Indians from all walks of life and religions have joined to condemn allegations made against Bl. Teresa of Calcutta by a fundamentalist Hindu leader charging that her sole objective in helping the poor was converting them to Christianity.

Mohan Bhagwat, head of the Hindu nationalist organization RSS, said Feb. 23 in India's Rajasthan state that "Mother Teresa's service would have been good. But it used to have one objective, to convert the person, who was being served, into a Christian."

Bhagwat was speaking at the inauguration of an orphanage and women's home run by a local NGO, and said, "here we will not provide service like that rendered by Mother Teresa. It is possible that her kind of work was good, but there was a motive behind that service."

His comments have evoked fierce reactions over social media, as well as protests. In the national upper house of parliament, the Rajya Sabha opposition parties staged protests which led to adjournment of the sitting. They demanded statements from the ruling government and from prime minister Narendra Modi, whose BJP party is closely aligned with RSS.

Bishop Thomas Dabre of Poona told CNA Feb. 26 that "Mother Teresa's services reflected the teachings of Jesus Christ – 'love thy neighbor as thyself' – and so her serving others was unconditional, unselfish to lepers, the sick, the abandoned and the suffering, and for people of all religions."

"Hundreds of thousands of people whom she served were people of different religions, and they remained in their religion till the end and she did not deny services to them, because they did not convert and left them to practice their faith."

Bishop Dabre rebuffed Bhagwat's comments saying that "scores of people of various religions joined Mother in serving the needy and the suffering, and among them were Hindus, so facts prove Mr. Bhagwat wrong."

Gaja Nayak, a Hindu lawyer, told CNA that "Vindictive criticisms are like parasites, for they prey on other people's work or achievement; some tend to be constructive, while many others are merchants of money, power and hate infiltrators … Mother Teresa spread love and kindness, and that makes the difference."

"Perhaps people today have forgotten the historical past of the great famine of Bengal in 1943 and the pre- and post-Independence era of partitions and war, during which Mother Teresa offered her life and soul in helping the marginalized and downtrodden people."

Nayak concluded saying that caste systems, women's inequality, and oppression of the poor are scars that remain on India's conscience.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of India also have slammed the allegations, expressing its concern and distress upon "casting aspersion" on the saintly persona of Mother Teresa.

The CBCI said in a Feb. 24 statement, "It is quite unfortunate that the services of such a world renowned Nobel Prize laureate and Bharat Ratna awardee be dragged into such unwarranted controversies."

Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, and in 1980 the Bharat Ratna, India's highest award given to civilians.

"Mother Teresa never had any hidden agenda nor did she ever use her services as a cover up for conversion," the bishops stated. "She always maintained that her main concern was to ease the suffering of people and to help the poor and the suffering to lead a life of relief and self-respect."

The Indian bishops also emphasized the importance upholding the freedom of speech of every citizen of India, hoping that "the nation's age-old passion for truth, unbiased support for the humanitarian works and compassion for the poor and the suffering may not be jeopardized by any cynical motive or intolerant gesticulations."

Sunita Kumar is a Sikh and was a close association of Mother Teresa for more than three decades.

She is now spokeperson for the Missionaries of Charity, and told The Hindu, "No one is going to believe what they (RSS) said … Mother Teresa was above religion."

Refuting the accusations of conversion to Christianity, she said "all what Mother worked for was the service of humanity and peace in society. There is no scope for any kind of religious conversion in the Missionaries of Charity."

Social media has also flooded with various reactions condemning Bhagwat's behavior. Arvind Kejriwal, chief minister of Delhi, Tweeted that having worked with Mother Teresa he knew her to be a "noble soul", and asked that she be spared.

Bhagwat's comments come in the wake of a spate of attacks on churches in New Delhi over the last three months.

Bl. Teresa of Calcutta, a native of what is now Macedonia, joined the Sisters of Loreto and became a missionary in India in 1929. She felt called to serve the poorest of the poor, and in 1950 founded a new religious congregation, the Missionaries of Charity.

She died in 1997, and was beatified in 2003.