  rabid in their evangelism with these children. When asked, inevitably  they spoke about evangelicals groups that gave them free  education for children and paid their medical bills, provided they converted”. Click here to read.

Nationalists, who wrote  the Constitution, surely did not foresee schools becoming an  instrument of conversion when they granted minorities the right to  establish and administer educational institutions under Article 30.

Critics might ask why  does the government not monitor activities of NGOs? It is impossible  to do so when there are nearly 42,000 organizations!

Thus, the Government  must change the law to allow only Non-Resident Indians to donate to  Indian NGOs. Donations to the Tibetan Cause would continue as is.  If foreign organizations or governments want to help, say victims of  natural calamities, they can donate to the Prime Ministers National  Relief Fund.

Reputed NGOs like Bill  and Melinda Gates Foundation and Aga Khan Foundation would need  specific approval from the equivalent of a Foreign Investment  Promotion Board (FIPB). Further, rules on how NGOs would spend money  must be clearly specified for e.g. no NGO should be allowed to  research status of any community. Action Aid India’s Annual Report  2012-13 refers to National Study on the status of Muslims in India.  Would UK permit a Rightist Think Tank to do a study on the condition  of Muslims and Hindus in UK?

Missionaries don’t  do forced conversions, they use money, waive school fees, medical  costs in missionary hospitals for those who convert on the spot! They  convert entire villages at a time, promising money, a school close by  and medical facilities. Most importantly they promise depressed  classes that they will be equals in their new religion. (Post  conversion converts invariably realize nothing has changed).

An anti-conversion bill  serves limited purpose because it is difficult to prove a forced  conversion. Instead, stop the funding tap!!  

There will be endless  columns by critics, debates on TV Channels, possible Supreme Court  intervention, international pressure but the NDA government must  stand atal if it does not want India to follow Sudan and  become the next battleground between two Abrahamic religions. This is  something NDA can learn from the Congress that passed retrograde laws  against stiff opposition; this change is for the better.