Saji Cheriyan, Kerala Minister for Culture & Film, has at last surrendered before the popular wrath and has withdrawn the controversial anti-clergy statement he made in the light of the Bishops’ meeting with the Prime Minister Modiji. He had alleged, on December 31, that the Bishops who met the PM on Christmas day last week had special excitement when they took the grape’s spirit and cake served by BJP hence forgot Manipur incidents. His statement invited strong criticism from the Christian community and clergy. Fr. Jacob Palackappalli, secretary of Kerala Catholic Bishops Conference (KCBC), said that Saji Cheriyan’s statement was so unbecoming of his position; he should have chosen more respectful language. He asked if Bishops get carried away by wine and cake.
Father Palackappalli emphasized the need of a more decorous terminologies. Father made it clear that Christmas programme was organised by the Prime Minister to discuss the services Christians rendered in the country. He came down heavily on Saji Cheriyan for the negative stand he took in the matter. He made it a point to say that the participation of the priests and Bishops in the Prime Minister’s programme was part of their commitment to the nation. During the programme, PM had praised the Christians’ role in the country’s freedom movement and the contribution to health care and education. Father said that PM had acknowledged the compassion and justice promoted by Jesus Christ and had described them as the guiding principles for his government’s development policies.
In the meantime, BJP also came forward with sharp criticism against Saji Cheriyan’s venomous comments. Simultaneously, BJP had carried out Sneha Yatra (Journey of love) which took its workers to the Christian homes, as part of a state-wide programme.
For the first 48 hours, no LDF partners uttered a word of protest against Saji Cheriyan. For example, Kerala Congress (Mani), a party banking on Christians, kept mum. At last, party’s minister Roshi Augustine came out with a ‘diplomatic’ reaction. He said that what Saji said is his personal opinion !!!
Saji Cheiriyan is infamous for unreasonable and poisonous statements. Last year he had to face litigations for alleged derogatory comments about the country’s Constitution. And, he had to resign from the Cabinet. Later on he got relief from the Court hence came back to the government last January.
Another infamous comment of Saji was pertaining to the agriculture in the state. It is a well known fact that Kerala’s paddy cultivation is gradually disappearing. But, he had no qualms to state recently that Kerala does not need agriculture because the neighbouring states are having high volume of agriculture and they do produce enough rice and vegetable. Once he said, there is no Adhan (loud prayers five times a day) from the mosques in Saudi Arabia.
Once, referring to controversial K-Rail alias Silverline, Saji said there is no buffer zone on either sides of the rail. In another words, his statements quite often lack rhyme or reason. So, there are people in Kerala who do not find any logic behind making him a Culture minister.
But, CPM leaders got wind of snowballing strong anti-CPM feelings within Christians. Party smelt the imminent danger. Their state secretary M.V. Govindan said, on January 2, 2024, what the Culture Minister said is not party’s opinion. Party General Secretary will speak about national issues. And, the state secretary will speak about the issues in the state. He said, party would examine if minister’s words have hurt the Church and would take proper decisions.
Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Bava, the first Cardinal of Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and the president of KCBC, stated that the Church would not cooperate with the government until Saji Cheriyan withdraws his statement.
Union Minister V. Muraleedharan said that Saji Cheriyan is a cultureless Culture minister.
So many Christians have come out with their protest against Saji Cheriyan. At last, he told the media, on January 2, 2024, he is withdrawing his comments about wine and cake. But, he still sticks to his comment on ‘Manipur’. He did not forget to tell that time would prove that “what he said is right”.
BJP president K. Surendran asked CM Pinarayi Vijayan to explain his stand with respect to Sai Cheriyan’s unwanted stand. He said, Saji has withdrawn only a part of his statement and he told the media that he sticks on to his stand. Minister’s statement carries the contempt and aversion towards the Church. Surendran said that Saji is not the man to decide what should Church tell the PM. CM protects Saji Cheriyan who insulted the country’s Constitution and consequently had to resign from the Cabinet. Therefore, he still continues his venomous propaganda. But, CM and CPM think that Church should take their orders before they meet or talk to the Prime Minister. If Saji does not know these things, CM should educate him. Earlier Saji had to resign for insulting the Constitution. CPM and CM believe that Christian Church should always take a stand in favour of them. Earlier they had insulted Pala Bishop and Thalasserry Bishop in similar manner. CPM does not like Church’s stand against Love Jihad and Land Jihad. When they spit venom at the Church for participating in the PM’s reception, it speaks out the depth of their hatred towards the Church. But, the silence of the Congress, the principal opposition in the state, despite this sort of insult to the Church, is really surprising. Protecting the interests of the Islamic fundamentalists is the sole interest of Congress. BJP has asked to correct the 80 : 20 ratio of the minority benefits; party asks to implement deserving benefits on the basis of the population; but, CPM and Congress oppose BJP’s stand.