Kerala blasts: Understanding the mysterious sect called Jehovah’s Witnesses

The blasts happened at Zamra International Convention in Kalamassery during a three-day prayer convention that started on Friday.. (Photo by Arun CHANDRABOSE / AFP) (AFP)
The blasts happened at Zamra International Convention in Kalamassery during a three-day prayer convention that started on Friday.. (Photo by Arun CHANDRABOSE / AFP) (AFP)


  • Jehovah’s Witnesses do not see Jesus as God. The only God they believe in is Jehovah, who is the God of Israel

At 9:30 am on Sunday morning, a series of explosions reverberated through the usually serene environs of Kalamassery town in Ernakulam district of Kerala, around 200 km from the state capital Thiruvananthapuram, sending shockwaves through the state and the nation. At least one person (as yet unnamed) was killed and dozens were hurt.

Shaik Darvesh Saheb, head of the state police, confirmed to journalists that an IED (improvised explosive device) was used in the multiple explosions. It is not known who set off the blasts, but the police haven't thrown out the idea that they might have had something to do with the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine, which is a big political debate in Kerala.

The state’s Muslim organisations have held protests and marches to support Palestine, and on the other hand, most of the Christian community's leaders have backed Israel. But there had been no fighting between the two groups earlier. A stakeholder of a Christian community in the district, author, and former MP Sebastian Paul even wondered if the explosions were part of a plan to make people hate Muslims and cause trouble in Kerala.

The blasts happened at Zamra International Convention in Kalamassery during a three-day prayer convention that started on Friday.

The convention was organised by a religious group called Jehovah's Witnesses, which has now naturally come into focus.

Seen in Kerala as part of the state’s Christian society--happy, austere teachers who don't celebrate birthdays or festivals, and don’t go for modern medical care like blood transfusions, etc.--the Jehovah’s Witnesses are in reality “more Jewish than Christian", according to former MP Paul.

They do not see Jesus as God. The only God they believe in is Jehovah, who is the God of Israel as mentioned in the original, first Bible (Old Testament), which talks about how the world began, and details events before Christ.

So, instead of believing in the key concepts of the New Testament of the Bible (post-Christ) such as trinitarianism and hell, Jehovah’s Witnesses preaches a return to the Christianity of the apostles (Old Testament).

Jehovah’s Witnesses also believe that the kingdom of Jehovah will come to the world. Members are encouraged to share the Bible with people who aren't members of the community, warning them of the coming end of the world and trying to baptize them with the promise of living forever.

Interestingly, there are also some ways in which they are more Christian than Jewish. For example, their holy days (Sabbath) are on Sundays, like most Christians, not Saturdays like Jews.

"You could call them the most Jewish among Kerala Christians," said former MP Paul. "They don't follow the traditional Christian ways of doing things. They don't agree with the idea of the Trinity (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). They follow what the Old Testament says."

However, according to a website related to the group's teaching,, the group takes its learning from both the Old Testament and the New Testament, but refers to these sections of the Bible as the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Greek Scriptures, respectively. In this way, it said, "we avoid giving the impression that some parts of the Bible are outdated or irrelevant".

In 1985, Jehovah’s Witnesses got a lot of attention when one of their members fought the expulsion of two of the sect’s children from a Kerala school for not standing for the national anthem. Even as the ruling came in its favour in the Emmanuel vs State of Kerala case, the Supreme Court had said that they should not disrespect the national anthem.

The origins of Jehovah’s Witnesses can be traced back to the 1870s, when Charles Taze Russell, an American priest, started the Bible Student Movement (the forerunner to Jehovah’s Witnesses) as a millenarian organization that rejected Christian doctrines. According to common folklore, Russell arrived in Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram district during the reign of Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma, the royal monarch of the erstwhile territory called Travancore, between 1885 and 1924.

Russell's speeches made him famous among the locals, and he impressed the king, to whom he gave his six-volume study titled "Studies in the Scripture". The king then arranged for Russell's painting to be made and a city neighbourhood, where he is thought to have held public meetings, is still called as Russellpuram.

Organisationally, Jehovah's Witnesses has a strict hierarchy with an all-male governing body at the top. According to, it has more than 56,000 ‘ministers’ who preach the Bible in India, and has held more than 900 congregations so far.

The group is not known to have taken a political stand, not just in the Palestine-Israel war, but in most political conflicts, largely due to its lack of interest in worldly governments and their firm commitment to the kingdom of its God Jehovah. It is also not known to have any police history related to propagating hate speech— all of which stands in sharp contrast to the speculation that it might be targeted related to the war in the Middle East.

"It should be investigated to see if someone was after them because more Keralan Christians back Israel, which can be seen in newspapers like Deepika (the Catholic Church's mouthpiece) and among Christian priests," said Paul. “It should also be investigated if someone wanted to make it look like this to cause trouble in the state."

Meanwhile, in a late development, Hindustan Times reported that one Dominic Martin, claimed to be a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses church, has surrendered before the police in the neighbouring Thrissur district, taking responsibility for the bomb blast. 

Martin posted a Facebook video four hours ago saying he conducted the blasts due to differences with the leadership of the group. The video has now been taken down from the social media platform. Martin had said he was annoyed by the group's teaching including those about not respecting the laws of the land, disapproval of government jobs, and so on.

"For 16 years, I was part of this group... Six years ago, I realised this is a very wrong society. Even anti-national. They didn’t correct despite my repeated complaints," Martin said in the video.

He said he was also angered by the society's negative portrayal of other communities and the countrymen. "They preach about the end of the world... I don't think they should exist," he said.

He said he wanted to take things into his own hands since no political party would raise these points "because they are afraid to take on religion". He told the police that he taught himself to make the blast, and got his supplies, online, according to regional news channel 24 News.

The police are examining the claim, and are yet to confirm it, but he had the visuals of the blast on his phone, according to regional news reports. Meanwhile, organisers of the Jehovah’s Witnesses convention told reporters that they hadn't heard of the person until now and that he was not part of those who were invited to the convention.


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