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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 40, New Delhi, Sept 18, 2021

What is Plaguing the Catholic Church in Kerala? Is it ‘Jihad’ or something else? | Jos Chathukulam and Manasi Joseph

Friday 17 September 2021

by Jos Chathukulam and Manasi Joseph *

Abstract

While the ‘narcotic jihad’ and ‘love jihad’ appears to be creating more furore at the moment, there are various other factors that are plaguing the Church. This article briefly attempts to analyse the major issues and problems that are haunting the Catholic Church in Kerala. 

Introduction 

Though Kerala is in the midst of battling Covid 19 and Nipah, it is the controversy over ‘Narcotic Jihad’ that is creating ripples in the political and social circles in the state. In September 2021, Mar Joseph Kallarangatt [1], Bishop of the Syro- Malabar Catholic Church, Diocese of Pala, while addressing a gathering [2] at the famous Archiepiscopal Marth Mariam Pilgrim Church at Kuravilangad in Kottayam, Kerala, said that non-Muslims are subjected to ‘Narcotic Jihad’ in Kerala (Babu, 2021 and Anand 2021). Bishop Kallarangatt stated that ‘love jihad’ [3] and ‘narcotic jihad’ are used by jihadis to trap young non-Muslim girls (Express News Service, September 10, 2021). He alleged that non-Muslim girls, especially those belonging to the Christian community, were largely being converted “after trapping them in love, exploiting and misusing them for destructive activities like terrorism” (The Week, September 13, 2021). Regarding ‘narcotic jihad’, Bishop Kallarangatt said that jihadis are using drugs as a means to destroy non- Muslim youth and added that ice-cream parlours, restaurants and rave parties are being used for this. Bishop Kallarangatt cited the examples of two non-Muslim girls in Kerala, who got converted to Islam after falling in love with Muslim men and later joined Islamic State (IS). Apart from these, Bishop failed to offer any solid proof to back his controversial remarks. Meanwhile, Joseph Perumthottam, Archbishop of Changanasserry Archdiocese of the Syro- Malabar Church supported Bishop Kallarangatt. The Archbishop in his article in the ‘Deepika’ newspaper [4] wrote that many families collapsed after girls who fell into the trap of love were misused for drug trafficking, terrorism, smuggling and prostitution. The Archbishop also wrote that with the Taliban taking control of Afghanistan, the possibility of Kerala becoming a hub of drug smuggling is high and urged the government to take steps to end ‘narcotic terrorism’ in the state. The Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC) has also offered support to Bishop Kallarangatt. Cyriac Thomas, former Vice — Chancellor of Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, Kerala also supported the Bishop by stating that the Prelate was only sharing the fear, anxiety and pain of the Church and concern about some social issues disturbing him and the Church leadership. (Facebook post dated September 11, 2021 of Cyriac Thomas). Though the Pala diocese later clarified that Bishop Kallarangatt didn’t intend to hurt anyone or target a particular community and added that the Prelate was only trying to remind people about the responsibility of the society to annihilate evils and wrong-doings, the controversy refuses to die down. Kerala and it people are already in a precarious situation economically and otherwise due to the Covid 19 pandemic and controversial remarks like these can easily unsettle the minds of people and radical elements may take advantage of this situation to threaten the communal harmony and peace in the state.

A Political Storm in the Midst of a Pandemic

The allegations made by Bishop Kallarangatt have caused a political storm that too in the midst of a pandemic. While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Pala legislator, Mani C Kappan, Kerala Congress (M) leader Jose K Mani, the Catholic Church, other Christian denominations and the Nair Service Society (NSS) are offering their support and solidarity to Bishop Kallarangatt, on the other hand, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, and Leader of Opposition in the Kerala Assembly and Congress MLA V D Satheesan and public figures [5] have criticized the Bishop. Church has always been a bigger political player in Kerala’s political landscape and Catholic community is a crucial vote bank in the Central Travancore and the controversy has left both Left Democratic Front (LDF) and United Democratic Front (UDF) in a vulnerable fix as they are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea in this matter. The Chief Minister was more measured in his criticism and the Opposition leaders too didn’t hide their displeasure but both fronts are treading cautiously as any polarization in its Christian and Muslim votes would upset their political future. It is the BJP that has stood firmly behind the Church and it has found a new crusader in the Bishop to strengthen its campaign against ‘love jihad’. The LDF and UDF have accused the BJP of trying to derive political mileage by dividing society along the religious and communal lines. While LDF and the Chief Minister remains ambiguous regarding its stand on the issue, BJP leaders are pulling all stops to express their solidarity with the Bishop and the Church and even wrote a letter to Union Home Minister Amit Shah to provide protection to Bishop Kallarangatt. From the legal point of view there are arguments that the statement made by the Bishop was aimed to disturb communal amity in the society and in such circumstances a case can be filed against the bishop under 153 A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Though there have been reports that some Muslim outfits [6] have filed a complaint against the Bishop in connection with the controversial remarks, so far, no probe has been ordered. Even Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is of the opinion that the Bishop Kallarangatt had no intention to create any disharmony and only some vested interests were twisting the facts and thereby trying to sow the seeds of division. The CM further stated that ‘the Bishop delivered the speech from the pulpit and hence it is not a public statement government believed there is no ground to charge any case against the Prelate (The Hindu, September 16, 2021). However, such justifications from the part of CM is a misleading one as it conveys a wrong message that if you are a religious figure or a politician you can get away with anything on the other hand if an ordinary person could have made such a remark be it in the Church or outside, they would have been sent behind the bars in no time.

Why the Church is Wary about the Love Jihad

Since 2018, the Syro-Malabar Church has been expressing their concerns and fears about ‘love jihad’ and it even claimed that there have been instances of women being converted to Islam and later recruited to terrorist outfits. In 2018, in the context of Akhila Hadiya case, National Investigation Agency (NIA) at the instance of Supreme Court of India conducted a probe into 11 cases from a list of 89 of inter-faith marriages in Kerala owing to suspicion of ‘love jihad’. The investigation did not unearth any evidence to suggest that in any of these cases either the man or the woman was coerced to convert (Ahuja, 2018). In September 2019, the then Minority Commission Vice-Chairperson George Kurian wrote to Union Home Minister Amit Shah to order an NIA probe into organised religious conversions and recruitment to terrorist outfits. Kurian wrote that Christian community is a soft target for Islamic radicals and hence stringent laws should be implemented to curb ‘love jihad’ (Shrivastava, 2019). In January 2020, a delegation of the Syro — Malabar Church met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and apprised him about its campaign against ‘love jihad’. In a circular dated January 15, 2020, Syro- Malabar Church, one of the largest church bodies in Kerala issued a statement raising concerns about Christian women being ‘targeted’ through ‘love jihad’. The synod of Syro — Malabar Church, an apex body of Catholic Bishops, chaired by Cardinal George Alencherry then called ‘love jihad’ a reality. But the Syro- Malabar Church was like a divided house on the topic of ‘love jihad then. For instance, in its weekly magazine named ‘Satyadeepam’ the Archdiocese of Ernakulam — Angamaly, under Syro — Malabar Church, slammed the synod for targeting Islam in the name of ‘love jihad’. Several churches under Syro- Malabar Catholic Church in Ernakulam district did not even read out circular owing to differences in this regard. The Additional Director General of Police’s report to the National Minority Commission dated February 10, 2020, stated that the police had conducted a detailed enquiry into the allegations of ‘love jihad’ raised by the Syro-Malabar Church stated that the concerns and complaints made by the Church in their representation to Minority Commission are not based on facts. However, these findings did not allay the fears of the Church. In November 2020, a controversy erupted following the wedding of a Catholic woman and a Muslim man based in Kochi was held at St Joseph Church, Kadavanthara, Ernakulam, Kerala. Mar Mathew Vaniyakizhakkel, a former Bishop of Satna solemnised the marriage and it drew criticism from certain sections within the Catholic Church and the laity. The Church authorities were miffed and even issued a set of guidelines instructing Bishops to ensure that those solemnising interfaith marriages should strictly adhere to canon laws. The Bishop later expressed regret for attending the marriage and only then the Church and authorities decided to close the matter (The Wire, November 23, 2020).

What is Plaguing the Catholic Church in Kerala?

Churches in Kerala, especially the Catholic Church has been gripped with fear and anxiety for the last few years and it is not limited to ‘love jihad’ and ‘narcotic jihad’. First and foremost, the dwindling Christian population is a matter of concern for the Church. The Catholic Church is miffed with obsession of its laity over ‘micro -family syndrome’ or in other words as noted by demographer K C Zachariah in in his book titled The Syrian Christians of Kerala: Demographic and Socio Economic Transition in the Twentieth Century, suggests they fear that the Christian community might experience “Parsi Syndrome” of irreversible population declines in the coming decades. The 20th century had witnessed a process of significant transition of Christian Community in Kerala in terms of its demographic and socio-economic status and it had an impact on fertility, mortality, and migration (Zachariah, 2006).As per 2011 census, Kerala has around 33 million people and out of it Hindus account for 54.37 per cent of the population, followed by Muslims with 26.56 per cent and Christians around 18.38 per cent. While some demographers say sterilization drives in 1980s and 1990s may be the reason for the decline fertility rate, other says that it is the large scale migration of Catholic youth to various parts of the country and abroad for job and education as the reason for losing a large portion of its laity. According to a 2013 survey conducted by the Laity Commission of the Syro-Malabar Church found that between 74 and 78 per cent of the youth aged between 20 and 32 in the Syro- Malabar Church work outside Kerala and are settled in their places of work. (The Hindu, September 29, 2013, Landy, 2014). Even before the Survey was held, the Church was concerned about the fall in the birth rates in the Christian families and in 2008 the KCBC had mooted the concept of ‘larger families’ with three or more children. In 2016 Idukki Bishop Mar Mathew Anikuzhikattil in his pastoral letter stated that all kinds of birth control measures are counter to God’s will and process (Ganghadaran, 2016). In 2017 Bishop Mar Remigiose of Thamarassery diocese issued a pastoral letter exhorting the laity to ensure that their boys get married before the age of 25 and girls before they turn 23 as the Church feel that late marriages have an impact on the birth of children and the well-being of the family. However, the laity refused to pay heed to the calls for early marriages, larger families. A pastoral letter issued by Changanassery Archdiocese in 2019 suggested that the share of Christian population has dwindled over the years and stated that in the birth rate in the Christian community has decreased to 14 per cent and dubbed it as an ‘alarming situation’. In 2021, the Church is yet again pouring ‘old wine in new bottles’ and that too with lucrative offers and incentives. In July 2021, the Pala diocese of the Eastern -rite Syro Malabar Church announced a slew of welfare schemes for Catholic families having five or more children. As per a circular, Family Apostolate under Pala diocese will provide a monthly assistance of Rs.1500 to couples who have got married in 2000 and have five or more children. The medical expenses during pregnancy will be taken care of by Mar Sleeva Medicity from the birth of the fourth child and St Joseph College of Engineering will provide education scholarships for the fourth child and younger siblings in the family. It is surprising to note such a move from the Church in Kerala, as the rest of the states in the country including Uttar Pradesh have proposed the Uttar Pradesh (UP) Population (Control, Stabillisation and Welfare) Bill, 2021(Kumar, 2021) to enforce a two — child norm in the state through a series of incentives when it comes to state government jobs and positions in local governments.

The Church which is already anxious about the dwindling Christian population fears that the strength of the Muslim community in terms of population as well as their educational and financial growth. Above all Church is worried whether the capability of Muslim community to collectively bargain with LDF and UDF in the name of minority appeasement would eventually marginalize the Church and its people. According to demographic experts, if one looks at the census data of the last three decades, the population of the Muslims in Kerala is steadily increasing and the same cannot be noticed in the case of Christians. However, it should also be noted that many demographic theories suggest that due to economic and social development the population growth will subsequently go downward and even in the case of Kerala following the educational and financial growth among the Muslims their family size has also started coming down [7]. The population may have increased but the population growth rate is coming down among Muslim community. Social and economic upliftment among Muslim community was a gradual progress and with the advancement of education and economic status they too have started to limit their family size.

The controversy surrounding 80:20 distribution of minority scholarship created a disaffection among the communities and the Church and laity felt that the government was supporting an order favouring a particular minority community. Though The Kerala High Court quashed the Kerala Directorate of Minority Welfare Board’s order distributing scholarships to Muslim and Latin Catholic and Converted Christian students at the ratio of 80:20, the Church and its leaders feel that the LDF and UDF governments are primarily interested in supporting a particular minority community and are ready to sideline Christians.

There have also been reports that a lot of parishioners, especially those from marginalized dalits from Scheduled Caste (SC) communities who embraced Catholicism with hope of upliftment of their status and living standards are leaving the Church. For instance if those belonging to Schedule Caste gets converted to any other religion their status as SC is lost and subsequently the privileges they were entitled as an SC will also end. But in the case of Schedule Tribes it is not applicable. The Church failed to address the concerns of the converted Christians from SC communities and in the mean time they quit the Church and went back to their roots. This is mainly because the Church failed to accommodate or embrace them as per their expectations and being converted Christians, they were losing out government incentives and other privileges which they would have got freely had they not sacrificed their SC status.

A tussle has broken out in the Syro- Malabar Church in Kerala between the Church leadership and a section of the priests and laity over how the Mass is conducted. A pastoral letter from Cardinal George Alencherry, Major Archbishop of the Ernakulam — Angamaly archdiocese and head of the Syro — Malabar Church contained a directive stating that the priests and parishioners celebrating the Holy Mass in a uniform way. The uniform way involves celebrating the Holy Mass with the celebrant that is the Priest facing the congregation during one half and facing the tabernacle during the other half. However a section of priests and laity from Ernakulam-Angamaly, Iranjalakkuda and Thrissur diocese have opposed this move. A tussle even broke out at the Holy Family Church at Prasannapuram in Aluva, Ernakulam when the vicar of the Church read out the pastoral letter explaining the move to bring in uniformity in the conduct of the Mass. A group of parishioners interrupted the reading, seized the microphone and burned the copies of the letter (Varma, 2021).

In addition to that, the Catholic Church in Kerala has been facing an image crisis for some time owing to shady land deals in which the Head of the Syro — Malabar Church Cardinal George Alencherry is an accused (Express News Service, August 25, 2019) and if that was not enough sex scandals involving Bishops and Priests — a worrying evil not just limited to Catholic Church are making the matters worse. In 2017, a 48-year-old priest named Robin Vadakkumcherry, who belonged to the Syro- Malabar Catholic Church was arrested for raping and impregnating a 16-year old girl (Times of India, March 2, 2020). It was a deep embarrassment to the Church. In 2018, a 46-year old nun in Kerala alleged that the Latin Catholic Bishop of Jalandhar Franco Mulakkal had raped her in the convent guest house 13 times between 2014 and 2016 (Ittyipe, 2018). Following the allegations, Kerala witnessed an extraordinary protest of a fourteen-day hunger strike by five nuns from the Missionaries of Jesus Congregation — Sisters Alphy, Anupama, Josephine, Nina Rose and Ancett against Bishop Franco and they succeeded in getting the accused arrested that too by defying the diktats of the Church. It was also a history of sorts as it was for the first time that nuns have dared to challenge the patriarchal mindset of the Church and its leaders. There were attempts to silence and harass these nuns which in a way show the real picture of the Church as patriarchal hierarchical institution (Borpujari, 2019). A sister named Lucy Kalapurackal was expelled from the Franciscan Clarist Congregation for participating in the protest against Bishop Franco. Meanwhile, more and more skeletons kept tumbling out of the cupboard with news relating to sexual abuse alleged murders and harassment nuns had to face within the four walls of convent and how the Church tried to conceal it. Following the controversial ‘narcotic jihad’ remark by Bishop Kallarangattu, a priest at St Francis Mission Home in Kuravilangad reportedly delivered hate speech against Muslisms, the five nuns who had earlier campaigned against the Bishop Franco staged a walk out in response to the hate speech made by the priest (The Hindu, September 13, 2021).

To overcome much of the damage and to do an image makeover, the Catholic Church needs some political backings and patronage and it might be one of the reasons behind the obsession of the Church with the idea of ‘love and narcotic jihad’ to be in the good books of BJP leaders.

Has the Church Found a Saviour in BJP?

As stated earlier, the Church has been a crucial player in the politics of Kerala and the Catholic community is a crucial vote bank in the Central Travancore. Earlier the Catholic Church favoured Indian National Congress and following the emergence of Kerala Congress, the Church threw its weight behind Kerala Congress leader K M Mani. For the Church and the faithful, Mani was a ‘laity leader’ who was capable of protecting their interests and articulating their demands to the government from time to time. He was like an intercessor between the Church, the laity and the Government. However, following Mani’s demise, both his Party and the Catholic Church at large was thrown into a deep uncertainty. As a result Church is feeling marginalized and disempowered in the political and social circles and the ‘absence of a popular laity leader with the charisma and acceptance of Mani’ is making the situation worse. The failure of the Congress led UDF to take the Catholic Church under its wing in the absence of Mani had cost it dearly in the 2020 local government elections and in 2021 assembly elections. Though following the death of Mani, his son Jose K Mani, leader of Kerala Congress (M) switched his allegiance to LDF, unlike his father, despite his closeness to Pala Bishop has failed to rise up to the expectations of the Catholic Church. Similarly, Church is also disappointed with P J Joseph, the political rival of Mani. The failure of UDF and Kerala Congress factions to protect the interests of Church and the fragile condition of Congress party at the national level, and the reluctance of CPI (M) and their dubious silence over various social and political issues has in away forced the Church and its leaders to find a saviour in BJP. The Syro — Malabar Church has been signalling its political shift towards BJP for some time and its open support to the Union Government be it in raising voice against ‘love jihad’ or supporting Citizenship Amendment Act (with some reservations). Even Bishop Kallarangatt and other Prelates in the Church have been airing their pro-BJP views [8] and meeting and interacting with BJP leaders both local and national also made it clear that the Church is ready to pen new political equations to emerge as a political pressure group. It is also expecting patronage from PM Modi and BJP leaders and hopes the camaraderie and rapport between the BJP would be beneficial for them in areas like education and health and above all their survival.

Conclusion

The Catholic Church in Kerala carries a rich legacy of public service and the scores of philanthropic and charitable institutions and initiatives spearheaded by them stands as a testimony for this. The Church which is a decisive player in the politics of Kerala has often been touted as a symbol of politics of ‘peace and secularism’ but the controversial remarks made by the Prelate would forever remain as a blot on the secular and progressive legacy of Kerala. The general consensus is that that the Bishop who holds a responsible position in the Church and in the society should have refrained from making statements that can cause fissures and divisions between religious communities. Moreover, there is no logic in giving communal and religious colours to crimes. It is true that menace of drug abuse and smuggling are increasing at an alarming rate in the state but to add communal and religious hues to crimes is not correct. It is also equally important to understand the fact that it is not the issue of ‘jihad’ that is plaguing the Church and instead it is the issue of survival of the Catholic Church both in social and political spheres now and in the decades to come that is making them wary. With UDF and LDF not taking much interest or efforts to keep the Church under their umbrella by addressing their concerns, the Catholic Church has found a new Messiah or Saviour in BJP. The Catholic Church and a section of the Church leaders are openly endorsing Pro — BJP and Pro- Hindutva views and are toying with Sangh Parivar ideas including ‘love jihad’ and even ‘narcotic jihad’ for the patronage and support of the Union Government and the BJP and the Church needs such a strong political backing to address its internal and external problems. So by raising the issue of love jihad and narcotic jihad, the Church is making its political strategy loud and clear to the UDF and LDF that it is willing to shift its loyalty towards BJP for its survival. Church also doesn’t have the right to clip someone’s freedom and liberty in the name of religion. It is an individual’s right and freedom to choose when to marry, whom to marry, which religion to believe, what to study, what job they want and where they want to settle and the Church has no right to tell a man or woman on what they should do or shouldn’t do. However, Church and even elders do have the right to criticize, guide and even correct children if they are doing something wrong but that should be done in a constructive manner and not by coercion or by stoking fear and misinformation. Church should also be willing to address the concerns of the laity it should open a constructive channel of communication rather than intimidating those who cry for help. We are living in a society in which all are striving to escape from the shackles of ‘unfreedom to freedom’ and not the reverse and certain actions and policies of the Church indicate that they want to place the women and the laity under ‘unfreedom’ as they fear more empowerment could damage their existence. There is nothing wrong if Church wants to have a say in politics but it should stay away from adversarial and competitive politics and instead adopt a consensus-based democratic approach in their dealings, both in the political and social domains.

(Authors: Jos Chathukulam is former Professor, Ramakrishna Hegde Chair on Decentralisation, Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bengaluru and currently the Director of Centre for Rural Management (CRM), Kottayam, Kerala. Email address: joschathukulam[at]gmail.com | Manasi Joseph is a Research Associate at Centre for Rural Management (CRM). Email address: manasijoseph[at]gmail.com)

References

Ahuja, Rajesh (2018, October 18). NIA ends Kerala probe, says there’s love but no jihad, Hindustan Times.
Anand G. (2021, September 11). Bishop’s ‘narcotic jihad’ sermon roils Kerala politics, The Hindu.
Borpujari, Priyanka (2019, January 19). A Nun’s Rape and a Priest’s Mysterious Death Jolt Catholic Church in India, The Diplomat.
Express News Service (2021, September 10). ‘Narcotic jihad’ to lure Church youth: Pala bishop, The New Indian Express.
Express News Service (2019, August 25). Cardinal Mar George Alencherry, two others must face trial in land-deal scam: Ernakulam court.
Ganghadaran, Kiran (2016, December 10). Birth Control Measures go Against Divine Order: Idukki Bishop’s Pastoral Letter, The Indian Express.
Ittyipe, Minu (2018, September 17). Kerala Nun Rape: The Church’s Franco-nstien Monsters, Outlook.
Kumar Prasanna Alok (2021, July 24). Demography, Democracy and Population Policies, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 56, Issue No: 30.
Landy M Thomas (2014, February 7). Migration from Syro-Malabar Catholic homelands poses significant challenges, Catholics & Cultures.
Madhav, Pramod (2021, September 13). Kerala BJP writes to Centre seeking protection for Pala Bishop after his ’narcotic jihad’ remark, India Today.
Ramesh, Babu, (2021, September 10). Kerala Bishop’s comments on ‘narcotics jihad’ fan controversy, Hindustan Times.
Rao, Mohan and Sircar Aparajita (2021, August 28). Two-child Norm - Curtailing Welfare, Weaponising Demography, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 56, Issue No.30.
Shrivastava, Rahul (2019, September 24). Christians ’soft targets’ of love jihad: Minority Commission VC tells Amit Shah, India Today. 
Staff Reporter (2013, September 29). About 75 per cent of Syro-Malabar youth are migrants, finds survey, The Hindu
Special Correspondent (2021, September 16). Pala Bishop had no intention to create disharmony: CM, The Hindu.
Times News Network (2020, March 2). Jailed for 20 years, rape-convict Kerala vicar defrocked by Pope Francis, Times of India.
The Wire Staff (2020, November 23).After Controversy, Kerala Church to Issue Rules on Protocols for Interfaith Marriages, The Wire.
The Week (2021, September 13). ’Narcotic jihad’ remarks: BJP leaders meet controversial Kerala bishop, The Week.
Varma, Vishnu (2021, September 7). In Kerala’s Syro-Malabar Church, a new tussle over conduct of Mass, The Indian Express.
Zachariah, K.C (2006): The Syrian Christians of Kerala: Demographic and Socio-economic Transition in the Twentieth Century, Hyderabad, India: Orient Longman Private Limited.


[1Bishop Kallarangattt is a theologian and at present the Bishop of Syro-Malabar Eparchy of Pala in Kottayam district. Bishop Kallarangatt has also served as a Professor in the Major Apostolic Seminary in Kottayam, Kerala, India.

[2Delivering the sermon on the eighth day of lent of St Mary at Kuravilangad

[3‘Love jihad’ refers to a term used by right-wing groups to describe union between Muslim men and women belonging to other religion. They see a conspiracy in which Muslim boys convert non-Muslim girls in the guise of love and marriage

[4It is one of the oldest Malayalam newspapers and is described as an official mouthpiece of the Catholic community in Kerala.

[5Renowned writer Paul Zachariah criticized and condemned the terms used by Bishop Kallarangatt. (Facebook Post of Paul Zachariah dated September 12, 2021).

[6On September 10, 2021, Kottayam Taluk Mahallu Coordination Committee lodged a complaint against Bishop Kallarangatt and demanded action against him under section 153 A of IPC.

[7Studies suggest that the “the Muslim rate of population growth” is a red herring. Mohan Rao and Aparajita Sircar in their article titled Two-child Norm Curtailing Welfare, Weaponising Demography states that “Hindus in UP and Bihar have higher birth rates than Muslims in Kerala or Tamil Nadu. Bangladesh has reached below replacement-level fertility. The TFR in Kashmir was 1.4 in 2016. More significantly, the TFR among Hindus was 3.1 in the 2001 Census, declining to 2.1 in the 2011 Census. The corresponding figures for Muslims were 4.1 and 2.7. The absolute decline was 1 point among Hindus and 1.4 points among Muslims. That is to say, while Muslim TFR is marginally higher, it has reached replacement levels in large parts of the country, with the rate of decline being faster among Muslims than among Hindus” . (Rao and Sircar, 2021)

[8In March 2021, Bishop Kallarangatt even invited RSS’ Kottayam district secretary to the diocese office and contributed towards the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya (Nair, Jayakrishnan, 2021).

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