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Editorial: Discordant notes

Religion is being weaponised heavily in the state. Last month, a video of an altercation between burqa-clad students and a Hindu woman in a bus went viral

Editorial: Discordant notes

Blast at a convention centre in Kalamassery, in Ernakulam district (Photo/PTI)

In the aftermath of the multiple blasts at Kalamassery, the Ernakulam Central Police filed an FIR under Section 153 (wantonly provoking with an intent to cause riot) and 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups on religious grounds) of the IPC against Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar. The politician had engaged in controversial social media posts in which he allegedly placed the blame on a certain community for the explosions that took place in a convention centre where a Jehovah’s Witness congregation was in progress last Sunday.

Chandrasekhar had tweeted on Sunday that Kerala was paying a heavy price for ‘dirty, shameless appeasement politics’ by a discredited Chief Minister. He had alleged that there were open calls for jihad by terror groups like Hamas, who are perpetrating ‘attacks and bomb blasts on innocent Christians’. The blowback from the Kerala government is expected considering the fact that the sole accused in the blast case, an individual named Martin VD, who happened to hail from the same community as the victims of the blast, had surrendered on Sunday itself, and remanded in judicial custody till November.

While Martin claimed he had acted on his own volition without the support of any extremist group, the investigators are on the lookout for potential accomplices. Following the blasts, there were numerous attempts to communalise the episode and garner political mileage. Many right-wing commentators jumped the gun and linked the blast to the ongoing Israeli war on Gaza, and described it as a terrorist attack. Unfortunately, there are few political outfits in India that can resist the temptation of vitiating the situation for electoral gains.

It is being feared that Kerala’s much-touted model of social harmony is at risk of being ripped apart. Think about it: its religious composition is unlike any other state. Around 57% of its population comprises Hindus, 23% makes up for the Muslim population and 19% are Christians. But, the state has a painful history of violence between cadres of political outfits, often emboldened by a dangerous mix of religion and statecraft. Islamist radicalisation has also made in-roads, even though Kerala is home to the Muslim League, which pitches itself as an advocate of the community’s interests, while maintaining harmony with individuals of other faiths.

Right-wing outfits have set out to woo the significant Christian vote bank in Kerala even as numerous places of worship frequented by Christians in the north have been desecrated. Religion is being weaponised heavily in the state. Last month, a video of an altercation between burqa-clad students and a Hindu woman in a bus went viral. The claim was that the Hindu woman was being admonished for not wearing a burqa. The reality was that the argument was regarding the bus not stopping at a designated stop.

Kerala, along with its sister state of Tamil Nadu has often been referred to as an example of peaceful religious coexistence, undeterred by machinations of extremist ideology. That is why, it is more than imperative that those attempting to sow the seeds of discord, whether they be statesmen or preachers of any faith must be made answerable before the law.

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