Thiruvananthapuram, Jan. 20: American evangelist Joseph W. Cooper, who was attacked by suspected RSS activists, was today asked by the Kerala government to leave the country within seven days.
A police order has been served on Cooper on the ground that he violated visa regulations by indulging in missionary activity while travelling on a tourist visa.
Thiruvananthapuram district superintendent of police (Rural) T.K. Vinodkumar said that 68-year-old Cooper — who is in a private hospital with stab wounds — has been served orders as per a 1995 order of the government of India.
“We have served orders to Cooper to leave the country within seven days for preaching while on tourist visa and, thereby, violating visa rules,” the police official said.
Vinodkumar added that a probe by the special branch had revealed that Cooper had violated a 1995 central order, which restricts foreigners coming to India on tourist visas from preaching.
Police sources said they had no other option but to issue the order because RSS and Vishwa Hindu Parishad activists were planning to move court tomorrow, seeking action against the missionary on the basis of this central order.
“The court would have upheld the appeal and the police would have been left shame-faced if we did not do this,” a senior police official said.
He pointed out that Cooper, an ordained bishop of the New Jerusalem church in Pennsy-lvania, had been given seven days to leave because he was injured and could not leave the hospital earlier.
Speaking over phone, Cooper confirmed that he had received the police order but refused to comment. Cooper’s position last week was that he had not done anything wrong under the Indian Constitution.
He maintained that participating in missionary meetings was something he had done regularly during his previous 11 visits to India.
With the Kerala government’s order, the attack against Cooper and his associates has acquired an altogether new dimension. So far, the police have been actively proceeding against RSS workers who had masterminded the attack. Ten RSS workers have been arrested, including one Vidhyadharan, who was arrested yesterday night for threatening one of the witnesses of the attack.
Kummanam Rajashekharan, the chief of the VHP in Kerala, said: “The government is letting Cooper off cheaply. The US missionary should have been arrested and prosecuted according to Indian law.”
Cooper and his associates were attacked on the night of January 13 when they were returning after attending a gospel convention organised by the Protestant “Friends of Bible” church at Tholikkuzhi Puliam near the small town of Kilimanur. A local pastor, his wife, two children and a singer were also injured in the attack.