The toll from a series of blasts at a convention centre of a Christian religious group in Kerala’s Ernakulam reached three on Monday, PTI reported.
On Sunday, at least two big explosions occurred at a Jehovah’s Witnesses gathering in the Kalamassery municipality area. The blasts took place at around 9.30 am when around 2,500 Jehovah’s Witnesses from across the state had gathered for a prayer session at the Zamra International Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Soon after, a man identified as Dominic Martin surrendered to the police in the Thrissur district and claimed responsibility for the blasts.
A 12-year-old girl, identified as Libina from Malayattoor, succumbed to her injuries at the Kalamassery Government Medical College Hospital in the early hours of Monday. She was admitted with severe burns covering 95% of her body and was on ventilator support. Two women had earlier lost their lives and nearly 40 people were injured.
Before surrendering to the authorities, Martin had said in a social media post that he was enraged at the “teachings” of the Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation, The Hindu reported. The post was later deleted.
“I was a ‘non-serious’ member of the congregation for 16 years,” Martin had said. “Six years ago, I found that their teachings were ‘anti-national’. The denomination’s leadership refused to pay heed, although I had requested them to stop this type of preaching which even exhorted children to refuse sweets and food items offered by their classmates. They also tell members of their congregation to desist from singing the national anthem.”
Martin added that he felt the need to “react” since he found such teachings to be dangerous.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Sunday criticised Bharatiya Janata Party leader Rajeev Chandrasekhar for his “communal” remarks on the blasts.
In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Chandrasekhar wrote that Vijayan engaged in “appeasement politics”.
He added, “Sitting in Delhi and protesting against Israel, when in Kerala open calls by terrorist Hamas for jihad is causing attacks and bomb blasts on innocent Christians.”
The Union minister was referring to a rally led by leaders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in New Delhi on Sunday, which sought an immediate end to Israel’s war on Gaza.
Vijayan told reporters that Chandrasekhar should at least show a minimum level of respect to the investigating agencies. “The probe is underway...in such a serious incident, at such an early stage, they are making such statements targeting a few set of people,” he added. “This is based on their communal agenda, but Kerala doesn’t have such an agenda.”
Earlier in the day, Chandrasekhar held the Kerala government responsible for the blasts because officials had allowed the “head of a terror organisation Hamas” to deliver an online speech, reported ANI. “Kerala government permitted that programme to happen and 24 hours later, we are seeing the consequences,” he said.
This was in the context of a rally organised by the Jamaat-e-Islami’s youth wing Solidarity Youth Movement on October 27, during which former Hamas chief Khaled Mashal spoke.
Addressing the rally, Mashal said people from across the world must support Palestinian fighters trying to “regain the Al-Aqsa Mosque” in Jerusalem, one of Islam’s three holiest sites, The Indian Express reported.
“Israel is taking revenge on our residents,” the former Hamas chief added. “Houses are being demolished. They have destroyed more than half of Gaza. They are destroying churches, temples, universities, and even UN [United Nations] institutions. What is meant by this attack is the evacuation of Gaza, and they are retaliating against it. Because the fighters in Gaza have defeated them militarily.”
On Vijayan’s comments, Chandrasekhar on Monday alleged that the chief minister has shown tolerance towards radical elements and radicalisation.
Meanwhile, a resolution passed at an all-party meeting in Kerala on Monday urged people to stand united against attempts to malign the state’s harmonious social environment. The meeting was chaired by Vijayan and attended by Opposition leader VD Satheesan as well as representatives of other political parties.
“At the same time, we know there are people who are intolerant about Kerala’s social situation and want to eliminate it in one sweep,” the resolution said, according to The Indian Express. “This meeting wants to make clear that the state will go ahead, overcoming such isolated attempts at disintegration.”
A situation of spreading hatred against a faith or of viewing a community or a person with suspicion cannot be allowed, the resolution added.
“The forces that try to whip up such thoughts of disintegration should be seen as common enemies of our country and our people,” it said.