The negligence of Immigration authorities is putting our national security at risk and giving an opportunity to foreigners to question our national sovereignty
The death of US national John Allen Chau at Andaman and Nicobar's North Sentinel Island is yet another example of how Christian evangelists are blatantly violating Indian visa norms. Though there is nothing new about the case, it's high time Indian Government implemented the Visa rules strictly as expected.
What Do Visa Rules Say?
Death of American evangelist once again triggered off heated discussion about Indian immigration policy and continued lack of monitoring on the religious activities of foreign nationals and open violations of visa rules by them. Many people were of the opinion that to participate in evangelical activities in India foreigners should hold a Missionary Visa.
Contrary to this, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs in its reply dated April 8, 2011, vide reference no RTI/18/201/F.1 under the Right to Information Act 2005 in the year 2011 clarified that Indian Government shall not issue visas to foreigners who desire to come to India to participate in religious activities. It also indicates much-needed clarity on Missionary Visa and its definition of Missionary Work. In its reply, the government said Missionary Visas are issued only to the people who desire to come to India to participate in service activities without the involvement of religion. It also explicitly mentioned that the foreign missionaries should not work at Tribal/Agency areas, Jammu & Kashmir, North-East states except Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland and in the areas affected by militancy, terrorism and extremism.
Violations by Evangelists in the Past
On November 11, 2016, American evangelist Rick Warren, alongwith 12 other foreigners, attended a religious conference in Gachibowli, Hyderabad, organised by Calvary Temple Ministries. A prior complaint was made to the Foreigners Regional Registration Officer (FRRO) of Hyderabad Region, requesting it to take action to prevent Indian Visa violation. But the said complaint was ignored, and no effort was made by the immigration authorities. The same claim was also forwarded to the Director, Foreigners Division, Ministry of Home Affairs, but it remained unattended.
Evangelists: Marcus Wenz, Feb Idahosa, Liz Lozana and Allen Hawes
On May 31, 2017, a group of foreign evangelists named Marcus Wenz, Feb Idahosa, Liz Lozana, and Allen Hawes alongwith some others from different nations had attended the religious event in Hyderabad named ‘Awakening Conference – 2017’ which was organised by Kings Temple Church, Hyderabad for four successive days. A complaint was given against this illegal and willful visa violation activity of above-said foreigners to the Foreigners Regional Registration Officer at Hyderabad and the Immigration Commissioner, New Delhi through the mail. But the complaint was ignored and remained unaddressed till date.
Mark John Burns from the US
On August 24, 2017, Mark John Burns from the United States (who presented himself as an advisor to the President of the US) attended a religious meeting in Bengaluru as Principal Speaker. Several complaints were lodged against him with the Bengaluru Immigration Authorities and Immigration Commissioner (New Delhi) requesting to prevent his visa violation activity. But authorities simply ignored the complaints and provided Mark Joh with Z+ security during his visit to India.
Issac Pappoe from Ghana
On September 26, 2017, a prior complaint was made against an African (Ghana) evangelist Issac Pappoe who had been visiting India frequently to attend religious campaigns. Instead of blocking his visa violation activity, the Hyderabad Immigration authorities informed the complainants that he was kept in their block list. But no action was initiated as per Visa Laws to prosecute the evangelist Issac Pappoe.
Bill Winston from South Africa
On October 18, 2017, Bill Winston from South Africa violated Indian visa norms by attending a Christian Religious program in Hyderabad named ‘The Creative Power of Faith’. Before this event, a complaint was made with the FRRO of Hyderabad Region, Director of Foreigners Division (MHA) and Immigration Commissioner along with all evidence. But the charge was ignored and remained unaddressed. Authorities did not prevent his visa violation activity. The authorities did not invoke the penal provisions of the Visa Laws of India and showed a very casual attitude.
Anne Graham Lotz from the US
On January 5, 2018, an evangelist named Anne Graham Lotz from the US attended the large Christian Religious meeting followed by several other conferences in Hyderabad Army Grounds violating Indian Visa norms. Prior complaints were made to the authorities along with evidence to the Hyderabad Immigration Authorities, Police Officials and the Joint Secretary of Foreigners Division, Ministry of Home Affairs through the mail. But unfortunately, it appears that no action was taken against her for violating visa norms. The concerned authorities remained mute spectators and failed to prevent the visa
Morris Cerullo from South Africa
On February 24, 2018, an evangelist from South Africa named Morris Cerullo participated in a massive Christian Religious event in New Delhi. It is learnt that Morris Cerullo was a blacklisted person by the Indian immigration authorities in 1992 for attempting a similar visa violation activity in Kolkata. Immediately after lifting the ban, he repeated the same crime of visa violations for the propaganda and conversions to Christianity. No one knows how he managed to enter Bharat even after a ban imposed on him. This matter was brought to the notice of the concerned authorities by the complainants through various social media platforms, but there was no response from them.
Ticharwa Bisent Chiranga from Zimbabwe
On May 11, 2018, an evangelist from Zimbabwe named Ticharwa Bisent Chiranga had tried to attend a religious event in Hyderabad. Based on our prior complaint local police restricted him from participating in that event. But later we came to know that he was in India tour since last one month and participated in various such activities all over the country. We made a complaint against him to the Foreigners Regional Registration Officer of Hyderabad region. But authorities did not take any legal action against him.
Pardington Isreal from Zimbabwe
In September 2018, Pardington Isreal from Zimbabwe who was planning to attend a religious gathering in Hyderabad withdrew his tour plans following the cancellation of event based on our complaint with local police. However, we came to know that he is already staying in Punjab since 2016 and actively involved in religious conversions. A complaint was filed with the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and Director General of Punjab; still, there is no action against it. Isreal Pardington had escaped from India after the complaint, and local police had been accompanying him.
Bill Winston & Andrew Hopper from South Africa
On October 17, 2018, Bill Winston of South Africa along with Andrew Hopper attended a religious meeting named ‘Hyderabad Faith Conference’ as Principal Speaker and Chief Guest. This is the second time that Bill Winston was attending a religious event in India as per our knowledge (even after making a prior complaint against him the earlier year to Ministry of Home Affairs.
Graham Staines From Australian
Australian evangelist Graham Staines worked for nearly 40 years along with his wife in Tribal areas of Odisha before being unfortunately killed in 1999 by local tribes for actively fostering religious conversions. But no one ever questioned how he was allowed to indulge in conversion to Christianity in Tribal areas, which is a violation of the section 14B of the Foreigners Act 1946. The Australian evangelist breached Indian Immigration Rules.
Instead of questioning their illegal stay and violation of laws, the then UPA government awarded his wife Padmasri in 2005 as recognition to her ‘Service’. Is luring innocent Tribal away from their faith a service?
Global Hope India (www.globalhopeindia) is a missionary organisation working with an agenda to set up new churches and conversions. It is headquartered in Raleigh, United States, and has been sending evangelists teams from all over the world to India. Their website clearly says that their aim is Church plantation and Conversions in India.
Latter Day Saints (LDS) Church
Latter Day Saints Church (https://www.lds.org.in/) is one of the biggest exporters of Evangelists to India. They established their Churches in almost all major parts of India. There is a serious allegation against them in the US that they are obtaining Indian visas by lobbying with the Indian Government with the help of US High Commissioner in India.
Missionary Visas to Pakistanis
From the information obtained RTI Act 2005, it is learnt that 168 Pakistanis visited Gopalganj and 34 Pakistanis to Kaimur Districts of Bihar on Missionary visas since the year 1990. However, the Gopalganj district officials told us in another RTI reply that they have no records on their activities. Kaimur district officials informed that they came here to meet their relatives! But to meet their relatives, one needs to seek Tourist visa, not on Missionary visas. Wonder why authorities never smelled a rat.
Poor immigration policy and lack of monitoring of the activities of foreign nationals is a threat to our internal security and poses a severe threat to our national sovereignty.
Cox & Kings Global Services
Cox & Kings Global Services is a visa consultant company and is an official partner for the Indian Embassy in the United States. Its website (https://www.in.ckgs.us/visa/missionary-visa) provides the list of Indian visas and their purposes respectively. Explaining about the Missionary Visa, it says “ Missionary Visa is for those who want to visit India to attend religious activities” which is a contradiction to what Ministry of Home Affairs said in its reply under RTI Act, 2005.
The negligence of Immigration authorities is putting our national security at risk and giving an opportunity to foreigners to question our national sovereignty. We don’t think that bureaucrats who are working at a higher level in the Ministry of Home and External Affairs are not aware of these violations. Not sure why these violations do not catch the attention of enforcement agencies and media. Is it a case of ignorance about impending danger or wilful silence? It’s a silence we as a nation can ill afford.
(The writer is the President for the Legal Rights Protection Forum)