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Lawmaker Asks New US State Secretary to Take up With India 'Ill-treatment' of 'Compassion'

Washington: An influential US lawmaker has urged US Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson to take up with India “ill-treatment” of Compassion International and get its license restored, alleging that the Christian charity has been target of “multiple coordinated attacks”.

“Since 2014, Compassion (International) has been the target of multiple coordinated governmental attacks because of its unapologetically Christian belief, but it has been delivering humanitarian services to hundreds of thousands of Indian children,” Republican Senator Cory Gardner from Colorado said during the Secretary of State confirmation hearing of Tillerson on Wednesday.

“But due to restrictions by the Indian government, they have been unable to fund its India operation since February of 2016, despite having broken no laws. I believe the State Department should take notice that this ill treatment of Compassion International should stop, and it is part of a broader pattern by the government of India, where other NGOs have seen similar problems,” he said.

Last month, the Home Ministry said it is unlikely to reconsider its decision banning the US-based donor from funding Indian NGOs notwithstanding consistent appeals by American authorities.

The NGO was put under ‘prior permission category’ in May last. When a donor organisation is put under this category, it is barred from funding any Indian NGO without the nod from the government.

Gardner said the State Department should insist the Indian government release Compassion funds, restore its Foreign Contribution (regulation) Act (FCRA) licenses and permit Compassion to immediately resume its humanitarian operations.

“We would just appreciate your assistance on that. This is a pattern that is very disturbing as an organisation that does nothing more than try to help children in poverty,” he said.

Responding to the question, Tillerson, however, did not make any commitment and said, “Senator, I appreciate you bringing it to my attention and look forward, if I am confirmed, to discussing it further with you”.

Senator Bob Corker, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee supported Gardner and said the House Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Ed Royce is also very concerned about this issue.

The faith-based group in Colorado has served nearly two million children living in extreme poverty around the world, Gardner said. The NGO, which is operating in India since 1968, has contributed nearly USD 50 million in aid to India, Gardner said, adding that they have provided one-to-one scholarships for 145,000 Indian children.