‘Narcotic Jihad’ row: Congress accuses Kerala govt of being ‘mute spectators’

Pala Bishop Joseph Kallarangatt had made the controversial comment about their being ‘narcotic jihad’ like ‘love jihad’ in Kerala last week.
Bishop Joseph Kallarangatt
Bishop Joseph Kallarangatt
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With the controversy over "love and narcotic jihad" remark by Pala Bishop Joseph Kallarangatt refusing to die down in Kerala, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday engaged in a fresh round of verbal sparring, trading charges against each other over the issue. Addressing devotees during a church celebration at Kuravilangad in Kottayam district last week, the Bishop had said that as part of "love jihad", non-Muslim women, especially those belonging to the Christian community, were largely being converted "after trapping them in love, exploiting and misusing them for destructive activities like terrorism." The BJP has come in support of the Bishop with the Kerala unit writing to Union Home Minister Amit Shah to offer him protection.

While the Congress on Monday charged the BJP with trying to derive political mileage by dividing society along religious lines, using the Bishop's statement, the BJP leaders met the senior priest at his diocese in Pala expressing solidarity with him. The BJP alleged that the Opposition Congress and the CPI(M) – the party leading the ruling Left Democratic Front government in the state -- were taking positions favouring extremist elements, instead of addressing the concerns raised by the Bishop.

Meanwhile opposition leader VD Satheesan wrote a letter to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, alleging that deliberate attempts were being made to destroy the communal harmony of the state through various social media platforms. He urged the CM to launch a probe into the efforts by the forces trying to divide people sowing seeds of communalism through Facebook, WhatsApp and Telegram, using fake IDs.

Talking to reporters in Malappuram, Satheesan accused the ruling Left of remaining a "mute spectator" over the issue. In an apparent reference to the Bishop's allegations, the senior Congress leader also said that if any community organisations or their leaders had complained or expressed concern about any particular incident, it should also be investigated.

KPCC president K Sudhakaran also urged the state government to convene an all-party meet and a meeting of community religious leaders to resolve the issues and end the BJP's 'political exploitation' by creating tension between communities.

Condemning Bishop Kallarangatt's statement, CM Pinarayi had on Friday said that those who hold responsible positions should refrain from making statements causing divisions in society.

Meanwhile, the BJP's national executive member PK Krishnadas and State Vice President AN Radhakrishnan met the Bishop at the Pala diocese on Monday and accused the CPI(M) and Congress of "whitewashing" the activities of "extremist forces" in the state.

The Nair Service Society (NSS) also expressed concern over alleged incidents of forced religious conversion taking place in Kerala. He, however, added that it is not correct to give any religious or communal colour for such activities.

Also coming in support of the Bishop is Joseph Perumthottam, the Archbishop of the Changanasserry archdiocese of the Syro-Malabar Church, urging the government to end the menace of "narcotic terrorism" in Kerala.

The controversial "love and narcotic jihad" remarks by Kallarangatt triggered ripples in Kerala's political circles as the BJP accused the CPI(M) and the Congress of “supporting jihadis”, while the latter warned against "Sangh Parivar agenda" to destroy Christian-Muslim harmony in the state.

Amid mounting criticism, the Pala Diocese, under the prominent Syro-Malabar Church, on Saturday, had come out with an explanation, saying that the Bishop did not intend to hurt anyone and his remarks were not against any particular community.

(With PTI inputs)

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