Senior CPI (M) leader V S Achuthanandan spoke in favour of the demolition of a massive cross by the Revenue officials at Pappathishola, Suryanelli in Idukki, stating on Friday that "encroachment in any form should be evicted even if it’s [the] cross." His words contradict the comments that have been made by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
The removal of the cross — which was erected by the Spirit in Jesus group allegedly as a shield for encroachment — was under the directive of Devikulam sub-collector Sri Ram Venkitaraman early on Thursday. Achuthanandan’s comments go against those of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who had stated that “the move created the feeling that the LDF government is waging a war against the cross.”
The CM had said he was not consulted on the Revenue officials’ move and that they did not need to demolish the cross. Vijayan, who has had a history of locking horns with Christian diocese heads, spoke out even though some Christian dioceses have applauded the demolition. Revenue Minister and CPI leader E Chandrasekharan said on Thursday that there was no requirement to discuss the eviction at Suryanelli with the Chief Minister as it was a natural process.
CPI leader and former minister Binoy Viswam said on Friday that "the Chief Minister's response was without understanding the facts.” Viswam reportedly went on to say that “it can’t be expected that the Chief Minister will become a broker of the encroachers.” Viswam demanded the Chief Minister to clear the ambiguity of his statement.
BJP state president Kummanam Rajasekharan told media persons in New Delhi on Friday that the Chief Minister should make clear why he slammed the demolition of cross. “Why Pinarayi Vijayan, who never had any pro religious attitude, got worried about the demolition of the cross. Pinarayi was not even worried about the Jishnu Pranoy’s mother Mahija or about any other similar incidents, then why he demolition of cross made him upset. Even various Christian dioceses have appreciated the move. The Chief Minister should make it clear what is his relation with the Spirit In Jesus group. People are keen to know that. He should be ready to correct his stand,” Rajasekharan said.
UDF convener and Congress leader P P Thankachan said that the demolition of cross have saddened some Christians. “Nobody would believe that the chief minister had knowledge about this,” he added.
Vijayan made headlines in 2007 after describing then Bishop of Thamarassery diocese Mar Paul Chittilappilly as a “wretched creature,” which had triggered widespread protest. "A lie is a lie, it doesn’t become a holy lie just since it was uttered by a bishop,” Vijayan had said. The comment was made after the bishop said that Communist leader Mathai Chacko had voluntarily accepted the last communion at his deathbed from a priest.
At the time, Vijayan was the state secretary of the CPI(M). Later in 2013, he made peace with the Bishop House, but Vijayan and his party CPI (M) generally remain aloof when it comes to religion. His statement on Thursday came as a surprise to many. However, many also view it as a symptom of the party’s changing attitude towards religion as a step to resist the growth of BJP in the state. Minister for Tourism Kadakampally Surendran, another hard face of the CPI (M), ate a feast at a temple recently which was given as a part of a festival.