A controversy is raging in Kerala over the use of the Qur'an for communalising the gold smuggling racket, with both the ruling Left Democratic Front and the opposition United Democratic Front accusing each other of dragging the sacred book into the most unlikely cause.
It all began with the investigation by central agencies into the use of diplomatic channels to import and distribute the Qur'an. This was done by the UAE consulate with the help of a minister during the month of Ramzaan.
There has been a mismatch between the weight of the original packets and the ones transported to an office under higher education minister K T Jaleel, whose help was reportedly sought by the consulate.
The central agencies are looking at the possibility of the packets having been used to smuggle gold or havala money. The minister has already undergone questioning by Enforcement Directorate and the National Investigations Agency (NIA). He is now expected to be questioned by the Customs department.
The agencies are also investigating the import of 17,000 kg of dates by the consulate, which were later distributed to various schools and organisations. Customs has registered a case against the distribution of dates on the ground that it could be used by the consulate only for internal consumption.
Jaleel defended his conduct as a pious act, although it has been found that it was in clear violation of the protocol and central guidelines. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has stood firmly by the minister, saying it was the consul general who sought his help and there was nothing wrong with what Jaleel did.
With the pressure mounting on the government, state CPI-M secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, also facing flak for the alleged involvement of his son in drugs and havala deals that often go with gold smuggling, accused the opposition of debasing the holy Qur'an by dragging it into the smuggling controversy.
The CPI-M and the government may be hoping to play on the sentiments of the minority community and make inroads into the Muslim vote bank in this manner. The Muslim vote bank is currently with the UDF, which has the Indian Union Muslim League as the second most important partner in the opposition front.
The UDF has sought to expose the government game and is insisting that the holy book has been insulted by them using it for clandestine operations. The Muslim League claims that Qur'an is not something that has to be brought under cover, which amounts to defiling the holy book.
The opposition has called for registering a case against the CPI-M leader for inciting communal passions over the issue. The BJP has grabbed the opportunity to exploit the alleged use of the holy book for illegal activities and to turn the tables on the Left.
Meanwhile, Customs has questioned the truck operators who have transported the packets containing the religious books, including the owner and driver of the truck that picked up the packets from the airport and took them to the consulate.
The department has sought the help of the central government to see if the consul general can be included within the scope of the investigations. The consul general, who enjoys diplomatic immunity, has already left the country and it is unlikely that the Centre would grant such permission.