CM Pinarayi trashes Pala bishop's claims of 'love' and 'narcotic' jihad, calls for voluntary apology

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, armed with official figures, categorically rubbished the charges of 'love jihad' and 'narcotics jihad' on Wednesday. After weeks of trying to apportion blame, Vijayan said in no uncertain terms that both these charges were “utterly baseless”.

'Love jihad' was a bogey first raised by the Sangh Parivar and later taken up by the Syro-Malabar church. 'Narcotic jihad' came into circulation after Pala bishop Mar Joseph Kallarangatt made a serious note of it, along with 'love jihad', during a public sermon on September 8.

The Chief Minister even hinted that an apology or a retraction was the only acceptable way out for the Pala bishop. “When it is found that the society in general is opposed to this (love and narcotic jihad comment), it is important that the concerned people review their position accordingly,” the Chief Minister said. He, however, made it clear that he would not insist on an apology. “This is not something for the government to dictate,” he said.

The Chief Minister's change of tone was as dramatic as his latest offensive against the Pala bishop's remarks. Though he had earlier called the 'narcotic jihad' comment improper, Vijayan had earlier said the Pala bishop had the right to highlight the concerns facing his community. This was widely seen as an endorsement of the bishop.

Cooperation minister V N Vasavan's tete-a-tete with the Pala bishop and the admirable words he had reserved for the bishop had lent credence to the observation that the government was reluctant to offend the Church's sensibilities. But, on Wednesday, the Chief Minister made it clear that Vasavan's visit should not be interpreted to mean that the minister backed the bishop's remarks. "He went there because the bishop had expressed an interest to meet him, not to discuss the issue or to declare solidarity with the bishop for his comments," the Chief Minister said.

The CM also ruled out an all-party meeting on the issue. “There is no need for such a meeting. Every party should use their platform to strongly oppose such propaganda,” he said. “Moreover, the wrong comment came not from a political party but from outside,” he said. Nonetheless, he did not shut the door on a meeting with spiritual leaders. “This could be explored,” he said.

During his customary sunset briefing, the Chief Minister sought to dismantle the jihad propaganda one by one. As preface, he said love and drugs were not something that could be shoved under the account of any particular religion. “Both these charges are unsupported by facts,” he said.

He termed as “baseless” the propaganda that that Christians were being increasingly converted to Islam. “We have not received any complaints, or any clear information, of forced conversions,” he said. “Some years ago, there were allegations that a Kottayam native, Akhila, was forced to convert to Islam and adopt the name Hadiya. Both the High Court and the Supreme Court analysed the issue and found that the woman, who was educated and a major, had converted of her own volition,” the Chief Minister said.

He said a fact-check of the propaganda that Christian and other non-Muslim girls were being converted into Islam and led to terrorist outfits revealed a different picture. "72 of the 100 Malayalis who had joined Islamic State (IS) till 2019 had first travelled to a foreign country for work or other purposes and then got attracted to IS ideology. All of these, except Kozhikode Thuruthiyad native Dasmodaran's son Praju, were Muslims," the Chief Minister said.

"The remaining 28 had reached IS camps after being lured to IS ideology while in Kerala itself. Among these only five had converted to Islam and then joined IS," the Chief Minister said. Even those converted from other faiths did not look as if they were forced by Muslim youths. One of them, Thiruvananthapuram native Nimisha, a Hindu, had married Becson, a Christian youth from Palakkad. Another, Ernakulam native Merin Jacob, a Christian, had married a Christian youth named Bestin. Both these couples then converted to Islam and eventually joined the IS.

“These figures do not validate the propaganda that non-Muslim girls were being trapped in love affairs, converted and then recruited to terrorist outfits,” the Chief Minister said.

Vijayan then made short work of the 'narcotic jihad' comment, a coinage he had earlier said he was hearing for the first time. He said that 4,941 cases were registered in Kerala under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act in 2020. And in these cases, there were 5,422 accused. Of these, 2,700 (49.80%) were Hindus, 1,869 (34.475) were Muslims, and 853 (15.73%) were Christians. “This proportion does in no way seem unnatural,” the Chief Minister said. “This was further proof that drug trade is not carried out on the basis of religion,'' he added.

He also said that the government authorities had not received any complaints about forcible use of drugs. “No one has even brought this to our notice,” the Chief Minister said. “No evidence whatsoever has been received suggesting those selling or using drugs belong to any particular religion. It is also foolish to infer that if any school or college student uses or sells drugs it is the planned conspiracy of any particular religion,” he said.

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