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EU announces 2.26 crore aid to Christian organisation in the name of Manipur disaster relief, state government says ‘No, we don’t need your money’

"A sum of Rs.30 crore has already been sanctioned by the State Government to the Deputy Commissioners of the concerned districts", the Manipur govt release said, highlighting that the state does not need EU's money.

The European Union on 29th May announced to donate €250,000 (over 22.6 million Indian rupees) for the state of Manipur which recently suffered from hailstorms and heavy rain earlier this month. Interestingly, the ‘aid’ will be provided by EU humanitarian partner ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency), which is a ‘humanitarian agency’ operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

In a post the EU specified that the amount will benefit “1500 most vulnerable families” in Manipur.

EU’s post on Manipur

However, the government of the northeastern state has categorically refused to accept the aid and issued an official notification to confirm the same. It also called out the EU for disseminating misinformation.

The press release issued by the chief secretary of Manipur stated, “A news report has been circulating in the media and in different social network platforms about the EU providing 250,000 euros to (Rs. 2.25 crore) assist victims of a severe storm in Manipur. This is totally false and untrue and as far as the State Government is concerned all financial requirements in connection with the recent storm are being met from the available National Disaster Response Fund and the State Disaster Response Fund.”

Furthermore, the press release highlighted that the state government, collaborating with the relevant Deputy Commissioners, security personnel, and public volunteers, is actively carrying out all relief efforts related to the storm and the humanitarian work has not been handed to any Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or civil society organizations. It added, “A sum of Rs.30 crore has already been sanctioned by the State Government to the Deputy Commissioners of the concerned districts.”

What is ADRA and its Church connection?

Notably, ADRA’s official website characterizes it as the worldwide humanitarian branch of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, a community of 20 million Adventists that has the greatest integrated healthcare and education network globally. It mentions, “We deliver relief and development assistance to individuals in more than 107 countries – regardless of their ethnicity, political affiliation, gender, or religious association. In India, we have been implementing humanitarian and development projects that help the most vulnerable in India for close to thirty years.”

The Christian outfit further informs, “Registered in 1992 as a Society, ADRA India focuses on key developmental aspects like public healthcare, education, livelihood generation, humanitarian and emergency response, and protection of vulnerable groups. By partnering with local communities, organizations, and governments, we are able to deliver culturally relevant programs and build local capability for sustainable change.”

Image via ADRA India

Seventh-day Adventist Church’s controversial history

A 17-year-old Nepali girl accused Reverend May Wald, a 57-year-old pastor living near Hosur in the Krishnagiri district in Tamilnadu of sexual harassment in April of this year, after which he was arrested by women police and booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. May Wald served at “The Seventh-day Adventist Church” in the Mathigiri neighbourhood. The victim and her family have been living in the same region. The subsequent action was taken after she complained to the officials of the Krishnagiri District Child Protection Committee which resulted in a formal complaint being lodged at the Hosur All Women Police Station. A comprehensive inquiry that followed verified the accuracy of the accusations made against Reverend May Wald.

Members of the Southeast India Union of Seventh-day Adventists in Vandulur, Chennai, made several accusations against the church administration in February 2024, including widespread misappropriation, offensive remarks, sexual abuse and more. They also demonstrated in front of the church to air their complaints. The Seventh Day Adventist Church near Iraniyamman Temple, which owns twenty-seven schools and properties valued at crores came under investigation amid grave charges of dubious fundraising practices.

A sit-in protest was organized by some members of the community against the administration, asserting that they were using dishonest tactics in connection with building projects including schools and churches. Protesters, who declared they had a right to inquire of the administration on years of embezzlement and deception amounting to crores of rupees, were angry that the church would not answer their questions and had locked the gate to prevent them from entering.

In addition to the financial theft, a woman accused the church of sexual abuse and uttering disparaging comments regarding caste. She unveiled that despite other women departing earlier, she was made to stay until six o’clock in the evening, given extra work to complete, and received 500 rupees from White David, the manager, for no apparent reason. She further disclosed that White David along with another person, Daniel Devadoss harassed her over her eight years of employment as a cleaner by spewing crude comments and inquiring about her personal life. She was fired from her work after things became extremely ugly and they accused her of stealing.

EU Parliament’s meddling in Manipur was strongly rejected by Indian govt

Back in July 2023, Indian MEA had shared a strong rejection of the EU Parliament’s efforts to interfere in the Manipur issue. After the EU Parliament passed a so-called ‘urgency resolution’ on the Manipur violence, the MEA had asked the EU to mind its own business and stop interfering in India’s internal affairs.

The MEA said, “We have seen that the European Parliament held a discussion on developments in Manipur and adopted a so-called Urgency Resolution. Such interference in India’s internal affairs is unacceptable and reflects a colonial mindset.”

The MEA statement further read, “Indian authorities at all levels, including the judiciary, are seized of the situation in Manipur and are taking steps to maintain peace and harmony and law and order. The European Parliament would be advised to utilize its time more productively on its internal issues.”

Kuki-Meitei conflict in Manipur and its ethnoreligious roots

The conflict between Meiteis and Kukis ‘tribals’ which resulted in widespread violence last year is the extension of the hills vs plains conflict that exists in almost all states in the northeast. Meiteis are the majority community in Manipur, comprising around 53% of the population, while tribal communities account for around 40% of the population. The majority of Meiteis are Hindus, with some of them being Muslims and some identifying as animists, while the Kukis are mostly Christians. The Meiteis are limited to only around 10% of the land in the state, as the rest of the state is classified as tribal areas. They live in the small patch of plain area in the state, the Imphal Valley, while the tribals reside in the protected Hill Areas, exclusively reserved for them. Meitei people are not allowed to purchase land in more than 90% of the state since they are categorized as non-tribal.

It is notable that only Meiteis and Nagas have been living in Manipur for thousands of years, and Kukis are relatively new to the region. Kukis migrated from Myanmar in the 18th and 19th centuries for various reasons, including persecution by more powerful groups in Myanmar. However, they were taken into the fold by the Meiteis and then the British given the demands of the situation in those times.

Kukis even argue that the Meiteis have lost their tribal identity. One of their claims is that after the King embraced Hinduism in the 1730s, the Meiteis lost their tribal identity. “If there are Meiteis who remember and identify which sub-tribe they belong to under the Meitei umbrella then they can demand the ST status. But for the entire Meitei community including the Brahmins, who are not indigenous, to demand the status is propaganda. All other castes are flexible, for example, a Kshatriya King can become a Shudra if he loses a battle. But others cannot become Brahmins, everyone knows that. Brahmin Meiteis have all come from Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa. Their ethnic identity may have been lost but their caste identity is still Brahmin. I don’t see how they can be reverted to tribals,” claimed prominent Kuki leader Wilson L Hangsing.

Hindu activists have charged that it is not a tribal vs non-tribal conflict, but it was actually initiated by the Christian tribals to evict the Meiteis from Christian-majority areas. They alleged that Christian tribals pre-planned the incident, and implemented it on the day Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar visited Manipur. Notably, illegal churches have also come up in the region which were taken down by the government of N. Biren Singh. All of this culminated in the unrest that enveloped the state for months amid protests by tribal groups over the Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe status.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
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Staff reporter at OpIndia

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