BJP’s Ollur candidate B Gopalakrishnan comments to a Christian priest in Kerala went viral.

BJP candidate B Gopalakrishnan wearing saffron scarf and attending a rally
news 2021 Kerala Assembly Election Saturday, April 03, 2021 - 17:36

Days after a Thrissur BJP candidate’s toxic campaign speech against Muslims went viral, CPI(M) and Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) have condemned the same. Ollur BJP candidate and the party’s state spokesperson B Gopalakrishnan had posted a video of him seeking votes from a Christian priest in his constituency. The video which was communal in content quickly went viral.

Reacting to the video, MB Rajesh, two-time MP and CPI(M) leader contesting from Thrithala in Palakkad, said that the BJP was trying hard to ‘polarise Kerala’. “This is just BJP implementing its agenda which has worked in other states. Earlier they were not brave enough to speak about this, but now they are doing it. This communalisation has worked in other states, except in Kerala. And now they are trying to communalise and polarise the people here too,” Rajesh explains.

Reacting to the claim of inequitable distribution of minority benefits in favour of Muslims, IUML Kerala Secretary and Ponnani MP ET Muhammad Basheer told TNM that the Muslim community was only getting a share of minority benefits which was laid out in the Indian laws, and nothing over that share.

“The minority benefits are doled out in certain percentages and the Muslim community here in Kerala is only getting a share that has been laid out by the Ministry of Minority Affairs based on the recommendations of many expert committees. We are not here to snatch the rights and benefits that any other community deserves,” he tells TNM. He alleges that ‘those who were attempting to divide people in the name of nationalism and love for the country are actually the real anti-nationals’.

In the controversial video Gopalakrishnan can be heard falsely claiming to the Christian priest that Muslims took away a bigger share of the minority rights and benefits doled out by the Centre’s Ministry of Minority Affairs.

This Gopalakrishnan alleges was a result of both the CPI(M) and the Congress being ‘controlled by Muslim organisations’. Congress, he alleges, cannot ‘go against the Indian Union Muslim League’ - a long term ally of the party, and hence will not question the ‘unfair distribution of benefits favouring Muslims’.

He also alleges that in Thrissur town, shops owned by Christians are disappearing and more Muslim stores were cropping up - a claim hardly based on any facts.

The BJP leader also claims that ‘love jihad’ bogey is a reality. Love Jihad is a concept coined by Hindutva forces to target and harass Muslims. It alleges that Muslim lure and seduce Hindu women by pretending to be in love with them and then go on to deceive them by compelling the women to convert to Islam. However, despite the false narrative that the BJP and right-wing group peddle, the Union government has officially stated that ‘love jihad’ does not exist and has not been defined by Indian laws. 

Minority scholarships

While alleging inequitable distribution of minority benefits, Gopalakrishnan picks the example of minority scholarships, claiming that they were being unfairly distributed in the 80:20 ratio - with 80 percent going to Muslims and 20 percent to Christians (the two minority groups in Kerala).

Gopalakrishnan also adds that “benefits are supposed to be distributed based on the share of population of the two communities.”

However a look at the Sachar and Paloli committee reports debunks Gopalakrishnan’s claims. The Minority Affairs Directorate offers eight types of student scholarships amounting to Rs 14 crore a year. These scholarships were set up on the 2007 recommendations of the Sachar Committee - a panel set up under the UPA government to address backwardness in the Muslim community.

To make suggestions on the report, the LDF government in Kerala in 2007 set up another committee under Paloli Muhammad Kutty, a CPI(M) veteran. The Paloli committee found that Muslim community was behind their Christian community when it came to college enrolment and in other socio-economic aspects.

Even though the Muslim backwardness in Kerala is different from that of in other States in India, in details and in circumstances, the Sachar committee has found in various sectors that it is a gazing reality on social justice, says the Palolo committee report. The report found that 55.2% of Muslim youth between the ages of 18-25 are unemployed as compared to 31.9% t of the Christian population. 

The report also found that 20.5% of the Christian youth in the state were attending college while the number reduced to 8.1% for Muslim youth.

Based on these findings, the LDF government decided on scholarships for Muslims. In 2011, 20% of these scholarships - meant initially for only Muslims - were set aside for Latin Catholics and converted Christians.

The BJP has managed to rake up this issue with the elections drawing closer. According to reports, some sections of the Christian community have also bought into the argument, with church leaders even raising the issue with PM Modi.

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