Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the Congress criticised the bishop for making a sweeping comment.
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the Congress criticised the bishop for making a sweeping comment.

‘Narcotics jihad’ row: Kerala BJP writes to Centre

A worried Congress has asked the Kerala government to convene a meeting of community leaders before the controversy reaches a flashpoint. Leader of Opposition V D Satheesan alleged that the government was waiting for Sangh Parivar outfits to hijack the issue.
By HT Correspondent, Thiruvananthapuram
PUBLISHED ON SEP 14, 2021 12:04 AM IST

Amid a raging row over the Pala bishop’s ‘narcotic jihad’ jibe, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders said they would take up the issue at the national level even as the Nair Service Society (NSS), a socio-cultural wing of the Nair community, supported the religious leader.

A worried Congress has asked the Kerala government to convene a meeting of community leaders before the controversy reaches a flashpoint. Leader of Opposition V D Satheesan alleged that the government was waiting for Sangh Parivar outfits to hijack the issue.

Many BJP leaders asked the Centre to investigate the nexus between drug and terror activities and bring a law to check it. A senior BJP leader, wishing not to be named, said the party will make it a national issue, citing the disappearance of 21 people from north Kerala in 2016 who reportedly joined the Islamic State. “Many BJP-ruled states have laws to check illegal conversion activities and we want a similar law to contain drug-induced terror,” he said.

The BJP state unit has written a letter to Union home minister Amit Shah to provide security to the bishop, citing the case of chopping of palm of a college teacher in Idukki district in 2010 who prepared a controversial question paper.

BJP national spokesman Tom Vadakkan decried the move to isolate the bishop and Goa governor Sreedharan Pillai urged the government to address his concern.

“He has voiced a genuine concern prevailing in the community. It is the voice of the victims of ‘love jihad’ and narco-terrorism. The state government can’t remain in denial mode always,” Vadakkan said, adding that rising drug cases triggered serious socio-economic issues in the state.

The Goa governor supported the bishop. “It seems the bishop has aired his concern and no one needs to go beyond what he said. I hope CM Pinarayi Vijayan will talk to him and clear his concern,” said Pillai, hailing from the state. Last year he was instrumental in the Centre’s move to buy peace between two warring Christian sects, Jacobites and Orthodox.

Though the NSS supported the bishop, the organisation said it was not proper to give a communal colour to the issue. “It is fact that girls are being lured by using the weapon of love and converted subsequently. It is a criminal and terror activity. But it is not fair to attribute it to any religion,” NSS said in a statement, urging the government to constitute an independent investigation into charges made by the bishop.

Addressing a religious congregation in a church in Kuravilangad (Kottayam) last Thursday, Bishop Mar Joseph Kallaranghatt said Catholic girls and youth were becoming victims of a ‘narcotic jihad’, perpetrated by a section and decried authorities for turning a blind eye towards it.

Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the Congress criticised the bishop for making a sweeping comment, but the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC), the highest body of Catholics in the state, and the BJP rallied behind him.

Minister of state for external affairs V Muraleedharan, hailing from the state, also criticised the attack on the bishop. “It seems he spoke based on conviction, not emotion. The term narcotic jihad is not new. Even world bodies say proceeds from narcotics were a major source of terror funding,” he said, adding that there was a planned move to silence the bishop.

Meanwhile, four nuns, who took part in the agitation seeking action against rape- accused former Jalandhar Bishop Franco Mulakkal, walked out of a Sunday mass in a chapel in Kottayam when the local priest made some alleged disparaging comments against Muslim during his sermon to justify the Pala Bishop’s statement.

“Christ said Love our neighbour as yourself. The priest was churning out disparaging comments against Muslim to justify the Bishop’s statement. It was really painful to hear him and we protested and walked out,” said Sister Anupma, one of them. She said earlier also the priest made such comments. In one of the earlier sermons he said Christian believers were given a particular medicine to ensure that children are not born to them.

“We could not digest it so we stormed out. The priest was going out of way to defend the Bishop. We feel the Bishop should have avoided such a statement. Religious leaders will have to take everyone along. Such statements will trigger animosity between different sections,” she said.

All four nuns along with the victim are staying in a convent in Kottayam and there were many attempts to forcibly vacate them and they lead a solitary life in the convent as other inmates are barred from interacting with them, they said.

The case against Mulakkal surfaced in 2018 after a 43-year-old nun had complained to the police in Kottayam in central Kerala that he had raped her several times between 2014 and 2016. The nun is a member of the Missionaries of Jesus congregation based in Punjab. But Mulakkal denied it saying he was implicated after he took action against her for financial irregularities in the convent. Later a special investigation team was formed and it arrested him in Sept 2018. The case is in trial stage now.

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