'Hike price of rubber to Rs 300 a kg, bag our votes': Kerala Bishop's message to BJP creates ripples

"The BJP is trying to create communal strife and turn the country into a Hindu Rashtra. So the price of rubber is not the only problem," CPI(M) state secretary M V Govindan told reporters.
Image used for representational purpose only. ( File | EPS)
Image used for representational purpose only. ( File | EPS)

KOCHI/KANNUR:  Thalassery Archbishop Mar Joseph Pamplany has stirred the hornet’s nest, saying if the Union government raised the rubber price to Rs 300 per kg, the Church would help the BJP in elections. The statement evoked sharp reactions on Sunday with the CPM and the Congress reminding the Syro-Malabar Church bishop of the attack on minorities across the nation. The BJP welcomed the remarks.

Speaking at a protest rally of farmers from the highlands, organised by the Catholic Congress at Alakkode in Kannur, Bishop Pamplany said farmers should realise that in a democracy, a protest that failed to influence votes would be deemed a non-starter.

“We want to tell the Union government: fix the price of rubber at Rs 300 per kg and buy it directly from the farmer; we will resolve your problem of having no MPs from the state,” he added. The Church claims influence among the rubber farmers in the state as a large section of which belongs to the Christian community. RSS-4, the preferred quality for tyres, closed on Friday evening at Rs 143.50/kg at Kottayam market. 

As his statement snowballed into a controversy, the bishop clarified on Sunday that his remark was not the official stand of the Church. “What I had tried to say was that the farmers would support whoever offers help to them. If it is the state government the farmers would extend their support to the state government. It was the general sentiment of the farmers which was expressed through the speech, There was no hidden political agenda,” he said.

The bishop, however, said the Church is not against any party. “There is no untouchability for any party to hold discussions with the Church. What I have expressed is the opinion of the farmers of the hills. Please don’t misinterpret it as the stand of the Catholic Church,” he added.  

Jayarajan terms remarks unfortunate; Emotional reaction, says Satheesan

Terming the bishop’s remarks as “unfortunate”, CPM Kannur district secretary M V Jayarajan said, “it will hurt the self-pride of the people of the hilly region. Through his statement, the bishop has unashamedly justified the BJP which leads attacks on minorities across the nation.” Leader of Opposition V D Satheesan said the bishop’s statement was an “emotional reaction” after seeing the plight of the rubber farmers.

“We should not read too much into the statement... In the last four years, about 500 churches came under attack in the country,” he said in Kochi. Meanwhile, BJP welcomed Bishop Pamplany’s statement with its state president K Surendran saying it showed that the problems of the rubber farmers in the state were not addressed by the LDF and the UDF.

‘Cannot neglect BJP’s attacks on churches'

“Around 79 organisations had staged a protest on February 19 at Jantar Mantar in Delhi against the attacks by RSS and other Sangh Parivar outfits. Christian priests and nuns from states, including Kerala, had participated in the protest. They had also given a memorandum to the Union government about the attacks that happened in 598 places. If there is an attempt to go forward by neglecting these issues, it won’t be effective in Kerala. BJP stands for communalism and wants the country to be turned into a Hindu Rashtra. Who doesn’t know that such designs by the BJP will not be possible in Kerala?,” says CPM state secretary M V Govindan

‘Whitewashing Golwalkar’s writings not possible’

“When the RSS and BJP come forward as protectors of Christians, the minorities are well aware that the fox has never protected the fowl. Vicharadhara is the ideological text of Amit Shah and the RSS. The 20th chapter in Vicharadhara speaks about the internal threats of Hindu Rashtra. The headline of that chapter is Christians. The previous chapter lists Muslims as the first internal threat. Another chapter lists
Communists as the third internal threat. This is the reality. If anyone tries to whitewash what Golwalkar wrote in Vicharadhara, It won’t be possible. The spots of the leopard will not go away no matter how hard you try to wash them off and the minorities know this very well,” says Minister for Local Self
Government M B Rajesh.

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