Even as the ripples created by Pala Bishop Joseph Kallarangatt's 'narcotic jihad' comments are being felt across the political spectrum in Kerala, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said that the government has no intention of initiating any legal action against the bishop. The CM said that there were divisive forces operating in the state and that everyone should ensure that the brotherhood between the various religious communities and the communal harmony are not disrupted. "The intent should be to resolve the issues with dialogue," he said.
A week ago, the bishop had said that there are two kinds of jihad in the state: love jihad and narcotic jihad. He claimed that narcotic jihad involved ruining the lives of non-Muslims, particularly young people, by getting them addicted to drugs. While the bishop's comments without any proof have been slammed for hate speech, many are questioning the lack of punitive action against the bishop. Even Pinarayi, soon after the bishop's speech, said that people holding responsible positions shouldn't cause religious divisions and that the issue of narcotics wasn't pertaining to one religion.
"A ruling government has limitations when it comes to booking cases on people, especially those who are influential, so as not to strain the rapport with them. But what is stipulated in the criminal procedure code is that anyone can cite a criminal act to book someone, not necessarily the aggrieved person. Anyone can approach the police to book a person for such statements,â Boris Paul, a lawyer practising at Kollam, told TNM.
The bishop had also said that his speech wasn't against any religion. However, it could be argued that while the bishop didn't use the word âMuslimâ or say that Muslims are behind ânarcotic jihadâ or âlove jihadâ, the word jihad and jihadi are used in reference to Muslims. Notably, this is not the first such comment by Bishop Joseph Kallarangatt â in August, he had come out with a similar message for Christians. A circular issued by the bishop had warned Christian families about âfraudsters seeking to trap girls and young women and how certain people were working to entrap women by befriending them through phone calls.â The BJP was quick to support the bishop while multiple Muslim organisations slammed the speech.
Kaleeswaram Raj, a lawyer practising at the Kerala High Court, however feels differently.
"A case should have been registered under section 153A of the Indian Penal Code (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language etc. and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony). There were situations in the state where no one was booked for making hate speech due to political considerations, especially if a political party in the ruling government has leniency towards that particular community. At the same time, there are situations in which a political opponent of a ruling party is booked even for a fair comment. Sometimes, section 153A is not used in appropriate circumstances," he told TNM.
TNM contacted the Additional Director General of police (Intelligence) and said that the information is not available with the wing and it's for the local police to book the person of concern in such instances. Pala Police also said that no case has been registered so far as there is no complaint.
"In some parts of the country, people supportive of the Union government have also been known to ignore hate speech and not take action. This is done even by the media sometimes. The only exception is the Sudarshan TV case; where the court interdicted continuation of a telecast,â Kaleeswaram Raj said. He had appeared for petitioner Sashi Kumar in the Sudarshan TV case. Sashi Kumar, Chairman and editor-in-chief of Asiaville, had filed an intervention application before the Supreme Court. Sudarshan TV's programme named 'Bindas Bol' was related to Muslims entering civil services which the channel had likened to âinfiltrationâ and âJihadâ. âThe solution to this (to stop hate speeches or telecasting hate messages) is to apply section 153A in a judicious manner, to use it in a situation where it's liable," Kaleeswaram added.
The lack of action against Bishop Joseph this time could be seen as a departure from norm, because the previous Pinarayi Vijayan government booked two leaders of different political parties for hate speech. The late Kerala Congress (B) leader R Balakrishna Pillai was booked in August 2016 for alleged hate speech after he had allegedly described the call to prayer from mosques via loudspeakers as barking of dog five times a day. Pillai, who belonged to the dominant Nair community in the state, had also allegedly talked about the increase in the number of mosques and churches. And in October 2016, the Kerala Hindu Aikya Vedi President Sasikala, who has targeted the Muslim community multiple times, was booked under section 153A and 295A (deliberated and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings) based on a complaint by a government pleader C Shukkur who alleged that Sasikalaâs speeches could create communal tension in the state. The complainant had also submitted a few CDs containing the purported âhate speechesâ by Sasikala.
In April 2018, the Badiadka Police in Kasaragod district filed an FIR against Sadhvi Saraswati, the president of Sanatan Dharma Prachar Seva Samiti and a Hindutva hardliner, for a controversial speech. At the 'Virat Hindu Convention' in the district, she asked men to gift swords to their sisters so that they could behead those who trap women in the name of 'love jihad'. She was booked based on a complaint by a citizen.