Kerala Christians’ beef with Muslims proof of BJP’s divide-and-rule policy
The BJP which has been unable to grow roots in Kerala is suspected to be turning Christians against Muslims for its own benefit. Representative photo

Kerala Christians’ beef with Muslims proof of BJP’s divide-and-rule policy

Is a right-wing Christian political outfit in the making in Kerala? A series of anti-Muslim statements made by the leaders and followers of the Syro-Malabar Church, and the recent hate speech made against the community by former MLA PC George show that the BJP, which has found it difficult to grow roots in the communist state, could be aiding in the budding of a new political formation, say observers.

PC George, a darling of Hindutva brigade

Communally-charged statements recently made by senior politician PC George, a seven-time MLA who was part of the Kerala Congress, has gained him the unconditional support of the state unit of the BJP.

George, while addressing the Ananthapuri Hindu Maha Sammelan in Thiruvananthapuram last Friday (April 29), cautioned people against eating at Muslim-run restaurants. He alleged that businessmen running these eateries use certain drops of medicine to cause impotence in people of other communities and thus increase their own population.

George also slammed Malayali business tycoon MA Yusuf Ali, the owner of the Lulu Group, alleging that he runs malls and business establishments with an intention to empty the pockets of the Hindu community. While George was arrested for his incendiary statements, high drama played out during his arrest and production before the magistrate, with BJP activists flooding the venue to garland and salute him. He was allowed to travel in his own car, which gave the BJP workers the opportunity to greet him at many places on the way.

Also read: Kerala politician George arrested for controversial remarks against Muslims

V Muralidharan, Union Minister of State for External Affairs, who rushed to the police camp in Thiruvananthapuram where George was kept under custody, was prevented by the police from visiting him.

The making of an imaginary enemy

Both political commentators and priests in the Christian community say that such blatant targeting of Muslims by another minority group is part of a larger design prepared by the BJP and its ideological fountainhead, the RSS.

“We are well aware of this consistent effort made by the church to create a split between Christian and Muslim communities in Kerala. They are reproducing the narrative set by the RSS,” said Fr Paul Thelekkat, former spokesperson of Syro Malabar Church.

Fr Thelekkat, the editor of Sathyadeepam, the mouthpiece of the Syro-Malabar Church told The Federal that the BJP is trying to woo the Christian community in Kerala by creating an imaginary enemy, which is the Muslim community. According to him, this is also a battle for power for the Syro Malabar Church, the richest among all churches.

“If you observe closely, you can see none of the other churches like the Orthodox, Marthoma or Latin Catholic have joined this campaign to spread hate,” Fr Thelekkat said.

He alleged that the ongoing land deal cases against the head of the Syro-Malabar Church major Arch Bishop Mar George Alancherry have a connection with the new-found romance between the BJP and the Syro-Malabar Church.

Fr Kuriakose Mundadan, a priest of the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese (of Syro-Malabar Church) corroborates the observations made by Fr Thelekkat.

“The attempt to foment hate against Muslims is a political project. BJP can survive only by creating an enemy and they made the Church believe that Muslim community is their enemy,” Fr Kuriakose told The Federal.

He alleged that the BJP is efficiently using the land scam and criminal cases against the church leadership to fulfil its agenda against Muslims.

It is to be noted that seven cases were registered against Fr George Alancherry, the head of the Syro Malabar Church in 2017, for alleged fraudulent executions of land deals that caused corruption and heavy loss to the Church properties. The High Court and later the Supreme Court dismissed his petition to quash the FIRs and ordered that he should face trial, last year.

‘Narcotic jihad’

In November 2021, Pala Archdiocese’s Bishop Mar Joseph Kallarangat (of Syro-Malabar Church) made a similar controversial remark alleging that Muslim youth in Kerala have launched ‘Narcotic Jihad’ against other communities, while referring to the booking of young Muslim men in drug trafficking cases.

The BJP lost no moment in stirring the pot further. BJP leaders welcomed his statement and rushed to his residence to meet him to express solidarity. Minority Morcha leader George Kurian wrote to Amit Shah to provide protection to the bishop in the face of “fierce responses” against his allegation from the secular and the left circles.

“If you notice the timeline of these incidents, you will get the connection. The allegation of ‘Narcotic Jihad’ came after a daylong interrogation of Cardinal Alancherry by the investigating officers,” Fr Kuriakose Mundadan said.

According to him, such statements come from the priests whenever there is a criminal proceeding against an accused priest who has something to hide and thus is vulnerable to yield to the political projects of BJP.

CASA- a link between ‘nationalism’ and Christian fundamentalism

Observers say, Christian Association for Social Action (CASA), a recently-formed group acts as platform that executes extremist ideas, propagating hate against the Muslim community. Their Facebook page is flooded with allegations against Muslims. The recent interfaith marriage between Shejin and Jyolsa, a Muslim-Christian couple brought the ‘love Jihad’ controversy back to the centrestage. CASA which labelled the marriage as a case of ‘love jihad’ also organised a protest march against it to the local police station in Kozhikkode.

Priests like Paul Thelekkat and Fr Kuriakose allege that CASA is supported by Hindu right wing groups and has been executing the policies of the BJP. The slogan of the organisation is ‘My Country, My Nationality and My Faith’.

“CASA is a launching pad for BJP and RSS to strengthen their presence within the Christian community. However, I don’t think that they would be able to get the trust of the masses who know how the community is being treated in other states where the RSS is strong,” says Fr Thelekkat.

Fr Augustine Vattoly, a parish priest of Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese (Syro-Malabar Church) says the greed for money and power has spoiled the Church leadership.

Seconding the view of Fr Thelekkat, he agreed that ordinary people will not be easily carried away by the hate campaigns against Muslims.

Also read: ‘Avoid restaurants run by Muslims’: Kerala politician’s remark creates furore

“The corruption and criminality within the Church make the entry of BJP easy. They play to the tunes set by the RSS,” says Fr Vattoly who is also the convenor of the action council that staged protest against Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who was accused of raping a nun.

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