Indian evangelist denied refugee status in New Zealand to be deported


Wellington, Nov 24: An Indian Christian evangelist in New Zealand will be deported despite his claims that “Hindu extremists” in India have threatened to kill him, media reported on Thursday.

Auckland High Court’s Justice Peters acknowledged that the situation for Christians in India had “deteriorated” under the new government, which was elected in 2014, but not since the man’s initial bid for refugee status was rejected a year ago, reported.

The man, identified only as BD, was detained and jailed in 2012 for overstaying his visa. Since then, the Indian Christian evangelist has been fighting the deportation order on humanitarian grounds.

The Immigration and Protection Tribunal in New Zealand turned down his first claim for refugee status in 2015.

He made another claim saying that his stay in jail had strengthened his Christian faith so much, that the preaching he would be compelled to do when back in India would put his life in danger. That claim too, has been turned down by the Auckland High Court.

In a decision earlier this week, Justice Peters said the man had initially been rejected as a refugee because his risk of danger would be low if he returned to India. However, he also noted Indian police’s “sometimes lacklustre” response to hostility against Christians, according to the report.

But the man’s lawyer said a “rising tide of Hindu extremism” under the India government, coupled with his client’s intensified will to “convert heathens”, meant circumstances had changed enough for the High Court to reconsider his entitlement to refugee status.

The lawyer urged the High Court to reconsider his client’s entitlement to refugee status by saying that his return to the country might land him in deep trouble. The lawyer cited Vishva Hindu Parishad as a threat for minorities, including Christians in India, according to the media report.

Hindu and Christian leaders in Auckland’s Indian community, however, labelled BD’s religious claims a “baseless” excuse to remain in the country. Veer Khar, a Hindu and the president of the Indian Central Association, said all faiths were tolerated in India.

Justice Peters noted “whether or not (the man’s) faith has intensified” did not increase his risk of attack, because he was already a well-known evangeliser.

BD had claimed that his brother in India had received several threatening telephone calls, but Justice Peters dismissed those claims.

Ilamgo Krishna Moorthy, the president of the New Zealand Hindu Temple Association, said “a lot of evangelists” visited India regularly and the man would not be stopped. (Agencies)