Narcotic jihad claim by bishop has Kerala society divided

The bishop, Mar Joseph Kallarangatt, had last Thursday told a church congregation that Catholic girls and youth were becoming victims of a ‘narcotic jihad’ and complained that the authorities were not taking it seriously

K RAVEENDRANUpdated: Monday, September 13, 2021, 12:51 AM IST
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Thiruvananthapuram: A remark by a Catholic bishop about the threat from ‘narcotic jihad’ in Kerala has political parties struggling to strike the right note, given the high sensitivity about the subject.

The bishop, Mar Joseph Kallarangatt, had last Thursday told a church congregation that Catholic girls and youth were becoming victims of a ‘narcotic jihad’ and complained that the authorities were not taking it seriously.

The remark triggered a fierce debate over the issue, with the mainstream political parties condemning the bishop for allegedly trying to bring about a communal divide.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan 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.

At the same time, sections within both the ruling LDF as well as opposition UDF have supported the bishop, creating a dilemma for the front leaderships.

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’.

The bishop’s remark led to protests outside his house both in support and opposition. Church groups held rallies at various places in support of the bishop.

But the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) stood firmly behind the bishop to defend him and claimed that he had only spoken the truth.

BJP has latched on to the issue as an opportunity to grow its clout with the Christian community and came out openly in support of the bishop. State BJP general secretary George Kurian, a Christian, has written a letter to Union Home Minister Amit Shah asking for protection to the bishop.

Sensing trouble over the BJP move, both the ruling front and the Opposition feel uneasiness about it and decided to move cautiously. Jose K Mani, who crossed over to the LDF with his Kerala Congress(M) has complicated the LDF stand by openly supporting the bishop. Mani had earlier made such a remark ahead of the assembly election, but he had to mend ways on pressure from the front leadership.

But keen to keep his party’s support base happy, he has shed all inhibitions and came out openly supporting the bishop.

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