Faced with undue harassment by income tax officials and other state agencies for nearly a year now, the Church organizations could take it no longer. Last fortnight,a delegation of Church run institutions met the Jharkhand Governor Draupadi Murmu, and complained that the state administration had been indulging in a “selective” probe into overseas funds received by Christian institutions.
Scrutinizing only the Christian institutions “betrays the government’s discriminatory stance” and violates the Indian Constitution, says a memorandum the 4-member delegation from the “All Christians Media Cell” submitted to the governor in her office.
Auxiliary Bishop Telesphore Bilung of Ranchi, who led the team, explained to the governor that the problem for Christian institutions began with the July 13, 2018, directive from the Union Home Ministry (at the time under Rajnath Singh) to the Jharkhand chief secretary.
The secretary then asked the state’s Criminal Investigation Department to enquire into the “alleged misuse of foreign funds” for religious conversion by 88 Christian institutions registered under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act or FCRA.
The FCRA registration is mandatory to receive and use funds from overseas.
Jharkhand’s Additional Director General of Police of the CID then instructed the police superintendents of the state’s 18 districts to investigate the Christian institutions.
The memorandum says the Christian institutions received similar notices sent by the Terrorism Control Squad.
It must be noted that adverse reports about Christian institutions and questionable narratives of ‘conversion’ have been earlier forwarded by certain officials in the states’ I & B Department. Some say that this was done to lay the ground for the politically engineered and controversial anti-conversion bill brought in by the BJP government.
It also must be noted with concern that the Terrorism Control Squad has been used to harass and intimidate these institutions. ‘What link do peace loving Christians have with terrorists?’ asks a social worker based out of Jharkhand. ‘The move is obviously to manufacture a narrative that Christians somehow support the Maoists and insurgent groups. Even though nothing emerges from the probe, enough has been done to cause speculation and manufacture false news narratives,’ she said.
Although Jharkhand has 518 FCRA institutions, only those managed by Christians face the probe, the Christian delegation’s memorandum pointed out.
It also noted that the Christian institutions “fully complied with the inquiry,” but the allegation could not be officially proved.
The respective Police Superintendents in August 2018 issued notices of inquiry to the above indicated Christian institutions.
The delegation urged the governor to either investigate all FCRA registered intuitions in Jharkhand or “summarily dismiss” the order to probe the Christian institutions and ensure the constitutional obligation of impartiality and equality to all citizens.
The delegation later said the governor was “quite cordial” and promised to favorably look into the grievance stated in the memorandum.