An allegation that a campaign is on to lure young women into romance with a view to converting them to Islam has brought various Hindu and Christian organisations in Kerala on a common platform.
The first to take up cudgels against the campaign, dubbed Love Jihad by the media, was Vellappalli Natesan, general secretary of the Sree Narayana Dharmaparipalana Yogam, an organisation of the Ezhava community.
On Saturday PK Narayana Panicker, general secretary of the Nair Service Society, said it was the government’s duty to check Love Jihad. If it failed to act, the people would take up the task, he added.
The NSS, which champions the cause of the ‘forward’ Nair community, and the Yogam, which speaks in the name of the ‘backward’ Ezhava community, are Kerala’s largest caste formations.
Some Christian organisations have also come out against Love Jihad. The powerful Catholic Church has alerted parents and teachers against attempts to convert young faithful through marriage.
What could have been dismissed as media sensation acquired a serious dimension when the Kerala high court asked the state police chief to file an affidavit stating whether an outfit called Love Jihad was trying to entrap and convert young women.
The allegation about conversion through romance originated a year ago. The first to talk about it was the Maharashtra-based Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS), which claims to be a global platform of Hindus. The HJS was promoted in 2002 by the Sanatan Sansta, founded 12 years earlier.
Some members of Sanatan Sansta are now in custody in connection with the blasts that occurred in Goa on Diwali eve this year.
In a report from Sambhajinagar, Maharashtra, HJS said in December 2008 that an arrested Muslim youth had told the police that there was an “ordinance” asking young men to charm Hindu girls and convert them to Islam. Each person volunteering for such service was paid Rs 200 a day, it added.
The HJS quoted an unnamed Marathwada daily as saying similar “ordinances” had been issued in Parbhani, Nanded, Beed and Latur as well.
In the report, posted at the organisation’s website, the editor made two interpolations reeking with communal venom. In one of them he asks Hindus to decide whether or not “to keep contact with Muslims any more”.
The term Love Jihad probably appeared in print for the first time when a Malayalam daily reported that an organisation by that name was trapping non-Muslim girls in a web of love and converting them.
It claimed Jihadi Romeos had converted more than 4,000 women in six months. It raised their compensation package from a daily wage of Rs 200 to a lump sum grant of Rs 100,000.
The Haindava Keralam website picked up the story. It pointed out that Kerala Kaumudi, which published the report, is a secular daily.
Love Jihad caught headlines nationally when the Kerala and Karnataka high courts, while hearing two cases, referred to it. The Kerala court asked the Central and state governments to investigate all reported Love Jihad marriages of the past three years. .
Director General of Police Jacob Punnoose’s affidavit in response to the high court’s directive did not help clarify the situation. He said there was no evidence of an organisation called Love Jihad but there were unconfirmed reports about some groups actively working among youths encouraging conversions feigning love.
The Bharatiya Janata Party quickly joined the campaign against Love Jihad. The Viswa Hindu Parishad expressed readiness to join hands with the Church in the fight against it. ,
Initially the state’s major parties said nothing on the subject for fear of offending one religious group or another. The silence of the secular forces, especially the Left, invited taunts.
Last week the Congress and the Democratic Youth Federation of India, an affiliate of the Communist Party of India-Marxist, publicly rejected the Love Jihad theory for the first time.
Young people in Kerala generally find partners from their own castes and religions through marriages arranged by the family. Matrimonial advertisements appearing in newspapers bear this out.
When individuals break with this tradition, usually there is opposition from their families and sometimes the bride’s parents seek the intervention of the police or the courts. Elevation of such complaints from the level of individual or family disputes to that of caste and religious disputes points to growing polarisation in the society.--Gulf Today, Sharjah, November 2, 2009.