Bishop’s remarks spark political slugfest in Kerala | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Bishop’s remarks spark political slugfest in Kerala

By, Thiruvananthapuram
Mar 21, 2023 12:36 AM IST

Thalassery (north Kerala) Arch Bishop of Mar Joseph Pamplani had given an open offering on Sunday that if the Union government raises the natural rubber’s price to ₹300 per kilogram believers will help the Bharatiya Janata Party to elect its first MP from the state. It stirred a hornet’s nest after the Congress and CPI(M) joined hands to list out recent attacks on minority institutions and fate meted out to Stan Swamy, an 84-year-old Jesuit priest, who died in judicial custody two years ago.

Politics over rubber in Kerala got a spurt on Monday with the state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) backing the demand of increasing the MSP for rubber to 300 per kilogram from the existing 120 and opposition parties CPI(M) and Congress asking the Christian community to ignore the dangling.

Minister of state for external affairs V Muraleedharan criticised Congress and CPI(M) leaders for attacking Christian leaders (ANI)
Minister of state for external affairs V Muraleedharan criticised Congress and CPI(M) leaders for attacking Christian leaders (ANI)

Thalassery (north Kerala) Arch Bishop of Mar Joseph Pamplani had given an open offering on Sunday that if the Union government raises the natural rubber’s price to 300 per kilogram believers will help the Bharatiya Janata Party to elect its first MP from the state. It stirred a hornet’s nest after the Congress and CPI(M) joined hands to list out recent attacks on minority institutions and fate meted out to Stan Swamy, an 84-year-old Jesuit priest, who died in judicial custody two years ago.

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The BJP on Monday called a press conference in New Delhi to criticise Congress and CPI(M) leaders for attacking Christian leaders “who dared to tread a new path”.

“Apostles of vote bank politics let loose a vicious attack on the Bishop. Do they say priests do not have any freedom to express their views? It is ridiculous. If they speak some facts that favour the union government, they pounce upon them,” said minister of state for external affairs V Muraleedharan.

The Bishop’s remarks came a couple of weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement that after victory in north-eastern states Kerala will be next on the party’s agenda.

Bishop Pamplani reiterated that farmers would stay with those who help them. “My words were well thought out. We have no “ism” or party affiliation either. If you help us, we will help you. It is a basic human instinct. It applies to all parties. It is unfair to club it with only BJP,” he said in Thalassery (north Kerala).

When newsmen asked why he was making way for the BJP in the state he said it was wrong to interpret it like that. “Farmers have been taken for a ride by successive governments in the state. We have every right to approach the ruling party of the country and I do not know why some people are treated like a sin,” he said adding he made the statement on behalf of the suffering farming community. He also said there was no going back or denial on violence in Christian institutions in some north Indian states.

In Kerala, rubber is always associated with Christian politics. During the famine of the 1960s and early 1970s, Christian settlers were encouraged to trek to hilly terrains and mountain ranges to cultivate under the “grow more” scheme, and they prospered.

However, after synthetic and cheap rubber started flooding in from other countries, its price plummeted.

Now, the price of one kg of rubber is between 125-150. Kerala accounts for more than 80 per cent of rubber production in India, and now north-eastern states have also started cultivating it. According to the 2011 census, Hindus form 54.7%, Islam 26.6 and Christians 18.4 per cent of the 34.8 million state population.

As the debate raged, Congress and CPI(M) trained their guns on Bishop Pamplani.

“His statement was in bad taste. Only last month, the community organised a big protest against Sangh Parivar attacks on Christian institutions and priests in Delhi,” said CPI(M) state secretary M V Govindan. “Hope the Bishop had not forgotten about Father Staine’s murder and continued incarceration of Stan Swamy that resulted in his death,” said state Congress chief K Sudhakaran. Notwithstanding claims and counterclaims, it is fact that white tree zap has left a heated discussion in the state.

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