‘Not a criminal act to distribute Quran copies’: CPI(M) defends minister
Facing political heat in the diplomatic channel gold smuggling racket, CPI (M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, in a write-up in the party mouthpiece ‘Desabhimani’, said the ongoing agitation seeking resignation of Kerala minister KT Jaleel was essentially against the holy books. He further said that opposition Congress and Muslim League fell easily in the trap set by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
In the article, he defended higher education minister Jaleel, who was questioned by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Enforcement Directorate, in connection with import of Quran and his alleged liaison with main accused, Swapna Suresh, in the gold smuggling case.
“It is not a criminal act to distribute a few copies of the holy book as requested by the UAE consulate in the state capital. The minister is in charge of the Waqf Board also. The Muslim League is adding fuel to the fire ignited by the Sangh Parivar,” he said.
The party, he said, will support Jaleel and there is no need for him to resign.
“The NIA has summoned the minister only as a witness. But the League and BJP are in a hurry to dub him as a smuggler. This will not succeed and the party will back him to the hilt,” Balakrishnan said, adding a section of the media is also playing a “dirty game to discredit the government which is doing a good job in containing the pandemic and rolling out people-friendly welfare measures.”
The Muslim League and BJP have criticised the ruling party for playing a “blatant communal card.” “The issue is gold smuggling, not Quran. The party is resorting to a dirty game to get out of it,” said League leader PK Kunhalikutty. “The party is dragging the holy book to justify its criminal acts but believers will see through its game plan,” said BJP state president K Surendran.
Meanwhile the customs said it will question the minister soon in connection with distribution of religious texts imported from the United Arab Emirates. It said it will register a case under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act. Since the minister had held a press conference and admitted that he took copies of the holy book from the consulate has made the task easy for the customs, a senior official said, adding the offence attracts a minimum jail term of five years.
During the 30-kg gold smuggling investigation, the customs also found that a heavy consignment, weighing more than 4,000 kg, had arrived in 31 bags on March 4 and was taken to Malappuram. The minister claimed that the packets contained only religious books that he took to his constituency for distribution. But the opposition alleged that some consignments also carried gold and Jaleel was using holy books to cover up his illegal acts. A multi-agency probe led by the NIA is probing the case.
The ED had submitted a statement in a court in Kochi two days ago saying Bengaluru drug haul and gold smuggling cases were closely linked. Key accused in the drug case Anoop Mohammad had taken the name of Bineesh Kodiyeri during grilling and claimed he was his “business partner.” Kodiyeri was grilled by the ED and the Narcotics Control Bureau is set to question him.