Agitations against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, in Kerala got a major fillip on Wednesday with a veteran Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church voicing apprehensions about the Act and cautioning that it could be a prelude to eschewing democracy and migrating to a theocratic State.
Joseph Powathil, senior-most Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church that has a following of about 40 lakh and wields considerable clout in all realms of society, mainly education, has expressed his reservations about the Act when heads of other denominations have been maintaining a studied silence on the issue.
The veteran Archbishop who is known to react publicly on issues of social significance, has not minced words in his article on the church organ Deepika and said that the Act could be construed as a bid to drive a wedge between the Christian and the Muslim communities. The Left parties that are spearheading the anti-CAA protests had flagged the same concern and said that it was not an issue concerning Muslims alone.
The Archbishop has cited valid reasons in support of his concerns. He has pointed the sporadic incidents of violence against Christian missionaries, about 300 in 2019 alone, slamming of false cases and the alleged reluctance of the ruling dispensation to register cases against them. Only 40 cases have been registered in 2019, he says.
Most importantly, he points out the apathy of the Centre in extending an invitation to the Pope, ignoring the wishes of the community in the country.
This reaction comes at a time when the Bharatiya Janata Party leadership is making an all-out bid to reach out to the minorities, especially the Christian community in the State. A recent attempt of Union Minister Kiren Rijiju to woo writer George Onakkoor and Archbishop Soosa Pakiam M. got foiled since both of them refused to respond positively.
The CPI(M) and the Left Democratic Front had been in the forefront of the campaign and the public meetings organised by the front and the party across the State had been a big draw too.
The concern raised by Archbishop Powathil may have more takers from other denominations and it is expected to lend more strength to anti-CAA campaign that is set to culminate with a human chain organised by the LDF on January 26.