Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan reiterated his opposition to the "narcotic and love jihad" remark by a Catholic Bishop in the state and said that attributing crimes related to narcotics to a particular religion is wrong.
As the controversy over Bishop Joseph Kallarangatt's remarks refused to die down, the Chief Minister said that the Kerala society as a whole has not agreed with the Bishop's statement and expressed hope that he would "respond", sensing the stand of the public on the issue.
Mr Vijayan, while addressing a press conference, also rejected the opposition's demand to convene an all-party meeting to resolve the issue, saying the remarks were not made by persons related to any political party.
"The issue is a wrong remark (made by the Bishop). All parties have made their stand clear on the issue", Pinarayi Vijayan said, adding that on the basis of the stand taken by the parties, a response should come from those who made the remarks.
Reacting to a volley of questions on the issue, the chief minister reiterated that the Bishop's remarks were unfortunate and resulted in an unnecessary controversy in society.
Condemning those trying to stoke up the controversy in a "very unfortunate manner", he said the government will intervene to strengthen the secular fabric of the society.
Bishop Kallarangatt had said recently that Christian girls were falling prey to the alleged love and narcotic jihad in Kerala and wherever arms cannot be used, extremists are using such methods to destroy the youth.
Pinarayi Vijayan said there was no factual basis for such propaganda.
He said analysis of data on the cases of religious conversion and smuggling of drugs has revealed that the minority religions of the state have no special involvement in them.
"None of this has any religious involvement, nor can it be included in the category of religion", the Chief Minister said.
Mr Vijayan also termed as "unfounded" the concerns that Christians are being converted to Islam in Kerala.
He said 4,941 cases were registered in the state in 2020 under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS Act) and of the 5,422 accused, 2,700 (49.8%) were Hindus, 1,869 (34.47%) were Muslims and 853 (15.73%) were Christians.
"There is nothing unnatural in this ratio," Pinarayi Vijayan said and added that drug trafficking is not based on religion.
Citing the statistics, the Chief Minister also rejected the charge that women from Christian and other communities are trapped into love and taken to terror organisations like ISIS after converting them to Islam.
Referring to the incidents of those who have joined ISIS from Kerala until 2019, he said of the 100 Malayalees, 72 went abroad for professional purposes and from there they became attracted to ISIS ideologies and joined the organisation.
"All of them except Praju, the son of Damodaran from Thuruthiyad, Kozhikode, were born into the Muslim community. The other 28 were found to have left Kerala, attracted by ISIS ideology", he said.
Among those 28 persons, a Hindu woman from Thiruvananthapuram married a Christian man from Palakkad and a Christian woman from Ernakulam married a Christian youth.
They converted to Islam after their marriage and joined ISIS, the chief minister claimed.
"None of these figures validate the propaganda that girls are converted and taken to terrorist organisations after luring them into love", he said.
Reacting to Leader of Opposition (LoP) VD Satheesan's allegation that the Left government has not taken steps to address the controversy over "narcotic jihad", Pinarayi Vijayan said the government will take strong action against those trying to fish in troubled waters.
Referring to the LoP's demand seeking action against those who create communal divide through social media, the Chief Minister said the government will take strong action against those spreading communal hatred through such platforms.
"Love and narcotics should not be included in the account of any religion", Mr Vijayan said and warned those trying to create controversies and disturb the unity and peace of society.
Earlier, talking to reporters, Mr Satheesan accused the Left government of showing indecisiveness in the row over the Bishop's "narcotic jihad" remarks.
He also alleged that the government is not paying heed to the Opposition's repeated demand to convene an all-party meeting and one of community organisations and leaders to end the row.
Addressing a virtual programme organised by the CPI(M) on Tuesday, Pinarayi Vijayan had rejected outright the "narcotic and love jihad" remarks by the Bishop, saying the state is a firm terrain of secularism and society will take a strong stand against those who try to upset it.