The debate over a ‘liquor-free-Kerala’ has taken a communal turn with two powerful Hindu organisations questioning the Congress government’s steps towards imposing prohibition, which have found support from leaders of Christian and Muslim communities.
Vellappally Nateshan, the leader of backward Hindu organisation Sree Narayanad Dharma Paripalana Yogam, has said the government’s move would affect members of his community in the liquor business.
Taking on the Catholic bishops who had threatened to bring down the Congress government if steps for prohibition were not initiated, Nateshan has even asked whether the Church was ready to stop using wine during mass. He alleged that those bars which have been shut belonged to Hindus and those open belonged to Christians.
Archbishop Francis Kallarackal said Nateshan’s comment smacked of communalism. “Wine is used in mass as part of Christian faith. That practice will continue until the end of the world,” he said.
On Saturday, another influential Hindu leader, G Sukumaran Nair, general secretary of upper class Hindu outfit Nair Service Society, joined the issue. Nair said the government decision was impractical.
The decision for liquor-free Kerala stemmed from rivalry within the Congress, and was driven by pressure from Christian and Muslim allies.
“This is the outcome of a battle to enhance one’s image. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy was forced to succumb to the pressure from allies Kerala Congress (a regional Christian party) and Indian Union Muslim League. A practical approach to enlighten people to abstain liquor is required to address the liquor menace,” Nair said.
On the other hand, Jamaat-e-Islami’s Kerala chief T Arifali said the government should have the courage to implement the decision to close down bars as the bar lobby would try every trick to defeat the government’s decision.
Christian and Muslim outfits in Kerala have been at the forefront of agitations demanding complete prohibition. Their community leaders have stood behind Congress state president V M Sudheeran on the issue.
BJP leaders Prabhat Jha, Shahnawaz Hussain and Krishnapal Gujar also addressed a number of rallies.