By Our Reporter, TNT News | Shillong, Feb 08, 2018:
The Congress party on Thursday condemned the rejection of visa to the President of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), Dr. Paul Msiza and other World Baptist leaders who were supposed to attend the 150th celebration of the Garo Baptist Church, in Meghalaya this month.
Dr Msiza’s visa application was rejected by the Indian Consulate in Johanessburg, South Africa on Feb 7 despite Garo Baptist Church’s claims of having apprised the matter to the Centre and BJP top leaders of the Church leaders’ visit on several occasions. He was scheduled to take a tour of Meghalaya and as a guest at the celebration of the 150 years of Christianity among the Garos.
Taking a dig at the BJP-led government at the Centre for rejection of visa to Christian Missionaries visiting the state from abroad, Shillong MP Vincent Pala on Thursday said that such acts are reflections and signs of intolerance to the minority groups in the country.
“This exposes the mindset of the BJP and they will stop at nothing to saffronise the entire country with their ideologies of Hindutva,” Pala said adding that this matter cannot be seen in isolation of just a visa denial.
Pala also stated that he had spoken to the office of the External Affairs Ministry in this regard and was informed that the ministry is getting in touch with their Ambassador in South Africa. “I am currently awaiting the response of the Indian embassy in SA in this regard,” Pala added.
When asked whether the Congress is using this particular issue to gain political mileage ahead of the Assembly Polls, Pala replied in a negative stating “This is not an isolated case. There have been several cases in the past where Christian Missionaries were denied visas to come to India. This is their mindset that breeds intolerance and attacks people’s eating habits, culture and the spirit and ethos of the Indian Constitution,” he added.
The MPCC working president also raised the issue of St. Mother Theresa being ridiculed by RSS Chief Mohan Bhaigwat, who was of the view that St Mother Theresa had ‘ulterior ‘ motive of converting people to Christianity while serving the destitute people.
“The people of Meghalaya do not need the leaders of saffron brigade to dictate terms from their headquarters in Nagpur in pursuit of their Hindutva agenda,” Pala said adding that the repeated denial of visa by the BJP Government to Christian missionaries to Meghalaya is condemnable in the strongest possible term.
Meanwhile, the BJP has brushed aside allegations of the party being ‘anti-minority’ and ‘anti-Christians’ while stating that visa applications are not only rejected to Christians, but even to Muslim and Hindu citizens of other countries. “Why are you giving this a communal and religious angle. Countries like England and Canada rejects visas to so many people irrespective of their religion. So does it mean these countries are anti-Christians,” Union Tourism Minister KJ Alphons questioned.
Talking to media persons here in Shillong, Alphons said “Nalin Kohli and I have been frequenting the state over the past few months but we were not made aware of the visit of Dr Paul. We came to know about this only last night and the information came to us very late. If they say they had spoken to many BJP leaders, then who are these BJP leaders, because, we are not aware.”
However, he said that when the matter was made known through social media platforms, “I immediately discussed the matter with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and was was informed that she had spoken to the Embassy in South Africa to reconsider Dr Paul’s visit to India,” Alphons said.
When asked on what ground was the visa rejected, the union minister said he is not aware of the reason but maintained that it is unfair to project the government or the party as anti-Christians because the process of visa rejection is not targeted to a single religious group or community.
“This is nothing but false propaganda of the Congress and they are taking this discussion to ridiculous length. We deny visa to lots of people on lots of ground,”Alphons defended the government’s stance.