A heated exchange of words took place after Tamil Nadu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president K Annamalai was blocked by members of the Christian community from garlanding an idol of mother Mary in Dharmapuri on Wednesday.
The incident happened at the famed Our Lady of Lourdes shrine, considered sacred by the Christians of Dharmpuri district. As Annamalai tried to garland the idol, he was stopped by protestors who questioned his party’s role in failing to bring peace and harmony to the conflict-hit Manipur state.
Manipur, which is under BJP rule, has been in turmoil due to ethnic violence since May 3, 2023, between the majoritarian Meity and the Kuki-Zo communities.
The protestors grilled Annamalai over ‘double engine’, a narrative constantly brought up by leaders of the saffron party during rallies and public gatherings. “Christians like us were killed in Manipur, you cannot lay your garland here. They killed our people, they destroyed our churches. This is holy ground,” the protestors argued.
Annamalai tried to downplay the religious angle. He said, “It is not an issue about Christians in Manipur. It is between two tribal communities. One community is against the other getting Scheduled Tribe (ST) status. The high court says that they can be given ST status. Both communities have Hindus and Christians. You must understand who is doing politics with religion.”
However, the protestors were in no mood to listen to Annamalai. At one point the BJP leader shot back by saying, “Do not speak like a DMK person.”
The already heated atmosphere worsened when Annamali lost his cool and said, “Everyone has the right to come here. What right do you have to stop me? Is the church in your name? If I bring 10,000 people here for a dharna, what will you do?”
The protestors were finally removed by the police and Annamalai proceeded to garland the idol, amid “BJP get out” slogans.
It should be noted that hundreds of churches have come under attack in Manipur due to the ongoing conflict. In June last year, the Archbishop of Imphal Domnic alleged that Lumon as many as 249 churches were set on fire in a span of 36 hours.