Thiruvananthapuram: There seems to be no end to the war of words that has surfaced among various players over the statement by a Catholic bishop with regard to 'narcotic jihad' and the latest to join the chorus is none other than Goa Governor P.S. Sreedharan Pillai, who is expected to arrive to meet the bishop very soon.
Syro Malabar Church Pala diocese bishop Mar Joseph Kallarangatt on Friday had said that Catholic girls in Kerala were now becoming the victims of 'Love and narcotic Jihad' and the traditional rival political parties came out criticising the bishop, while the BJP decided to support him.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said the bishop should have been more careful in airing his views, which had serious implications for the society. Vijayan said drug abuse did not have any communal colour and was a problem with the whole society.
Opposition leader VD Satheesan also criticised the bishop and remarked that he had perhaps fallen into a trap laid by the Sangh Parivar.
But Pillai said, what the bishop aired was just his concern and none needs to see beyond what he said. "All what has happened will be brought to the notice of the Centre. The role of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is to ensure that those who are denied justice get it."
BJP latched on to the issue as an opportunity to grow its clout with the Christian community. State BJP general secretary George Kurian, a Christian, has written a letter to Union Home Minister Amit Shah asking for protection to the bishop.
State BJP president K. Surendran said the people in Kerala without prejudice should discuss and debate what the bishop has said. "We will make one thing very clear, we the BJP are least interested to make political capital out of this," said Surendran.
But Leader of Opposition V.D. Satheesan slammed the Vijayan government who he said has some vested interest to serve. "The Kerala government should ensure that a probe is conducted into what the bishop has said. There should be no attempt to see that a free for all breaks out between two communities," said Satheesan.
State Congress president K. Sudhakaran asked Vijayan to see that an all party meeting is called and also a meeting of all religious heads to discuss and debate the recent turn of events, following the statement made by the bishop.
A section of the Christian community, while agreeing with the bishop on the existence of the problem, however, questioned the propriety of his using the word ‘jihad’.
Many groups took out rallies outside the bishop’s house in the last two days supporting and decrying his statement even as religious and political leaders asked their supporters to maintain restraint and keep communal amity.
But the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) stood firmly behind the bishop to defend him and claimed that he had only spoken the truth.
“It is a fact that Kerala is facing certain serious social crises and among them rise in narcotic abuse tops. His words should be taken up responsibly, instead of attacking him,” it said.
Bishop Kallarangatt has been airing his pro-Hindutva and anti-Muslim rhetoric for quite some time, as per a Quint report. In March 2021, he even invited RSS’ Kottayam district secretary to the diocese office and contributed towards the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.
The Bishop was merely echoing longstanding Islamophobic sentiments of Kerala's Syro-Malabar Church, which has also been accusing Muslims of ‘love jihad’, they say. The Syro-Malabar Church, which is the world's second-largest Eastern Catholic Church, has been claiming since 2018 that dozens of women of its fold were converted to Islam and taken to Syria to further the Islamic State’s ‘jihadist’ activities.