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Compass Direct (04/25/06) – The Supreme Court of India on Friday (April 21) granted anticipatory bail to Archbishop M.A. Thomas, the founder of Emmanuel Mission International (EMI) who has been in hiding since authorities issued an arrest warrant for him in a Hindu extremist-backed crackdown on his ministry.

The court also granted bail to V.S. Thomas, EMI administrator. The same day, a lower court also granted bail to EMI’s Vikram Kindo, a minor (under 18).

The three, among others, were accused of publishing a book, Haqeekat, which allegedly denigrates Hindu gods – a charge the EMI officials deny. V.S. Thomas and Kindo were arrested on February 20. Hindu extremists had offered a reward of $26,000 each for the heads of Thomas and his son, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Thomas, EMI president.

The court granted anticipatory bail to M.A. Thomas because he was more than 70 years old and had been awarded in 2001 the Padam Shri, the highest civilian award in the country, Lansinglu Rongmei, secretary of the Christian Legal Association of India, told Compass.

A day after the Supreme Court’s order, V.S. Thomas was released, said Mohammad Akram, EMI’s attorney in Rajasthan state. “The juvenile court of Kota granted bail to Vikram Kindo on April 21, but he has not been released yet, as only a blood relative can fill the bail bond for him,” he said.

Kindo’s relatives in Bihar state have been contacted and they will soon come for his release, Akram said.

Akram said that charges against Samuel Thomas were put into final form on April 15 and 17 in two cases registered against him in two different police stations in Kota .

“A lower court had earlier rejected Thomas’s bail, saying the plea was immature as charges against him had not been framed,” Akram said. “However, when I applied for bail for the second time in the court of Additional District Judge No. 2 on April 17, the bail plea was rejected again.”

Akram then applied for Thomas’ bail in the Rajasthan High Court on April 22. The matter came up for hearing today, but the court postponed it until tomorrow, he added.

Thomas was arrested on March 16 in Noida, a town near Delhi , while he was on his way to attorney R.K. Jain’s residence to discuss bail for his father.He is in a separate cell in Kota ’s jail, as Akram had requested the court to ensure his protection amid fears that Hindu extremists were planning to attack him.

The registration of all the institutions of EMI remained cancelled and their bank accounts frozen at press time. These institutions, however, were functioning without any fresh threats or harassment.

The Registrar of Societies gave a three-day notice before revoking the registrations of their institutions on February 20 on the pretext of “violation of procedures required by the laws related to societies.”

EMI operates under five registered societies: Emmanuel Bible Institute Samiti, Emmanuel Anath Ashram (Orphanage), Emmanuel School Society, Emmanuel Chikitsalaya (Hospital) Samiti, and Emmanuel Believers Fellowship. EMI leads a native church movement receiving aid from Columbus, Georgia-based Hopegivers International for humanitarian and educational work with over 10,000 children.

A delegation by the All India Christian Council led by Secretary General John Dayal, also member of the National Integration Council of the Government of India, that visited Kota from March 18 to 20 blamed the state government ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for pressuring the Kota administration to harass EMI workers.

Tensions began on January 25, when M.A. Thomas and his son received anonymous death threats warning them not to hold the annual graduation ceremony for hundreds of orphans and Dalit Christian students scheduled for February 25. The ceremony was postponed in the wake of the threats and attacks.