Kerala Gold Smuggling Case: CPM Tries To Divert Attention From Distribution Of Quran By State Minister K T Jaleel, But Is Silent On Violating Protocols, Norms
By trying to whip up the religion card, through the defence of its 'Quran-importing communist minister', K T Jaleel, the CPM government in Kerala is shooting itself in the foot — both ideologically and politically.
With State Higher Education Minister K T Jaleel cornered for distribution of religious texts and also being suspected of having links in the Kerala gold smuggling case, the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) government has taken refuge in religion to wriggle free from the controversy.
In trying to defend Jaleel, the LDF and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM), which leads the government in Kerala, are trying to sweep at least four crucial issues relating to violation of protocols and guidelines, under the rug.
The crux of the case is that K T Jaleel has been questioned by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is investigating the terrorist angle in the gold smuggling case, and the Enforcement Directorate, which is probing the money laundering angle.
The smuggling came to light after Customs authorities seized 30 kg of gold, worth Rs 14.5 crore, on 5 June at Thiruvananthapuram airport from diplomatic baggage meant for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Consulate there.
Sixteen persons have been arrested so far, with three persons — Swapna Suresh, Sarith Nair and Sandeep Nair — suspected to be running a gold smuggling racket.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s office has also come into focus as the now-suspended principal secretary, M Sivasankar, contacted the Customs officials to let off Swapna.
Jaleel has been summoned by both agencies for questioning, particularly after call records of Swapna revealed that he was in touch with her.
The minister has justified being in touch with Swapna saying that it was with regard to 'gifts' that he distributed for Ramzan.
It now transpires that 250 packets, each containing 32 copies of Quran, was imported by the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram in diplomatic baggage.
Jaleel claims that he took possession of 32 boxes containing the text, distributed 26 copies from one of the boxes and the rest have been kept at two places.
The NIA and ED interrogations have put Jaleel and the LDF government led by Pinarayi Vijayan in a tight corner, with protests across Kerala continuing for more than a week now demanding the minister’s resignation.
With the distribution of religious texts coming into focus, the CPM is trying to wriggle out, saying: “why do they (Opposition parties) find fault with Quran distribution alone when Bible distribution is not blocked or no stand has been taken against the distribution of Bhagavad Gita.”
This could be a smart strategy of pitting the Muslim community, who make up nearly 26 per cent of Kerala’s population, against the Christians, who comprise 19 per cent of the population, and Hindus, making up the rest and split under various camps such as Ezhavas and Nairs.
But what LDF, CPM and their leaders are attempting is to try and divert the attempt of the people from four principal issues under the carpet. Now, let’s look at these issues.
First, how can a minister, especially a CPM member, distribute a religious text? Going by the same argument of CPM and LDF, will they distribute copies of the Bible or Bhagavad Gita?
Why should Jaleel distribute religious text when Communists do not believe in religion? Or, is it just confined to taking on the Bharatiya Janata Party, its allies only and criticising one particular religion?
Second, the religious texts were ferried from the UAE Consulate to Malappuram in the vehicle of Centre for Advanced Printing and Training (C-apt), a State government department under Jaleel’s supervision.
How can religious text, meant for distribution for a religious event, be taken in a government department vehicle? Whatever the religion, a wrong is a wrong and neither the LDF nor the CPM can find an excuse for this act.
Third, why was the protocol officer not informed about the religious text being imported? The LDF and CPM might want to shift the blame on the UAE Consulate.
But the issue here is, as a responsible government, the LDF, and as an important member of the Cabinet, shouldn't K T Jaleel have refrained from distributing the religious text?
If the establishment says that they were not aware of this, couldn’t they have got a clarification from the protocol officer, who is a State government employee?
In fact, these are issues in which any government will carry out due diligence.
The fact of the matter is that there is more than what meets the eye in the whole episode, and the CPM is trying to hide a huge pumpkin in a morsel of rice.
Fourth, the Kerala government has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Red Cresent during Vijayan’s visit to Dubai last year.
But the UAE consulate went on to sign another MoU with the Kerala Life Mission Housing Project, breaking protocol procedures.
Thus, twice protocol procedures have been violated. Wasn’t the State government aware of these? Even if the CPM government feels it need not take the Centre’s permission, shouldn’t it have informed the Ministry of External Affairs as a matter of courtesy?
The attempt to take refuge in religion by the CPM is a feeble one since it is facing too many problems.
Its state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan’s son Bineesh, has allegedly been linked with the Bengaluru drug trafficking case.
The son of number two in the Cabinet and Industries Minister E P Jayarajan has been linked to commissions given to a group led by Swapna in the housing project, meant to provide houses for the homeless and landless in Kerala.
On the other hand, K T Jaleel’s troubles seem to aggravate, as the Customs Department has now filed cases for the import of the religious texts and 1.7 tonnes of dates.
The CPM would want the people to believe that all that glitters is gold but it has to clarify these four issues first.
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