A BJP leader in Kerala has been booked for promoting enmity between groups on religious grounds for a series of tweets urging Hindus to reclaim the St Andrew’s Basilica at Arthunkal in Alappuzha district.
TG Mohan Das, the BJP state intellectual cell convenor had on August 22 taken to Twitter to claim that the St Andrew’s Basilica was originally a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.
"Christians transformed it (the temple) into a church. But still Hindus pray looking at that direction where the sanctum sanctorum of the temple was located. The altar of the church, which was initially built where sanctum sanctorum was located, fell down many times during the construction. The priests who were frightened seeing this met an astrologer. They then shifted the position of the altar from that of the sanctum sanctorum of the temple as per the advice of the astrologer," Mohan Das had stated in a series of tweets.
He then went on to state, “Hindus began to pray at the direction of the old sanctum sanctorum even after the church was built. Now the task of the Hindus is to reclaim the Arthunkal Siva Temple.”
The Aruthunkal police registered a case against Mohan Das on August 23 for trying to promote enmity between different groups on grounds of religion. “We have booked him under 153 A of the IPC for trying to create enmity in the name of religion,” Sivaprasad, Sub Inspector Arthunkal police station told TNM.
Scroll reports, Arthunkal, a fishing village near Kochi, is predominantly comprised of Christians. The Sub Inspector, also added, “It hasn’t created any kind of provocation among the people. The people of both the Hindu and Christian community have viewed the situation with utmost maturity. The church has also taken a guarded stand,” Sivaprasad said.
When asked what action the police would take as Mohan Das had not deleted his tweets, Sivaprasad said, “The investigation is on.”
BJP distances itself from Mohan Das’ tweets
Despite being booked, Mohan Das refused to express regret for his tweets. He took to Twitter to say, “Those against me tried to trap me with Arthunkal, but not worked out,”.
BJP national executive member V Muraleedharan, however, distanced the party from Mohan Das’ inflammatory remarks.
"I don't want to make comments of some people tweeting about things. It's their own individual opinion and does not reflect the opinion of the party in any sense. I don't see the necessary to comment on Mohan Das' remarks. Since it's his own statement, he is the person who should explain what his tweets meant," Muraleedharan told TNM.
Mohan Das, who heads the Intellectual Cell of the party had previously demanded imposition of AFSPA in the politically sensitive Kannur district. On that occasion too, the party leadership had distanced itself from Mohan Das' comments, saying that it was only his personal opinion.
History of the church
The St Andrew’s Basilica was built by Portuguese missionaries in 1581. According to a blog, the land now owned by Alappuzha diocese, was once governed by a group of 72 Madampees Kaimals (Nairs who governed lands owned by the King) who were the followers of the King of Cochin. In 1581 permission was granted to construct a church under the leadership of Father Gasper Pious SJ, a monk who came from Italy. Hindus, who were living there, helped finance the construction of the church, states the blog.
Manorama Online reports that the Basilica witnesses a steady stream of Sabarimala pilgrims in the Malayalam month of Vrishchikam. And this is because devotees believe Lord Ayyappa was close to St. Sebastian – that they were brothers from different religions. Every year, Sabarimala pilgrims arrive at the end of their pilgrimage to the Basilica and remove their sacred rudraksha chain in the church. They also take a dip in the pond close to the church, reports Manorama Online.