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Foreign NGOs face challenges in India, says US after Compassion International is forced to shut shop

A State Department spokesperson said obstacles hindering the functioning of charities in the country were a ‘matter of concern’.

The United States on Thursday expressed concern over global children’s aid organisation Compassion International being made to shut down its India operations. Calling it a “matter of concern”, US State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said they will raise the subject with New Delhi, further highlighting that a number of foreign NGOs had been facing “significant challenges” to function in India over the past couple of years, PTI reported.

In March last year, the Home Ministry had listed Compassion International under the “prior permission” category of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010, which prohibits it from receiving foreign funding without government approval. The charity had been accused of trying to convert people to follow Christianity, the PTI report added. In December, the ministry had refused to reconsider its decision despite appeals made by the American authorities.

President and CEO of Compassion International Santiago Mellado told Christianity Today earlier in March that the government had changed the FCRA in 2011 to regulate the functioning of NGOs “it disagrees with philosophically”. He had also alleged that a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh activist in Washington DC had approached the charity for back-channel negotiations.

“We understand that the BJP and RSS are tied together somehow, so it seems to us that we also need to be talking to the RSS,” Mellado said in an interview with The New York Times on March 7. The NGO will shut shop in India on March 15.

In a proposal made to the charity, RSS activist Shekhar Tiwari is believed to have said that the government may favour Compassion International if it routed part of its annual charitable donations to “non-Christian aid groups, including Hindu ones”, Mellado told NYT. An unidentified official from the Ministry of External Affairs denied these allegations, saying the discussion was “extraneous to the law enforcement action”.

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