On Saturday (July 24), the police arrested a Catholic priest named Father George Ponnaiah from the Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu for his hate speech targetting the Hindu community. The pastor had made the contentious remarks during a meeting on July 18 at Arumanai.
The development was confirmed on Twitter by a Times Now journalist. During the meeting with his followers, Ponnaiah condemned the closure of churches and the ban on conducting prayer meetings amidst the Coronavirus lockdown. He paid tribute to late Maoist sympathiser Stan Swamy and also criticised the move to deny permits to build new churches on patta land.
Pastor George Ponnaiah has been arrested in connection with a case filed by Kanyakumari police for the communal and hateful speech he made against PM Modi, HM Amit Shah, DMK ministers and others. #HateSpeech #Kanyakumari #TamilNaduPolice pic.twitter.com/SYVxChEa5V— Shilpa (@Shilpa1308) July 24, 2021
Christian pastor insults Bharat Mata, mocks Nadar community and warns Hindus of changing demographics
During the public meeting at Arumanai, Father George Ponnaiah slammed the Minister for Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department (HRCE) PK Sekar Babu. He emphasised, “It does not matter how many temples you renovate and consecrate. No Hindu, no devotee of Mandaikattu Amman is going to vote for you. If you won, then it is the alms we Christians and Muslims have thrown to you. You won not because of your talents.”
While speaking about the role of the Church in ensuring DMK’s victory, he added, “Bishops just signalled with their eyes and our workers including the Pentecostal movement workers went and canvassed for you (DMK and Congress).”
The Christian pastor was heard admonishing another candidate for not openly associating with the Church. He took potshots at the BJP at the expense of the local Nadar community. Father George Ponnaiah claimed, “…He was afraid that he might lose Hindu votes. So who won there? Who was this M R Gandhi? He went to Christian Nadars and gave Rs 2,000 and cried that he was a Nadar and that he wanted to die as an MLA.” He mocked the Nadar community by asking if they have brains and whether the BJP candidate MR Gandhi was even a Nadar in the first place.
Fr Ponnaiah also insulted Bharat Mata by claiming that she is dirty and can cause scabies. During his public address, he mocked MR Gandhi for not wearing footwear out of respect for Mother Earth (Bhumadevi/Bharat Mata). “But we wear shoes. Why? Because the impurities of Bharat Mata should not contaminate us. The Tamil Nadu government has given us free footwear. This bhumadevi is dangerous, you could catch scabies from it,” the pastor brazened it out. Besides vulgar rhetorics and open polarisation, Fr Ponnaiah made despicable remarks about PM Modi and Amit Shah.
He said, “The last days of Modi are going to be pathetic. I give it in writing. If the God we worship is a true living God the history should see Modi and Amit Shah being eaten by dogs and worms.” The pastor also issued veiled threats to the Hindu community about the changing demographics of the State. “We are now majority (in the Kanyakumari district) from 42 per cent we have crossed 62 per cent. Soon we would be 70 per cent. You cannot stop us. I am saying this as a warning to my Hindu brothers.”
Hindus demand action against Father George Ponnaiah
Following his vitriolic speech, about 330 representatives from various Hindu organisations filed complaints with the police in various districts of the state. On Wednesday (July 21), Fr George Ponnaiah was booked under Indian Penal Code (IPC) Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different religious groups), 295A (outraging feelings by insulting religious beliefs), 505-2 (statements promoting enmity between classes), 506-1 (criminal intimidation).
The Christian pastor was also booked for flouting Coronavirus protocols by conducting public meetings. Charges were pressed under IPC Sections 143 (unlawful assembly) and 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection) and Section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act. The Hindu outfits have demanded his arrest under the National Security Act or warned to stage a large scale protest on July 28.
Christian pastor cries foul, claims speech was edited
A day prior to his arrest on Saturday, Father George Ponnaiah claimed, “Speech was edited and circulated in the social media. My words were twisted as if I hurt and degraded the sentiments of Hindu brothers and sisters.” He alleged that he did not intend to hurt religious sentiments through his contentious speech. While vowing to not repeat such words in the public domain, he said, “In case our speech had been that way, I wholeheartedly apologise on behalf of the meeting.”