With a Kerala Catholic bishop’s claim of “narcotics jihad” becoming a political flashpoint, the BJP on Sunday said the allegation echoed the voice of the Christian community in the state and sought the intervention of the Centre to bring in a law to deal with “narco-terrorism and love jihad”.
Meanwhile, the Kerala unit of the BJP has written to Home Minister Amit Shah, seeking Central intervention “to prevent jihadi activities and protection to Palai bishop Joseph Kallarangatt and Christian community”.
In a statement, BJP spokesperson Tom Vadakkan said, “The intervention by Bishop, His excellency Joseph Kallarangatt of Pala, Kerala during sacred worship is not just a wakeup call for his dioceses, it is the voice of the community who are victims of love jihad and the fallout of narco-terrorism. The cases of love jihad and drug abuse victims are ramping up.”
Vadakkan alleged that the Kerala government has not taken cognizance of narco-terrorism and love jihad despite inputs from investigative agencies. He claimed that the bishop council has raised the issue following inputs from devotees of different churches, alleging that young girls are being lured and fall prey to “love jihad” and “later end up in foreign jails”. He said: “This has to be accounted as human trafficking.”
“The rising drug abuse in different communities has affected peace within families and has created socio-economic disorder of disastrous levels,” Vadakkan claimed. “My appeal to the Central government is to bring central legislation to book such elements, and bring in fast track courts to deal with narco-terrorism and love jihad.”
Kerala BJP general secretary George Kurian, who is a former vice-chairman for the national commission for minorities, wrote to Shah, claiming that “jihadi elements” in Kerala get whole-hearted support from the CPI (M) and Congress. “Many of the jihadi elements are active workers of CPI(M) and Congress. This has rendered the situation volatile. I request you to intervene in the issue and take steps to protect the bishop and the Christian community in Kerala,” his letter said.
Kurian also claimed the reaction to the bishop’s statement is a reflection of the “insecurity” among Christians and Hindus.
Bishop Kallarangatt had on Thursday triggered a controversy, saying Christian girls were largely falling prey to “love and narcotic jihad” in Kerala, and wherever arms cannot be used, extremists were using such methods to destroy the youth belonging to other religions.
The statement triggered a controversy in the state, with public demonstrations from both the Christian and Muslim communities, making the atmosphere communally charged. The ruling CPI(M) and the main opposition Congress have expressed their displeasure over the remark — Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan maintained that there was no need to give a religious colour to narcotics, while Leader of the Opposition V D Satheesan criticised the Sangh Parivar, accusing it of trying to spark communal tension over the bishop’s comments.
Extending support to the bishop, Minister of State for External Affairs and senior BJP leader V Muraleedharan had earlier said that he had raised the concerns of the community in Kerala and he cannot be silenced by attacking him.
In a statement, the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) has said that Kallarangatt’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, the statement said.
The BJP has been trying to woo the Christian community in Kerala — which constitutes around 19 per cent of the state’s population — in order to expand its electoral base in the southern state. Ahead of the Assembly polls in Kerala, the BJP had taken up the issue of alleged “love-jihad” — a term used by right wing activists to refer to an alleged campaign of Muslim men forcing Hindu girls to convert in the guise of love — in Christian-dominated areas after some church leaders had expressed their concern over it. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance’s manifesto had promised a special law to contain “love jihad”.
Addressing BJP general secretaries in June, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to sources, had advised party leaders to shed “rigidity” in forming alliances, and had advised that the BJP should try and win over the Christian community in Kerala, as it “does not seem to be having any major issues in joining hands with BJP”. The Prime Minister also had meetings with Church leaders from the state earlier this year.
— With ENS, Thiruvananthapuram