Thiruvananthapuram: Amidst the opposition clamour over the 'love & narcotic jihad' row that refuses to settle down, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan finally went on the offensive.
Without referring to Pala Bishop Mar Joseph Kallarangatt, who earlier this month triggered a controversy by claiming the presence of 'narcotic jihad' in Kerala, Vijayan attacked attempts to paint a particular community in bad light.
"There is an increasing tendency to attribute the colour of a particular community to social evils. It has to be nipped in the bud," said Pinarayi Vijayan while speaking on the occasion of the centenary of Travancore Students’ Protest.
"Those who promote social evils are the ones that indulge in anti-social and unlawful activities. That should not be equated to any specific community," the chief minister said.
"Doing so will widen the divide in the society instead of strengthening unity on the face of such evils," he pointed out.
Vijayan also came down heavily on attempts to glorify extremist organisations, the inference being recent pro-Taliban comments on social media.
"Giving a good face to terrorism will also hamper our unity. Some have elevated such organizations to the level of freedom struggle. It has to be realised that such primitive thoughts will only put our freedom at risk," Pinarayi warned.
Quoting Guru and King
Vijayan, who had earlier in the day, took to Facebook to pay his tribute to social reformer Sree Narayana Guru, also quoted American civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr.
"On this day as we remember Guru who taught us to think above the restraints of caste and religion, we must pledge to counter those who use caste and religion as a weapon.
"Like Martin Luther King said, 'Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that'," Vijayan added.
Earlier, in a Facebook tribute to Guru on the social reformer's death anniversary, Vijayan had noted that Kerala was far removed from a society free from caste and religion-based discrimination as was envisioned by the Guru.
"Communal thoughts and remnants of the caste system remain embarrassingly stronger before us. We cannot tread back from the advances made so far on the humanitarian front," Vijayan wrote.
The chief minister further added that it was high time the society "loudly proclaimed" that "no caste or religion is greater than humanity".
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan also tweeted a message on the occasion. "My pranams to #SreeNarayanaGuru, on his Samadhi day. #Guru placed the human being at the centre of all existence, and advocated self-improvement by individuals as the only hope for the society and the world," the Governor tweeted.
CM finds an unlikely ally
Meanwhile, BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Suresh Gopi came in support for the Pinarayi-led LDF government on the 'jihad' row.
Gopi said that the government was doing what needs to be done.
The actor-politician was responding to mediapersons who quizzed him on whether time for intervention by the state government in the ongoing controversy had elapsed.
"The government is going what has to be done. He (the CM) has to uphold the dignity of his office. Why should he respond? He only needs to act (take steps)," Gopi said.
His remarks assume significance as criticism has come in from various quarters over the silence and alleged lack of action by the Left government and the CM about the Bishop's remark.
The BJP urged the government to bring in a legislation to check religious conversions in the name of marriages, "with an aim to recruit them for terrorist activities."
Senior leader and party state general secretary George Kurian said the BJP is not against love marriages, but opposing the love relationship for the sake of conversion.
Girls from the state had been recruited to Afghanistan and Syria for terrorism through conversion after pretending love, he alleged, adding that such conversions were not to Islam but destruction.
"Love jihad can be rooted out only through strong legislation. So, the state government should bring in a law to check religious conversions in the name of marriages after targeting them to recruit for terrorist activities," Kurian told a press meet here.
Those who say that the term 'love jihad' was not defined should not forget the fact that even 'religion' was not explained in the Constitution, the leader claimed.
Legislation similar to what states like Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh had brought in should be enacted in Kerala to curb the alleged practice of love jihad and only then would the distance between religious communities be bridged.
Otherwise, all discussions in this regard would be superficial, the BJP leader added.