Elections 2019
BJP state president PS Sreedhran Pillai made the comment while campaigning in Attingal on Sunday.

Kerala BJP state president PS Sreedharan Pillai’s distasteful comment on Muslims has sparked a political row. Speaking at a campaign rally in Attingal on Sunday, Sreedharan Pillai said with a giggle that Muslims can be identified by ‘removing their clothes’, in a reference to circumcision. Speaking about the Balakot Air Strike by the Indian Air Force, Sreedharan Pillai said, “Our Rahul Gandhi, Yechury, and Pinarayi are saying, our soldiers have to go there and see the count of the dead...their caste, religion etc.”

“If it is Islam, there are some signs, no?” he continued, “If you remove their clothes you will be able to know. We have to do all that and return is what they are saying.” He was referring to questions being raised about the number of people killed in the Balakot strike; several international media houses have questioned the BJP’s stated figures, whereas the Indian Air Force itself has not declared any numbers.

While Congress advisor Sam Pitroda and CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury have questioned the government's numbers, and many opposition leaders had followed suit, no one has made any comments about the religion or caste of those killed.

Sreedharan Pillai made the remark during a campaign in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections in the state. He was campaigning for BJP’s Attingal candidate Sobha Surendran in the constituency on Sunday.

However, despite the video doing the rounds, speaking to TNM, the BJP state president denied having made such a comment during the campaign. “This is a Himalayan lie. I have never made any such comment anywhere. I will be taking legal action to counter these allegations and the complaint against me in the EC,” he said.

Pillai's comment has drawn widespread criticism from both LDF and Congress leaders in the state. A complaint has also been filed with the Election Commission by CPI(M) leader VS Sivankutty, who alleged that the remark was a blatant violation of the Model Code of Conduct as it targeted a religious community.

Speaking at a press meet in Attingal, Sivankutty, who is the coordinator of CPI(M) candidate A Sampath’s campaign in the constituency, stated the BJP state chief’s comment was also a criminal act under IPC Section 153 A (promoting enmity between different groups on the grounds of religion).

Meanwhile, Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala stated that Sreedharan Pillai’s remark was an insult to the Muslim community. He added that the BJP leader must rescind his statement and offer a public apology for the incident, failing which the Returning Officer must take action against him.

IUML leader and Malappuram MP PK Kunhalikutty also severely criticised the BJP Chief’s remark. He said that the incident was BJP’s attempt to polarise and build their vote bank, adding that such an attempt would not work in Kerala and would only result in loss of votes for the party.