A BJP gameplan to make inroads into Kerala’s influential Christian community has stumbled on a false start.
State BJP leader and Mizoram governor PS Sreedharan Pillai had initiated a move to broker peace between two bitterly fighting Orthodox and Jacobite factions of the Malankara Church with the help of PM Modi.
The two factions have been fighting over the ownership and possession of about a thousand churches and their properties for over a century. At the end of a long-drawn legal tussle, the Supreme Court in 2017 ruled the ownership rights of the properties vest with the Orthodox faction, citing a 1935 constitution of the unified Malankara Syrian Church, which both factions once belonged to.
Although the court has granted ownership title to the Orthodox faction, the Jacobite faction, which is actually in possession of most of the churches, has refused to hand over the properties, often leading to violent clashes between the two sides.
The state government has expressed its inability to enforce the Supreme Court verdict, citing law and order problems, which has infuriated the Orthodoxies. The continuing impasse has of late encouraged the followers of the Jacobite faction to re-assert their right to
possession despite the court orders.
It was under these circumstances Sreedharan Pillai mooted the idea of a mediation by the PM and the first meeting was held with the leaders of the Orthodox faction on Monday.
But the representatives of the faction in their half-hour meeting with Modi stuck to their stand that no solution was possible outside the framework of the SC order, which means they are in no mood to give up their right of ownership.
The faction leaders also declared any attempt to find a solution outside the scope of the court order was not acceptable and it was improper to even try and compel them to relinquish their right.
In fact, they cited the case of the SC verdict on Ayodhya, where the Waqf Board accepted the court’s decision and even participated in the foundation ceremony for the Ram temple. They wanted the PM to bring the Jacobites around to agree to a similar stand.