Every year the US State Department releases various Country Reports that purports to document, assess, and offer recommendations regarding the conditions of human rights, religious freedom, terrorism, and trafficking present in different countries across the world. Similarly, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which works closely with the US State Department, specifically concentrates on the issue of religious freedom and its violations across the world.
Yet, if one were to analyze the India-specific reports that are released year after year, they are often replicating propaganda from Christian Evangelist organizations without any independent checks. In the quest to create a narrative of “Christian persecution” in India they deliberately overlook cases where Christians may be the perpetrators of abuse. One such example is how the US whitewashed horrendous child abuse by the Christian Pastor Jacob John in Jaipur, Rajasthan.
Who is Pastor Jacob John?
Pastor Jacob John is a Christian Pastor from Jaipur, Rajasthan, who was arrested by the police in 2013 on charges of wrongful confinement, kidnaping, and trafficking. Jacob is the son of KK John from Malviya Nagar, Jaipur and he was running a children’s home for girls called ‘Father Grace Home’ in the city. Additionally, he was also running a separate children’s home for boys as well.
On March 12, 2013, the police raided both children’s homes and rescued 53 children- 29 girls and 24 boys- who had been wrongfully kept in confinement and exploited in numerous ways. During the raid on Grace Home, the police found around 600 empty liquor bottles, rotting vegetables, and a broken toilet and a single room. The 29 tribal girls, who were rescued, were all under the age of 14 and were brought from North-East, especially Manipur. Subsequent medical tests revealed that many of the girls were drugged and sexually exploited.
The condition of the children of Grace Home was so bad that, parents who withdrew their children from the Grace Home, found their children, especially girls returning home with severe physical deformity and sexual abuse. Felicita Shongvah, president, Tangkhul Shanao Long, had stated that “a number of minor girls were sexually exploited and in one case, the girl got pregnant. It is said she has delivered the baby, who is with her grandmother now, while the girl is missing. The children also confided they saw Jacob sleeping with the girl inmates.”
According to reports, Jacob had established Grace Home in 1999 and had staffed it with people from UP, Mumbai, and Ukhrul (in Manipur). He is believed to have used relatives of his first wife, who hailed from Ukhrul, to traffic children. Further, John himself was also visiting Ukhrul, since 1997, where he preached at Tuinem Baptist Church and Nepali Baptist Church.
Jacob was arrested on May 2 by the Nagaland police and later arrested by the Manipuri police on June 13 and is currently being tried in court. It is believed that between 2005 and 2012, for seven years, he had sexually exploited not only the girls he had confined in his illegal home, but also the women staff he had hired.
First allegations surface in 2007
The first allegations regarding the trafficking activities carried out Pastor Jacob John in his ‘Grace Home’ appears to have surfaced in 2007. Veerendra Singh Rana, a VHP member had lodged a complaint accusing the wardens of the Grace Home of indulging in trafficking and prostitution. Following this complaint, the police had reportedly visited the Grace Home and interrogated the wardens on October 15, 2007. But, apparently, neither any formal complaint was registered, nor any action was taken.
US State Department’s 2008 report cites 2007 incident under ‘discrimination’
Though, the police chose to ignore the allegations against Pastor Jacob John in 2007 and did not even carry out a proper investigation beyond the nominal interrogation of the wardens, if one were to read US State Department’s 2008 report, one would get the impression that Jacob and his Grace Home was ‘persecuted’ and ‘discriminated’ by the Hindutva people and the Indian State.
The International Religious Freedom Report 2008, prepared by the US State Department cites the above incident under its “Section III. Societal Abuses and Discrimination”, thereby explicitly branding a simple police investigation based on a complaint regarding trafficking as ‘abuse’ and ‘discrimination.’
The report then tries to downplay the allegations against Pastor Jacob John by insinuating that the complainant is a suspect in a case regarding an attack on some other pastor and hence his allegations are motivated and aimed at harassing Pastor Jacob John. It notes: “On October 15, 2007, local police came to the Father’s Children Home in Jaipur and interrogated its warden, Jacob John, said Sajan K. George of the Global Council of Indian Christians. Veerendra Singh Rana, one of the prime suspects of another attack on a pastor, lodged the complaint accusing the wardens of Father’s Children Home in Jaipur of indulging in human trafficking and prostitution. The police did not lodge a formal complaint.”
Incidentally, a similar argument was put forward by a Christian watchdog ‘World Watch Monitor’ in its 2007 report of the incident. It states: “A Hindu extremist who was the primary suspect in a televised attack on a pastor in Rajasthan’s capital of Jaipur earlier this year has now accused a Christian orphanage of human trafficking and prostitution. On October 15, local police came to the Father’s Children Home in Jaipur and interrogated its warden, Jacob John, said Dr. Sajan K. George of the Global Council of Indian Christians. Police told John that Veerendra Singh Rana, who is out on bail, had filed the complaint with the state home minister, Gulab Chand Kataria, charging them with flesh trade. About 30 children live in the orphanage. Rana, a leader of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council), had led a violent attack on Pastor Walter Masih before a private TV channel’s camera on April 29…….Christians complain that the state government ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party is giving a free hand to Hindu extremists to launch anti-Christian attacks”
This is a prime example of the US State department passing off motivated and biased religious propaganda from evangelical organizations as “reporting.” It is interesting to note the similarity in the content and the language of the report by the “Christian watchdog” and the US State Department report. Both tried to pass of the allegation against Pastor Jacob John as false and motivated; both tried to portray the entire 2007 incident as discrimination, bordering on persecution. The only difference is the US State department report tries to give an appearance of neutrality, while the original evangelical “report” minces no words in holding Hindus and “Hindu organizations” guilty. While the evangelicals can be explicit in their Hinduphobia, the State Department displays the same prejudices couched in more diplomatic language.
Apparently, complaining about horrendous abuse by a Christian priest is an “anti-Christian attack”. What other conclusion can be drawn from this other than that the US State is an active enabler of this abuse? Moreover, international outrage does make the police in India more circumspect about taking action. It is possible that the ignorant, biased reporting from the US State delayed Jacob John’s arrest and allowed the abuse to go on for much longer.
US Department’s 2014 reports silent about Pastor Jacob, despite his arrest
Even if one were to grant a benefit of doubt to the US State Department for their downplaying of the allegations against Pastor Jacob John in 2007, it is hard to miss that the US Department’s reports for the year 2014 fails to mention about Jacob even once, despite the fact that Jacob’s trafficking activities had been exposed, and he was arrested in 2013.
A search for keywords like ‘Pastor Jacob’ ‘Jacob’ ‘John’ ‘Grace Home’, etc. through the US State Department’s 2014 reports on Human Rights, Trafficking, and International Religious Freedom, returned ‘zero’ results.
It is interesting to note that the 2014 Human Rights report does not miss to note on its page 43 that: “There were reports that women and girls in symbolic marriages to Hindu deities were victims of rape or sexual abuse at the hands of priests and temple patrons- a form of sex trafficking.” Yet, it somehow fails to make even a single mention of Pastor Jacob John. This silence on the part of US State Department regarding the gross sexual abuse and trafficking practiced by a Christian Pastor is very disturbing and exposes that the US reporting is not about “religious freedom”, but about facilitating the expansion of Christianity, whatever the costs.
On the one hand, US State Department’s reports are full of incidents, which are rightly or wrongly perceived as threats to the evangelical agenda of the Church. On the other hand, they either turn a blind eye or go to great lengths to cover up any incidents, which tend to expose the crimes committed by the evangelical groups, Churches and Christian clergy. And this is not the first time that the US Departments have tried to cover up a clergy sexual abuse scandal either. USCIRF, which submits its annual reports to the US President, the Secretary of State, and the Congress, for example, has indulged in similar activities many times over the last decade.
The incident of Pastor Jacob John serves as a case study for the inherent agenda in the reports released by the US State Department. Reports from USCIRF and US State Departments on “religious freedom” are part of an evangelical crusade in which India remains a soft target. They need to be treated with the contempt they deserve.
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