Narcotic Jihad line helps BJP polarize Kerala
More than two weeks after Bishop Mar Joseph Kallarangatt of the Diocese of Palai from Marth Mariam Pilgrim Church, in Kuravilangad, Kottayam district, warned his laity against the “jihad of love” and “narcotic jihad” Against non-Muslims in Kerala, Chief Minister (CM) Pinarayi Vijayan severely criticized these remarks.
At a press conference held on September 22, Vijayan cited government data to dismiss such claims and said that such statements are used by vested interests to collectively polarize society. The state government would take tough action against anyone who propagates such false theories and inflammatory rhetoric, he added.
Citing the latest crime statistics to refute the allegations, Vijayan said that of the 5,422 defendants in 4,941 cases registered under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act in Kerala last year, 49.80% were Hindus, 34.47% Muslim and 15.73% Christian. There have been no complaints of drug abuse or forced use of narcotics to effect religious conversions and statistics have shown that drug traffickers and users do not belong to any particular religious community, he said. He underlines.
Citing the number of Keralites who joined the Islamic State (IS), the CM said most of them had gone abroad to work or for other purposes. Of the 28 people from Kerala who had joined ISIS, only five have converted: a Christian couple, a Hindu woman and her Christian husband and a young Hindu, he added. There was also no evidence of forced conversions in the state, he claimed. Earlier this month, calling the bishop’s remarks unfortunate, Vijayan said those in positions of responsibility should exercise restraint.
‘Narcotic Jihad Controversy
that of Bishop Kallarangatt address at the Syro-Malabar Church on September 8 sparked the ongoing controversy. Reading a prepared speech, the bishop said the “jihadists” trick women of Christianity and other non-Muslim faiths out of love or by using drugs and forcibly converting them.
Kallarangatt also alleged that “die-hard jihadists” lure and entrap non-Muslims by using an organized racketeering of ice cream parlors, juice shops, bakeries and restaurants where drugs are sold. He also called halal food “commercial stuff”. The written speech was then published by the led church Deepika Daily.
Over 200 workers from various radical Muslim organizations under the banner of the Muslim Aikya Vedi marched at the bishopric two days later in protest, follow-up of risers by Christian organizations and a section of politicians supporting Kallarangatt. The Kerala unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also supported the bishop with his secretary general George Kurian asking the Union Home Secretary Amit Shah to intervene in the case and ensure his security as well as that of the Christian community. PK Krishna Das, member of the national executive of the BJP and AN Radhakrishnan, vice president of the state accused the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Congress to “whitewash the activities of extremist forces in the state”.
Things got worse when it emerged that the Thamarassery Diocese of the Syro-Malabar Church had published a catechism manual titled Truth and Realities in 33 Questions and Answers, who contents several defamatory and derogatory statements against Muslims. However, following a meeting of leaders of the Muslim community with Bishop Remigiose Inchananiyil and his clergymen in the diocese, Bishop announcement removing objectionable content from the manual and expressed regret for hurting the feelings of Muslims.
The growing alignment of the Syro-Malabar church with the BJP
Allegations of “love jihad,” or of efforts organized by Muslim groups to convert women of other religions to Islam by inciting Muslim men to lure them into love, have been reported. got up for the first time circa 2009 in Karnataka and Kerala by communal organizations such as the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti and Shri Ram Sena. The controversy was quickly stirred up by the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council and a few Malayalam media groups.
Despite the Kerala police and the National investigation agency (NIA) concluding that there is no evidence of “jihad of love”, the scarecrow was exported and militarized in other parts of the country by the Sangh Parivar even as the Center also denied such incidents in Parliament.
The Syro-Malabar Church, the second largest Eastern Catholic Church in the world, which has traditionally sided with Congress and the United Democratic Front (UDF) in the state, has increasingly aligned itself with the BJP over the past two years by making claims of ‘liking jihad’. In 2020, the synod of the church filed a complaint with the National Commission for Minorities claiming that half of Islamic State’s recruits were young Christian converts and comparing the “love jihad” to execution of Christian captives in Nigeria by ISIS.
As the State Assembly elections approach this year, a senior clergy official once again raised the issue In a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi which was arranged by the state BJP leadership. Church leaders from two other denominations also met with a senior official Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in March. These movements have been criticized by reformist sections within the church.
Sections of Kerala’s Christian clergy, especially the Syro-Malabar Church, have drawn closer to the BJP even though Sangh Parivar’s outfits have tied up churches across the country. Development was also forced by the weakening of Congress in the state and the growing disarray within the party.
With the church facing a decrease in the number of lay people due to the migration of Christians to foreign countries and many Christians in the state involved in the cultivation of plantations facing stagnant or deteriorating economic conditions post-trade liberalization, community hatred has found fertile ground. Some also have underline that hate propaganda is used to cover up the fault lines within the church following internal feuds with reformist sections.
The result has been a rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric, especially on social media. Several Christian social media have published vicious propaganda against Palestinians during the recent Israeli aggression in Gaza and community hatred has grown. proliferated recently in discussions on platforms such as Clubhouse. Polarizing statements have also been made on the issue of the division of minority scholarships in the state.
Actions by some Muslim community and fundamentalist organizations in the state, such as the attack on university professor TJ Joseph in 2010, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s approval of the conversion of the historic Hagia Sophia in Turkey in mosque and the announcement of the seizure of power by the Taliban in Afghanistan, only exacerbated tensions. The BJP, which realized it needed the support of sections of at least one minority community in Kerala to move forward in the state given its demographic realities, welcomed and encouraged these developments.
Reason to hope
In addition to the government and large sections of civil society, many Christian clergy of Catholic and non-Catholic faiths have spoken out against the preaching of hatred even as the Syro-Malabar Church has officially threw his weight behind Kallarangatt. Four nuns who had previously protested against the bishop accused of rape Franco Mulakkal came out to protest the anti-Muslim remarks made by a priest during a prayer service in another chapel in Kuravilangad.
A bishop of the Orthodox Church call for Church leaders must be vigilant against the “politics of hate and fear” and not fall into the trap set by “fascist and communal elements”, a statement which was echoed by Metropolitan of the Diocese Yuhanon Mor Meletius . A bishop of the Jacobite Church condemned the use of the altar to propagate hate politics while another church in southern India has championed the cause of secularism. Major Archbishop Cardinal Baselios Cleemis of the Syro-Malankar Catholic Church called for peace and community harmony, adding that “narcotics should be considered narcotics alone” after a joint meeting of religious leaders from different communities he had called together.
The public statements of these church leaders and the efforts to mend the differences and encourage community harmony have been a relief. The secular fabric of Kerala has so far been able to resist attempts at communal polarization by majority and minority communal organizations. Only the concerted efforts of civil society, secular religious organizations and political parties can ensure that the unity of the state remains intact.