Political war intensifies between Congress and BJP over Bishop's remarks

K Muraleedharan and K Surendran

Thiruvananthapuram: The verbal duel between the Congress and BJP over the controversial 'love and narcotic jihad' remark by Pala Bishop Joseph Kallarangatt, intensified on Sunday with the former saying it does not want the Sangh parivar to gain foothold here while the latter claimed that both CPM and Congress were cornering the Bishop over the issue.

Senior Congress leader K Muraleedharan, while speaking to the media said the party was not attacking the Bishop, but was only pointing out a mistake as the prevalence of liquor and drug mafia in the southern state should not be foisted upon a certain religious community. That is where Congress has a difference of opinion with the Bishop's remarks, he said and added that the party does not want any communal disharmony in the state nor does it want the Sangh parivar to gain a foothold here.

Kallarangatt had said recently that Christian girls were falling prey to the alleged love and narcotic jihad in Kerala and wherever arms cannot be used, extremists were using such methods to destroy the youth.

Responding to Muraleedharan's comments, BJP state president K Surendran said that the Bishop's remarks were against terrorism, "but it hit Congress and CPM" who are now attacking the Bishop from all sides, which is "unacceptable". Addressing reporters at the 84th birthday of SNDP leader Vellapally Natesan, Surendran alleged that the response of the two parties indicated that the Congress and CPM were encouraging religious terrorism "as part of their vote bank politics".

He further said anyone speaking the truth "was being branded as a member of the Sangh parivar". The link between drug mafias and religious terrorists world over was clear as daylight, he said and added that if Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan cannot see that "then we need to fear such forces".

He said that BJP will provide all support to the Bishop against the attacks by Congress and CPM.

On Saturday, the Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council (KCBC), the apex body of the Catholic hierarchy in the state, came out in support of the Bishop and said it was not against any particular religion.

Pala Bishop
Pala Bishop Mar Joseph Kallarangatt

The KCBC, in a statement, said that even the United Nation reports have made it clear that money earned from drug trafficking is being used for terrorist activities.

The controversial 'love and narcotic jihad' remarks by Kallarangatt triggered ripples in Kerala's political circles as the BJP accused the CPM and the Congress of supporting jihadis, while the latter warned against "Sangh Parivar agenda" to destroy Christian-Muslim harmony in the state.

Amid mounting criticism, the Pala Diocese, under the the prominent Syro-Malabar Church, on Saturday had come out with an explanation, saying the bishop did not intend to hurt anyone and his remarks were not against any particular community. Urging all communities to view seriously the actions of fringe elements indulging in radical and anti-social activities using the names and symbols of religion, the diocese also shared the message of going forward unitedly ending all misleading propaganda.

The CM had on Friday said those who hold responsible positions should refrain from making statements causing division in the society. While the Congress had said the bishop crossed limits, the BJP supported him by urging the society to discuss the statement.

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BJP spokesperson Tom Vadakkan said cases of love jihad and drug abuse victims have been rising and that the Kerala Bishop Council, too, is of the opinion that terrorism and rampant flow of drugs into the state, both interconnected, is a menace.

''Love Jihad'' is a term used by right-wing activists to refer to an alleged campaign of Muslims forcing Hindu girls to convert in the guise of love.

"The rising drug abuse in different communities has affected peace within families and has created socio-economic disorder of disastrous levels," Vadakkan claimed.

The intellectual and academic strengths of the young generation is destroyed through narco terrorism or narco jihad, he alleged.

(With inputs from PTI)

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