U.S. to Question India About Ban on Christian Charity, Compassion International

Pramod Dass, left, the director of Bethesda Charitable Endeavors, one of the Indian partners of Compassion International that is having to shut its operations.
Poras Chaudhary for The New York Times

The United States and India were at loggerheads on Thursday over Compassion International, a Colorado-based Christian charity that was forced to shut its Indian operations after 48 years over accusations that it had converted Indians to Christianity.

Leaders of the charity complained this week that they were being forced out of India without an opportunity to review the evidence or respond to the accusations.

Mark Toner, a spokesman for the State Department, said that Washington would raise the issue with India, and he urged New Delhi to “work transparently and cooperatively” in enforcing laws regulating foreign aid.

“Unfortunately, we’ve seen over the past couple of years a number of foreign-funded NGOs in India that have encountered significant challenges in continuing their operations,” he said.

“These NGOs do valuable work,” he added. “Certainly, these countries and governments have their own reasons for the laws they pass, but we believe it should be transparent and clear why they’re shutting down these organizations.”

Gopal Baglay, a spokesman for India’s Ministry of External Affairs, responded hours later, calling the decision “a matter of law enforcement, a matter pertaining to following the laid-down laws of the country.”

Mr. Baglay also dismissed an account by the charity’s executives saying that they had been approached in the United States by a representative of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a right-wing Hindu organization associated with the party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and had been offered leniency on the condition that they distribute donations through non-Christian service groups.

“As far as the alleged role of the R.S.S.,” he said, “I will mention for the benefit of the audience here that any such suppositions are completely extraneous to the matter.”

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SOURCE: The New York Times
Ellen Barry and Suhasini Raj