As the controversial “narcotic jihad’’ statement of Catholic bishop Joseph Kallarangatt rages on in Kerala, opposition BJP and the Catholic church have backed the bishop and rallied behind him, even as ruling CPI(M) and main opposition Congress have deplored the Palai bishop’s remarks.
Catholic organisations, Church mouthpiece ‘Deepika’ and many fellow bishops on Saturday endorsed the statement.
In a statement, the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) on Saturday said the bishop’s words were not aimed at any community and he was sharing the community’s concerns. It should not be made controversial and should instead be debated with seriousness, it said.
The government should be ready to probe into the “narcotic mafia and all communities should jointly fight” this menace, KCBC stated.
Meanwhile, a day after hundreds of people from Muslim community took a protest march to the bishop’s house in Palai, various Catholic groups took out a rally to his house today, pledging support for him.
During his sermon at a pilgrim centre in Kottayam district on Wednesday, Kallarangatt had stated that “narcotics jihad” is spoiling the life of non-Muslims, particularly the youth, by making them drug addicts. Various types of drugs are being used in ice-cream parlours, hotels and juice corners run by “hardcore jihadis”, he had said.
On Saturday, Minister of State for External Affairs and senior BJP leader and V Muraleedharan said Kallarangatt is being targeted for having uttered an “unpleasant truth”. He said: “The bishop has not insulted any community. He has raised the concerns of Christian community in Kerala. Don’t think that the bishop can be silenced by attacking him. Those who target the bishop should realize that the situation has changed much since the chopping of the palm of a college professor (on charges of blasphemy). Only a subdued protest was seen then.”
“Those who support jihadis should understand that the situation will be different this time,” the Union minister added.
Endorsing Kallarangatt’s statement in its editorial on Saturday, Catholic daily ‘Deepika’ wrote: “What the bishop has raised is the concern of the Church and the faithful. It would be foolish to think that the bishop who spoke an unpleasant truth can be silenced by threat and protests. Appeasement politics has turned Kerala into a nursery of terrorism.”
Reacting to Kallarangatt’s statement on Friday, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said it was the first time he was hearing about “narcotic jihad”. He said, “(There is) no need to give religious colour to narcotics. People in higher echelons of society should be chary about creating fissures in society with such comments.”
Opposition leader V D Satheesan of Congress criticised the Sangh Parivar, accusing it of trying to spark communal tension over the bishop’s comments. Muslim and the Christian communities should not get trapped in that agenda, he said.
“One side is trying to create anti-Muslim sentiments and there would be a counter-attempt for anti-Christian sentiments,” Satheesan said. “The social fabric of Kerala should not be shattered. Taking the count of crimes on the basis of religion and foisting the blame for such crimes on a particular community is unpardonable.”