Church bill shows blind spot of 'progressive' LDF govt

Church bill shows blind spot of 'progressive' LDF govt

Devotees participate in a candlelight vigil to protest against the Supreme Court's order revoking the traditional ban on the entry of women aged between 10 to 50 years inside the Sabarimala temple, in New Delhi on January 21, 2019. AFP

The progressive stand of the LDF government in Kerala, which was in the spotlight after its support to women's entry in Sabarimala, seems to have a blind spot when it came to a law calling for strict regulation of church properties.

Chief Minister Pinarayi has assured prominent church leaders that the draft law will not be enacted.

While the CPM hopes to appease the Christian community with this move on the eve of the Lok Sabha polls, a strong campaign is on that claims the government was harsh on Hindu groups for their stand on Sabarimala while it is being soft on the churches.

The matters are complicated by a section of Christian believers who are in fact in favour of harsher regulations on the church properties, which are worth hundred of crores.

Shady land dealings of the Syro Malabar church that had emerged last year are a specific reason many are calling for the stringent laws. 

The Kerala Law Reforms Commission, headed by (Retd) Justice K T Thomas, had recently brought out the draft law, named Kerala Church (Properties and Institution) Bill, 2019.

Regular auditing of the properties and a tribunal to handle property disputes were among the key provisions of the draft law.

The Church Act Joint Council, a forum of various Christian outfits, that has been campaigning for the stringent law, has now intensified the stir by staging demonstrations.

It demands that a draft law framed in 2009, which contains more stringent provisions, should be enacted.

(Retd) Justice Thomas had in fact drafted the fresh bill after considering strong pleas from various Christian outfits and believers.

However, the new draft law contained milder provisions considering the possibility of protests. Even so, the leaders of the churches have been jointly pressurising the government against it.

"It is unfortunate that the Kerala government is succumbing to the pressure of the church leaders," Father Yuhanon Ramban, director of the Malankara Action Council for Church Act Action Council, said.

Political sources said that the stand of the LDF government may be used by the BJP in its attempts to consolidate Hindu votes during the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

The campaign has spread to social media, where many are alleging CPM's bias in favour of the Christian community over the Hindu community.

Christians constitute about 20% of Kerala population. They have traditionally favoured the Congress and the Congress-led UDF.

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