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Minister Saji Cherian apologises for controversial remarks on bishops over meeting PM

Saji Cherian

Amidst uproar and criticism from various Christian leaders and the Opposition, Kerala's Minister for Culture and Fisheries Saji Cherian expressed regret and withdrew his statement following comments made against Bishops for attending a luncheon meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi last week.

Saji Cherian faced backlash for his statement regarding the Bishops' participation in the meeting, where he remarked, "These Bishops, when they got the call forgot issues like Manipur and after having cake and wine, they forgot everything."

Facing considerable condemnation, Cherian tendered an apology hours after Cardinal Mar Baselios Cleemis, president of the Kerala State Bishops Council, announced their non-cooperation with the state government until the minister apologised.

In his official statement issued on Tuesday, Cherian clarified, "There were two parts of my speech, one emphasising that the Bishops should have raised the Manipur issue with the Prime Minister. The second part, regarding cake and wine, I now realise, has caused hurt. Therefore, as it has hurt sentiments and after receiving calls from Christian leaders, I apologise for it and withdraw the statement."

Cherian affirmed his political stance, stating, "My statement primarily addressed the fears and concerns of minority communities, particularly Muslims and Christians. I stand by that assertion, and it should have been emphasised."

Earlier responses to Cherian's comments varied, with State CPI(M) secretary MV Govindan distancing the party from Cherian's remarks, while Jose K Mani, chairman of the Kerala Congress (M), a significant ally, considered the issue resolved post the minister's apology.

Cherian's penchant for controversial remarks is not new, having previously resigned as a minister in 2022 for his comments on the Constitution. However, after the Kerala High Court dismissed pleas seeking his dismissal as a legislator, he was reinstated in January last year.

Attention is now focused on the dinner hosted by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday, with speculation on the participation of Christian leaders following Cherian's apology.

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