“When I was young and until about 20 years ago, every shop in Thrissur town had Christians. Now, it’s all razed and we now see Islamisation,” remarked advocate B Gopalakrishnan, the BJP candidate for Ollur constituency in Thrissur. He was appealing to Reverend Father Jose Konikkara of St Antony's Syro-Malabar Catholic Forane Church in Ollur, arguing why the Christian community in Kerala should vote for the BJP. “We are not against Muslims, but they only want to increase their religion’s presence. The Hindus and Christians are suffering due to this. We are speaking for you, but you don’t understand that… Islam will become a majority religion in Kerala. This is the condition here,” Gopalakrishnan argued, taking a communal line.
In the video from March 28, which has now gone viral, Gopalakrishnan appeals for votes from the Christian community, unsurprisingly bringing out the ‘love jihad’ card. ‘Love jihad’ is a bogey propagated by the Sangh Parivar, claiming that men from the Muslim community are marrying Hindu women and forcing them to convert to Islam. Recently, it has been known that a section of the Catholic church too believes in ‘love jihad’, and has been warning its congregation that Christian women are also falling prey to forceful conversion. The BJP has made this a poll issue in Kerala, and has been forging a relationship with Christain leaders in an attempt to consolidate Christian votes.
However, in a strongly-worded reply to BJP and Gopalakrishnan’s attempt to woo Christian voters at the expense of Muslims, Pastor Anil Kodithottam reminded them that an Indian national works and acts with the Constitution as the foundation. “If you cannot respect that, you may as well leave India,” he said in a video that he posted on YouTube. The pastor’s response on Wednesday is now being heavily circulated on social media.
In his video, Gopalakrishnan alleged that minority rights and benefits are not being equally distributed among Christians and Muslims. In line with this, the Catholic leadership too in a recent article in a Malayalam newspaper said that the Muslim community is taking away the minority rights of Christians.
“According to their (BJP) new propaganda, India used to be a country where Hindus and Christians lived in harmony and now the Muslim community is trying to upend it. So they are asking us to take a stand against Muslims,” said Pastor Anil. He added, “Well, my brother, Muslims are citizens of India, they are our brothers. There is no need for hatred against them, their beliefs, the mosque. The same applies to Hindus. That is the true stand of a Christian. That is called secularism.”
While Gopalakrishnan asked that Hindus and Christians must remain united, Pastor Anil termed it “an unholy association”. He asked Christians with self-respect to not fall for such propaganda. “Some fall for it as they do not realise the “hidden agenda” of the Sangh. They talk about development and liberalism — the two politics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They claim that they are tolerant towards other religions and that such communal issues do not happen where they are. But what happened in Karnataka?” he said, referring to the spate of attacks on Christians in southern Karnataka in 2008.
“There is a temple for Nathuram Godse, the man who killed Mahatma Gandhi. People worship him. This is the kind of message fascists like you (the BJP) are conveying to the country,” Pastor Anil said.
He remarked that it is “jihadis and Sangh” who create communal tension. “But we do not see the majority of Muslims as ‘jihadis’. We will not betray our Muslim brothers. We accept broadminded Hindus too,” he said. “I have criticised Islam, the prophet Mohammed. You can criticise Christ, the Bible or the Bhagavad Gita because you have the freedom to do so in this country. I hope you realise that BR Ambedkar brought in the Constitution by burning the Manusmriti,” he added.
Pastor Anil argued that such attempts to divide people by religion or caste and the Sangh’s claims that this is a Hindu land and that minorities like Muslims have been living here at their mercy will not work. “That is not history. I have no animosity towards the majority Hindus, but have opposition towards those who try to cause communal hatred in the name of protecting the Hindu religion. Please do not bring such stubbornness here in Kerala. We will not accept it. Do not intimidate us or expect us to sympathise with those who do not have humanity. Our hopes are on the fundamental rights and freedom of an individual,” he said.
Since the BJP has been aggressively appealing for unity between Hindus and Christianity during campaigning, Pastor Anil said, “Let us wait and see where they take us ultimately.”
“Let us not forget that Stan Swamy, a human rights activist and Catholic priest, has been in jail, but the accusation is that he is a Maoist," he reminded.
“This is Kerala, not north India. This is not Sangh's colony," he said.
Another user tweeted a thread debunking Gopalakrishnan's claims.
Coming to the video of B Gopalakrishnan's conversation with the Priest, let us breakdown Ottakam's false propaganda one by one cause none of the mainstream parties nor media are bothered— Weed (@Goonerblues) March 31, 2021
Watch: What Pastor Anil said