The diocese’s administrator rejected any form of disparaging comments, but also said the diocese would provide legal aid to Ponnaiah.
His alleged controversial remarks came at a meeting in Arumani in Kanyakumari district, attended by Christian and Muslim leaders and representatives of various organizations. The meeting had been convened to condemn closures of churches, bans on conducting prayer meetings, and denial of permits to build churches.
The meeting also aimed to pay tribute to Fr. Stanislaus Lourduswamy, popularly known as Father Stan Swami, who spent the last eight months of his life jailed on terror charges for his activism on behalf of Indian society’s lowest castes. The Jesuit died in early July at the age of 84. He had several health problems, including Parkinson’s disease, and had recently been admitted to a Mumbai hospital under a court order after he was infected with the COVID-19 novel coronavirus.
Ponnaiah, who is secretary of the Democratic Christian Forum, said that several political leaders “should not forget that they did not get any Hindu votes. They should not forget that their victory was the alms given by Christians and Muslims casting their votes.” The priest reportedly claimed that the Tamil Nadu state legislator M.R. Ghandi, a BJP member, was the lead suspect in the 1982 Mandaikadu religious riots that killed seven people, the Times of India reports.
The priest’s remarks were publicized in a video that went viral. He reportedly criticized leaders of the state’s ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government and leaders of the BJP, which others have criticized for extreme Hindu nationalism. Ponnaiah criticized PJB leaders like Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, UCA News reports.
His critics also claim he made disparaging remarks about the personified goddess “Mother India” and the Hindu religion.
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