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(FIACONA Press Release Re. The Arrest of Samuel Thomas [Pres. Emmanuel Missions, India]))

Mrs. Shelley Thomas, the wife of Dr. Samuel Thomas of Emmanuel Missions India, meets with officials in Washington over her husband’s politically motivated arrest near Delhi .

Washington , D.C. March, 18: Mrs. Shelley Thomas, the wife of Dr. Samuel Thomas, appealed to officials in Washington to intervene on behalf of her husband who was arrested by the Rajasthan state police near New Delhi on March 16, on politically motivated charges. She was accompanied by Mr. Michael Glenn, the Executive Director of the U.S. operations of the organization. They have been in Washington yesterday and today holding meetings with various leaders before leaving for Georgia .

Dr. Samuel Thomas, the President of Emmanuel Missions India (EMI), was visiting a distinguished Supreme Court attorney Mr. R.K. Jain in Noida near Delhi on Thursday to discuss his legal options. It is believed that the Rajasthan Police came to know in advance about the meeting at the attorney’s office and were waiting for him.

In the wake of this incident, The Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America (FIACONA) expresses its deep concern for the safety and security of Christian leaders in India .

The EMI Mission, which runs a number of institutions including schools, orphanages and a hospital, has been falsely accused by the local Bharathiya Janata Party officials (BJP) of publishing a controversial book that allegedly insults their sentiments. “The Emmanuel Mission India neither authored nor published the book in question,” said Mrs. Shelley Thomas today while visiting officials in Washington .

Warrants of arrest were issued at the urging of BJP activists against the founder of EMI, Padhma Shree. Bishop. M. A. Thomas, his son Dr. Samuel Thomas and other staff members of the Mission . The warrants were issued while Bishop M.A. Thomas and Dr. Samuel Thomas were traveling in south India visiting some of their affiliated organizations. Upon hearing about the arrest warrant, Bishop M.A. Thomas and his son, Dr. Samuel Thomas, sought legal protection from the courts. The Rajasthan police embarked on a country wide manhunt for these two leaders in the meantime.

According to eyewitnesses, on March 16, several men in plain clothes grabbed Dr. Samuel Thomas from the side walk as he was about to enter the law offices of R.K. Jain. The men would not produce official identification or show the arrest warrant when requested by the lawyers who were present there. The men then forced Dr. Thomas into a car and drove away. Bishop M. A. Thomas obtained a court order late this week for his protection against this politically motivated harassment.

“My children and I were living in Kota until we were threatened by BJP activists that we would meet the same fate as Dr. Graham Staines, the Australian missionary and his children“, said Mrs. Shelley Thomas who has moved her children to the U.S. recently. (Dr. Graham Staines, who was running a leprosy mission in Baripada, in the state of Orissa, India, was burnt alive together with his sons in January 1999).

The book in question, written ten years ago, was authored by an advocate, M. G. Mathew from the state of Kerala and was intended as a rebuttal to the book “Bunch of Thoughts” written by M.S. Golwalker, one of the founding members of the Hindu nationalist organization, the RSS. The RSS is a Hindu nationalist grassroots organization which is a major driving force behind the ruling BJP in Rajasthan. The book, “Bunch of Thoughts”, is an assault on the pluralist multi cultural and multi religious traditions of India . The book praises the policies of the Third Reich as a suitable solution to the problems of pre war Germany among other such provocative thoughts.

Several times, the attack on the EMI was raised in the Indian Parliament last week, where members of all parties (other than the Hindu nationalist BJP) criticized the actions of the Rajasthan Government and its police for their inability to protect minority Christian institutions.

The Rajasthan state government froze the bank accounts of the EMI and unilaterally withdrew the licenses to run the Mission institutions. As a result, the state government has jeopardized the lives of over 2500 children who reside at the Mission orphanage. The State government has also arrested key staff members of the Mission. The absence of key staff members from their positions is having a devastating effect on the welfare of the children in the orphanage.

Speaking on behalf of FIACONA, Mr. John Prabhudoss, Chair of the Governmental Affairs Committee, said, “We are disappointed by the lack of timely action by the supposedly secular UPA coalition Government in New Delhi.” He said, “we would like to see a positive, assertive and timely response for this crisis by the UPA government in Delhi. It could be a test case for the government of India to show their commitment to the secular constitution of India.”

FIACONA is urging the government of India to:

  1. Take necessary and immediate action to release the hold on the EMI bank accounts by the state government of Rajasthan.
  2. Take appropriate action to release Dr. Samuel Thomas and other staff members of the organization who were arrested by Rajasthan police in regard to this case.
  3. Take necessary and immediate action to drop all politically motivated charges against the leaders and staff members of the organization.
  4. If the state government refuses to drop the charges, we urge that the individuals in custody be immediately transferred to a location outside of Rajasthan along with the case. This needs to be done immediately in the interest of the safety and security of EMI officials.

While appreciating the actions of the National Human Rights Commission of India in this case, the President of FIACONA Rev. Malik expressed shock at the manner in which Dr. Sajan George of the Global Council of Indian Christians, and his family, who live in Bangalore, were harassed by the Rajasthan police in their hunt for Bishop M. A. Thomas and Dr. Samuel Thomas.