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Demystifying the ‘Civil Society’: Christian orgs donated to organization that published report calling Amarnath Yatra ‘militarised’

In the previous article in the series, we reported on how the Amarnath Yatra report that was used by various media outlets such as the National Herald, Firstpost, The Wire, Frontline, etc. to write articles in which they argued that the Yatra was more political than spiritual was based on the assertions of a report published by JKCCS in collaboration with Equations. We also discovered that JKCCS was linked to CDRO, an organisation that was associated with most of the ‘urban Maoists’ who were raided and detained recently.

While in the previous article, we delved into the background of the JKCCS and discovered that it had clear separatist inclinations with its President Parvez Imroz stating in an interview that Pakistan was a better option for Kashmir than India, in this one, we would delve into the other organisation, Equations, that had co-published the report calling Amarnath Yatra ‘militarised pilgrimage’.

Equitable Tourism Options (Equations)

In this instalment of the series, we shall investigate the other organization that was involved in the publishing of the aforementioned report, ‘Amarnath Yatra: A Militarized Pilgrimage’, Equitable Tourism Options (Equations). On its website, it states, “Equations envisions a just and equitable world, where all people have the freedom and right to determine their lives and future”. It further states, “Equations envisions tourism which is non-exploitative, where decision making is democratized and access to and benefits of tourism are equitably distributed.” The organization states that it works across the themes of ‘Child & Tourism’, ‘Ecosystems, Communities and Tourism’, ‘Governance, Law and Tourism’, ‘Tourism Education’ and other areas related to tourism.

Source of Funds

On its website, Equations also mentions the records of the foreign contributions it has received. We discovered that two organizations regularly made contributions to them for ‘Research and Advocacy work on Tourism in India’ and related grant and travel expenses from 2016. Those organizations are ‘Bread for the World’ (henceforth referred to as Bread) and ‘Misereor’. In 2018 alone, Equations received over Rs. 26 lakhs in contributions from Bread and over Rs. 24 lakhs from Misereor. In 2017, Bread contributed more than Rs. 57 lakhs and Misereor over Rs. 83 lakhs to Equations. In 2016, Equations received as grant over Rs. 65 lakhs from Bread and more than Rs. 46 lakhs from Misereor. It can, hence, be seen that Equations received a significant amount of grant from foreign organizations.

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Thus, it prompted us to investigate the organizations which have contributed so significantly to Equations for “research and advocacy work” related to Tourism. First, we shall take a look at Bread before turning our focus to Misereor.

Bread for the World

Bread’s website describes itself as “a collective Christian voice” whose goal is to end world hunger home and abroad. It is based in Washington but the donations have been made from Germany. The organization works regularly with a host of evangelical Churches and organizations. Evangelical Covenant Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, National Association of Evangelicals, National Latino Evangelical Coalition among them. Bread also has ‘strong partnerships’ with Oxfam, among other organizations, which was accused of covering up sexual misconduct by its members in Haiti. Bread also plays a leadership role in many coalitions of organizations including the Evangelical Immigration Table.

In India, Bread makes contributions to various NGOs and institutions. One such organization that receives donations from Bread for the World is South Central India Network for Development Alternatives (SCINDeA), which focus on development activities and works with Tribals, Dalits, fisherfolk, quarry workers, slum dwellers and other such groups.

Yet another organization that receives funds from Bread is the Rongmei Naga Baptist Association (RNBA). One of the many objectives of RNBA is to set up and run theological seminary.

Yet another NGO that receives contributions from Bread for the World is Center for World Solidarity (CWS) whose mission is “To promote a rights-based, gendered and eco-sustainable approach that will advance people-centred governance, livelihoods and management of natural resources.” Its mother-ship is Action for World Solidarity, one of the objectives of which is “to defend political, social and cultural human right”.

Conspicuously, another organization which receives a great deal of contribution from Bread is the Socio-Legal Information Center (SLIC), a division of which is the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN). The HRLN works in a variety of areas such as Child Rights, Labour Rights, Prisoners’ Rights, Criminal Justice, Refugee Rights among a host of others. Notably, the HRLN claims it has been providing free legal aid to Rohingya detainees across the country. The network has filed PILs related to the implementation of the RTE Act. HRLN has also filed a PIL in the Supreme Court on behalf on Najeeb’s mother, the missing student from JNU, upon which the SC directed the Delhi government, the Police and authorities at JNU to be even more rigorous in their probe to find him. The HRLN was also part of a campaign to abolish sedition along with PUCL, PUDR, APDR, CPDR, APCLC, which are coordinating organizations of CDRO, an umbrella organization we have reported on extensively in the first part of the series.

Misereor

Another organization that contributes significantly to the SLIC is the Misereor. If our readers would remember, it is the same organization that contributed significantly to Equations, which came up with the Amarnath Yatra report in collaboration with JKCCS, an organization with clear separatist inclinations.

As per Misereor’s website, it is a “German Catholic Bishops’ Organisation for Development Cooperation”. Misereor funds various organizations in India, including Caritas India and Indo Global Social Service Society (IGSSS).

The vision of IGSSS is to “Help establish a humane social order based on equity, freedom and justice in which human rights and the dignity of every individual is upheld.” It has worked extensively in Jammu and Kashmir, with strengthening civil society action in Kashmir among its action areas. It has also focused on strengthening local governance.

Another organization that receives contributions from Misereor is the Agra Catholic Diocese Samaj Seva Sanstha (ACDSSS). Its mission is “To strive for a humane society of sustainable development based on the principles of equality, distributive justice and secularism in solidarity with the marginalized through the empowerment process. Its vision is “a humane society based on the values of equality, distributive justice, secularism, love brotherhood, peace, respect and dignity.”

Yet another organization is the Catholic Social Service Society (CSSS) of Jammu and Kashmir. Its mission is “Promotion, restoration and sustenance of dignity of human beings, preferentially, the poor and the less privileged, by partnering with state and non-state actors, through the process of empowerment and right based approach”. Misereor also makes contributions to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Balasore. It runs convents, parishes, educational institutions, hostels, etc. Its religious congregation’s list Congregation of The Mission which is a clerical society of apostolic life. “The object of apostolic life/ society determines that each member, besides developing himself to his own perfection, shall be employed in preaching the Gospel to the poor,” its website further says. Its religious congregation also lists the Society of Jesus which is engaged in evangelical activities all across the world. Misereor also grants funds to the Jesuit Chennai Mission which claims to work for the Dalit community.

Caritas India, which is a major recipient of the contribution from Misereor, was put on a government watch list by the NDA in 2015. A Home Ministry official, who asked not to be named, asserted that Caritas had violated foreign funding norms by financing groups that were working “against the country”. The Vatican describes Caritas as its official voice “in relation to its teachings in the area of charity work”.

Conclusion

Therefore, the gist of the matter is this: one of the organizations which were involved in the publishing of the report, “Amarnath Yatra: A Militarized Pilgrimage” received significant donations from Christian organizations based abroad. These Christian organizations also contribute significantly to various Christian organizations in India, including Jesuit societies and more importantly, a network of advocates who file PILs related to various areas of national significance and are even involved in a campaign to abolish sedition in cohorts with organizations with alleged links to Maoists.

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