NEW DELHI — The Indian government has declined to renew the visa of an elderly Spanish nun who had ministered to the country’s poor people for five decades.
The nun, who trained as a medical doctor, had helped poor people in the country’s east since the mid-1960s. She flew Aug. 20 from New Delhi on a flight to Spain.
Sister Martha Pradhan, provincial leader of the congregation’s North India province, said Sister Enedina had renewed her visa periodically since she arrived in me to Behrampur in 1965, but the government rejected her application this time around.
“She applied online to renew her visa in the first week of August, paid the fees and completed all the formalities. … We then received the notice that she had to leave the country within 10 days,” Sister Pradhan said. “We were not told why the visa was not renewed.”
India’s Ministry of External Affairs deals with visa issues but maintains a policy of not stating any reason when a visa is denied.
The development comes amid criticism that the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was reelected in May in a landslide, has been supportive of hardline Hindu groups pushing to make India a Hindu-only nation.
Hindu groups have been demanding the expulsion of all foreign missioners from India, accusing them of using social work as a facade for converting Dalit and tribal people to Christianity.
A ministry official told ucanews.com that it cannot speak about specific cases.
“A visa, as a rule, is often denied if it is incompatible with the purpose of the visit as mentioned in the visa application of the applicant,” the official said. “The government, like any other government, believes that the right to grant visas remains the sole prerogative of the host country concerned.”
Sister Enedina earned bachelor’s degrees in medicine and surgery in 1959. Arriving in Berhampur several years later, she opened a health clinic serving the needs of local people, primarily tribal and socially poor Dalit people. She later moved to another locale, serving the same communities.
Sister Enedina’s 54-year missionary career as a doctor, nurse and teacher caused “many in the area to consider her their mother,” Sister Pradhan said.
Bishop Sarat Chandra Nayak of Behrampur said he was saddened by Sister Enedina’s departure.
“It is unfortunate that such a qualified and trained nun had to leave the country,” he said. “It indeed is a loss. We don’t have many sisters qualified as doctors who will work in remote areas among the tribals and Dalits.”
The Daughters of Charity arrived in India in 1940. Today the congregation has 232 members living in 42 houses and working in 14 dioceses.