Wednesday, June 21, 2006

State to Take Over EMI Institutions in Rajasthan, India

Appeals dismissed; ministry founder and president to face trial in August.

NEW DELHI, June 19 (Compass Direct) - The Rajasthan government on Wednesday (June 14) announced plans to take over five institutions operated by Emmanuel Mission International (EMI).

EMI operates Emmanuel Bible Institute Samiti, Emmanuel Anath Ashram (Orphanage), Emmanuel School Society, Emmanuel Chikitsalaya (Hospital) Samiti, and Emmanuel Believers Fellowship. The organization leads a native church movement and serves over 10,000 children through humanitarian and educational work.

Mohammed Akram, EMI's attorney, said the state High Court on Tuesday (June 13) dismissed five writ petitions filed by EMI challenging the Registrar of Societies' decision earlier this year to revoke registration for these institutions.

"The state social welfare minister, Madan Dilawar, has said the state government will take over all five institutions," Akram told Compass.

Under the terms of the Registration of Societies Act, the government can take over property belonging to a society charged with mismanagement.

When the book Haqeekat (Reality) was discovered on EMI grounds, extremists told the Rajasthan government that EMI institutions were receiving significant sums of money for use in forced or fraudulent conversions.

Hindu extremists have hounded EMI since January. They accused EMI staff of hurting religious sentiments and breaking government regulations by distributing Haqeekat (Reality). After an official investigation, the government revoked EMI society registrations and froze their bank accounts. EMI President Samuel Thomas and his father, Archbishop M.A. Thomas, were charged with creating "communal disharmony" and both face trial in August.

Samuel Thomas was arrested on March 16 on charges of creating "communal disharmony." He was released on interim bail on May 2 but will appear in court on August 1.

His father, M.A. Thomas, was also charged but went "underground" and applied for anticipatory bail, before appearing at Udyog Nagar police station in Kota on May 15 to answer to the charges.

Society Rules

Social Welfare Minister Dilawar played a significant role in making the allegations against EMI staff, The Daily Pioneer reported on Thursday (June 15).

Acting on the extremists' complaints, the government carried out further inquiries and found EMI institutions to be violating basic society rules.

The Kota registrar alleged that board meetings of the EMI institutions were not being held regularly and the chairman and president were blood relatives – contrary to the stipulations of the Registration of Societies Act.

On these grounds, the registrar revoked the registrations of EMI institutions on February 20. The registrar gave EMI only three days' notice to respond to the charges, which were posted on the walls of the concerned institutions but not given formally to EMI directors.

Akram felt the cancellation of registrations was too stringent a penalty for EMI's failure to follow minor procedures.

When EMI officials responded to the charges, they were told that their reply was unsatisfactory and their licenses were revoked.

EMI bank accounts were also frozen in February, and remained frozen at press time.

Hostile Environment

A fact-finding delegation from the All India Christian Council (AICC) in March concluded that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party had actively encouraged the Rajasthan government machinery, including the justice, law and civil administration systems, to oppose Christians in Kota district. (See Compass Direct, "BJP Pressured Indian State to Harass Christians, Panel Finds," March 21.)

Dr. John Dayal, Secretary General of the AICC and leader of the delegation, said as soon as the BJP came to power in 2002, clandestine inquiries were launched against all EMI institutions. A government department dealing with the registration of societies and charitable organizations subjected them to a harsh probe and financial audit.

According to the Hindi daily Rajasthan Patrika, Dilawar had earlier said on March 13 that he should be stoned if he was unable to "take action" against Thomas and his son.

Tensions first became obvious on January 25, when Thomas and his son received anonymous death threats warning them not to proceed with their annual graduation ceremony for orphans and Christian students, scheduled for February 25.