CM rejects Catholic bishop’s remark, says narcotics issue not linked to religion
A day after a Catholic bishop remarked that girls and youth from the community were becoming victims of a “well-orchestrated narcotic jihad” in Kerala, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Friday stressed that the problem of narcotics has “no religion” and those holding responsible positions should refrain from making statements causing division in society.
Taking note of Bishop of Pala Diocese of the Syro-Malabar church, Mar Joseph Kallaranghatt’s controversial remarks on Thursday, the chief minister said: “It (narcotic jihad) is a new term. I never expected such a statement from a person like him. I have no idea what prompted him to make it. Narcotics has no religion and nobody encourages it.”
“Persons holding such respectable positions should be careful while making such a statement. It will create unnecessary rift and animosity. It is a fact that all religions and governments are concerned about increased use of narcotics. It is not proper to put everything into the account of a particular section,” he told reporters here.
The priest also came under criticism of the opposition Congress.
Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly V D Satheesan, in a social media post, requested the community and spiritual leaders to desist from making any move or such statement.
“We can’t count the number of crimes based on caste or religion. Such a statement was not expected from a religious leader. All will have to keep restraint to ensure brotherhood and peace,” he said.
Echoing the same, senior Congress leader and MLA P T Thomas said the bishop’s remark is not conducive to communal harmony.
“It should not have come from a person like him who is a known thinker and theology expert. Such statements will affect our communal harmony and amity,” he said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), however, rallied behind the Catholic priest.
“What he said is true. Both ‘love jihad’ and ‘narcotic jihad’ are prevalent. We are not blaming the whole community, but extremists elements within it. Even top police officers admitted that a syndicate is working behind this,” state BJP president K Surendran said.
“Love jihad” is a term often used by right-wing groups to describe unions between Muslim men and women belonging to other religion.
Several Christian leaders also came out in support of the Bishop. “You can’t crucify a religious head who is reeling out facts. His words are not against the whole community but against a section of misguided people who have the least regard for other religions,” Janapaksham (a political party) leader P C George said.
Former spokesman of Kerala Catholic Bishops Council, Varghese Vallikat, also supported the Catholic priest.
Muslim organisations such as the Samasta Kerala Sunni Students Federation (SKSSF) and Kerala Naduvathul Mujahideen, however, demanded the Bishop present evidence to substantiate his claims.
“His statement is intended to create a rift between two communities. The government should take legal action against him for promoting hatred,” Sathar Panthallur, SKSSF general secretary, said.
Last month, the Bishop had exhorted believers to have more children to check the depleting population of Christians. The Pala diocese had announced a monthly assistance of ₹1,500 for couples married after 2000, and who have four or more children.