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Newsmaker | In Kerala leader’s arrest, bail, a gradual anti-Muslim turn

Ex-Kerala Cong (M) leader held for remarks at meet; Hindu, Christian outfits hold march for his release

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram |
Updated: May 1, 2022 6:01:06 pm
Senior Kerala politician P C George (File)

Senior Kerala politician and former leader of Kerala Congress (M) P C George briefly spent time in police custody Sunday on allegations of hate speech at the Ananthapuri Hindu Maha Sammelan, before he was granted bail by court.

While often in the news for his colourful language and resultant controversies, George has lately been targeting Muslims in his speeches. This is a departure for the 71-year-old old-timer who once enjoyed Muslim support in his pocketborough of Poonjar in Kottayam district.

At the Ananthapuri Hindu Maha Sammelan, an event backed by the Sangh Parivar Friday, George stated that restaurants run by Muslims should be avoided because they use some kind of drops that cause impotence. He also talked of “love jihad” and an “agenda to establish a Muslim country” by “sterilising men and women (of other faith)”.

Before George got bail, various pro-BJP Hindu outfits along with the right-wing Christian Association and Alliance for Social Action took out a march in Thiruvananthapuram in protest against his arrest.

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Emerging out of the magistrate court in Thiruvananthapuram which granted him bail, George defended what he had said, adding: “My arrest was (Chief Minister) Pinarayi Vijayan’s gift to fundamentalists. I stick to what I stated at the Hindu Maha Sammelan. My words have wounded the extremists. The CPM and Congress want the support of jihadis.”

Police had registered a case against George on charges of promoting enmity between groups on grounds of religion, and for acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony. He was arrested from his residence in Poonjar.

Known locally as a next-door man always available for his constituents, George is a six-time winner from Poonjar, including as an Independent in the 2016 Assembly elections, when he had defeated the UDF, LDF and NDA.

Having started his career with the Kerala Congress (Mani), now an ally of the CPM, George had moved on to a breakaway party, K C (Joseph). In 2006, he walked out of the KC(J) and formed the Kerala Congress (Secular). After immediate electoral success in 2006, he had aligned with the Left in an unofficial capacity, during the time in power of veteran V S Achuthanandan. His proximity to Achuthanandan made him a target of his rivals within the CPM, including Pinarayi Vijayan.

During the UDF regime from 2011 to 2015, George served as chief whip of the state government. In April 2015, he was removed at the behest of his then party chief, K M Mani. George had been critical of Mani over his alleged involvement in a bar bribery scandal.

It was after the 2016 Assembly win that George took a turn towards the BJP. In 2017, he floated a new party, Kerala Janapaksham, and became an ally of the NDA, which was desperately looking for a Christian face in the state.

Muslims and Christians are traditional vote banks of the Congress-led UDF in Kerala. Both the LDF and BJP have been eyeing them amidst the Congress slide, and since Muslims are unlikely to go with it, the BJP has been wooing Christians and playing into fears of many among the community of Islamic fundamentalism.

In this new stint, George has come to be known for his anti-Muslim attacks, including talking of “Muslims who bomb Christians”, a remark for which he later apologised.

Alongside, George has acquired a fan base with a Facebook page, ‘The Truth, Uncut and Uncensored’. YouTube has several videos showing George showering abuses on politicians, journalists, government officials and social personalities, apart from controversial comments against women.

During the 2021 Assembly elections, George contested as an Independent, but without the backing of the NDA. Continuing his anti-Muslim tirade, he gambled on rallying the Hindu and Christian votes behind him. However, this had not ensured a win for him from Poonjar.

The ruling CPM and Opposition Congress have criticised George for his remarks at the Friday meeting. In a statement, the CPM demanded that George retract his statement and tender an apology. Congress leader V D Satheesan sought stringent action against his “hate speeches”.

However, the BJP stood by George, with its state president K Surendran calling the police action against him “an infringement upon freedom of expression”. “The CPM government in Kerala has succumbed before the jihadis. The BJP will not allow Pinarayi Vijayan to hunt for Hindu, Christian leaders. The BJP strongly protests against the anti-democratic approach of the Left Government,” he said.

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