If you look at Kerala, you will see a recent outburst of communalism coming from certain Christian priests. Communal tensions are growing between the two religious groups in Kerala – Muslims and Christians. One might think that it is due to recent issues like the reservation policy, which favoured the Muslim community, but that’s not the answer. The two communities have a history of conflict, the prime example of which is the Crusade Wars, which took place for the Holy City of Jerusalem. The history of divide between the two communities in Kerala can be traced in many countries, not just India. Take, for example, Sri Lanka after the Easter bombings, we saw a divide growing within the Catholic community. Days after the Easter bombings, Kerala saw priests allege ‘Love Jihad’, but it got diluted due to various reasons and did not get the attention that it deserved. But now things are going out of hand, Kerala, which is known as the secular hub of India, is facing its greatest challenge.
Recently, we saw an astonishing comment made by a very credible bishop of the Catholic church. Bishop Mar Joseph Kallarangatt, an incredible person with a remarkable educational background, directed the attention of the public towards a new issue – “Narcotic Jihad”. The Muslim groups, on hearing this, came in large numbers and protested against the bishop outside his house in Pala. To counter that, the Catholic community, which is known for its tolerance, took out a big march against the Muslim groups. What the Catholics allege is that there is worldwide attack against the ecclesiastical order of the Catholic church and the funding for these programmes are being done by Muslim businessmen. The prime reason for the attack against the ecclesiastical order, as alleged by the Catholics, is that the Catholic community has a tough presence in Africa and they are great social work there, which is leading to many Christian conversions. This challenges the Muslims.
The Catholic community has also pointed out a pertinent example of advertisements that are broadcasted in news channels when the primary focus of the news debate is the alleged rape of a nun by a bishop or a priest. They allege that the advertisements are of companies that are Muslim-owned, such as jewellery. As a repercussion of all these above-mentioned events, the Catholics now do not want to purchase anything from shops owned by Muslims.
How did this issue affect Kerala politically? One might argue that it was due to Pinarayi Vijayan’s charisma that he won, but one can’t also negate the social factor that came into play to help him. The Kerala Congress Mani group, which is the face of the Catholic community, had switched sides to the LDF and this helped the party make big inroads in places like Kottayam, Changanacherry and Kanjiarapally, which were the bastions of the UDF. The Catholic community voted in huge numbers against the UDF to prevent the ally of UDF, that is the Muslim League, to come to power. This was the political repercussion of it. Kerala, the secular hub of India, is facing its biggest threat, and the reason why this threat is bigger is because of the dominant presence of the Sangh Parivar all over India. This is an issue that needs to be handled delicately by the government of Kerala in a way that the two sides are engaged in talks to sort out the issue and the divide.
Mathen James Kotharathil is a student at Christ (Deemed To Be University), Bangalore. Views are personal.