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‘Compassion’ to remain on Centre’s ‘watch list’ 

Vijaita Singh
After weeks of discussions, the Union government has decided not to take the U.S.-based Christian NGO Compassion International off the “watch list” after it was accused of funding Indian NGOs that were not registered under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA).

The decision was conveyed by Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar, who met General Counsel and Senior Vice-President of Compassion International Stephen Oakley who flew down from the U.S. specifically for the meeting last week, government sources told The Hindu.

“We told the representative of CI that they will have to abide by the law of the land and no exceptions would be made. We shared evidence of FCRA violations done by NGOs associated with them, which includes religious conversions,” an official privy to the meeting said.

“Being foreign does not give them [Compassion International] exemption,” said another source present at the meeting. “We made it clear to them that they must follow laws [here] as they would in the U.S. itself.”

Compassion International was put on the “watch list” by the Home Ministry on March 28 last year amid reports by security agencies that it was funding unregistered Indian NGOs which were accused of encouraging religious conversions. The move meant the Colorado-based donor had to seek the Home Ministry’s permission every time it has to send funds to Indian NGOs registered under the FCRA. The source said the alleged violations done by two NGOs — the Caruna Bal Vikas in Chennai and Compassion East India — were flagged by the government in the meeting at the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

The MEA and the U.S. Embassy refused to comment but The Hindu spoke to several government officials in New Delhi and Washington and they confirmed the meeting.

The clampdown on CI has become a major issue between India and the U.S. in recent months. Last month, the U.S. Embassy also wrote to the Indian government asking it to share evidence on the religious conversions done by the Indian NGOs funded by it.

Asked if the Foreign Secretary would be meeting other NGOs like Greenpeace and Amnesty who are among about 22 international groups that have faced strictures in the past few years, an official said, “No.”

CI has the distinction of being raised at the highest level by the U.S. government and was the subject of a Congressional hearing in the U.S. as well. As reported by The Hindu on October 18, the Centre had allowed the donor to disburse around ₹2 crore funds to 10 NGOs in India, following a visit by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry when he brought up his concerns over the treatment of CI with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. In December 2016, U.S. ‘Ambassador-at-Large’ for international religious freedom (IRF) David Saperstein who had met with MHA officials over the issue said that he “hoped for an accommodation (on CI issue) so that they can provide social services.”

(Source: The Hindu)

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