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Why should hollow debates be repeated?


Union minister of state for home affairs G Kishan Reddy


A vicious move to cook up the 'love jihad' furore – that had raised a hell a decade ago in Kerala,  was then probed by police under court's direction and found baseless – has been defused by the union home ministry.  The Syro-Malabar church that met during 10-15 January 2020 in Kochi moved a resolution  saying that love jihad is still going strong aiming at Christian girls and an enquiry should be conducted into it;  a parish circular floated along the lines too.  And that is what has triggered the current debates about the phenomenon 'love jihad' which had already been written off as a bogus charge.

In reply to a question on the issue raised in the Lok Sabha by Benny Behanan, MP from Kerala,  central minister for home affairs G Kishan Reddy informed that no case of love jihad was reported from Kerala,  and the very phrase 'love jihad' is not defined in law.   Even earlier when the controversy had arisen first in Kerala, state police chief Lokanath Behara had clarified that love jihad was not reported in the state and no complaint to that effect was received by the police.  The central home ministry's stance ratifies this position.  However,  the Syro-Malabar church stands by its stance and demand for probe.  

It was in a resolution expressing anxiety about the global torture against the Christian society that the high power committee of  the church makes a mention of Christian girls getting killed in Kerala in the name of love jihad,  together with condemning the massacre of Christians in Nigeria on Christmas Day.  The synod resolution contains bizarre allegations that love jihad is growing in Kerala to a scale that endangers religious amity and social peace,  it targets Christians in a planned manner in Kerala, girls are being used through love jihad for terrorist acts,  girls are enticed under pretended romance and then subjected to torture,  and such pictures are being used to coerce them into marriage.   The synod however has not cited any incidents or facts in support of the very serious allegations it has raised.

Unfortunately,   the allegation comes at a time when the venomous propaganda of hate politics under the Hindutva racist forces is vitiating the social fabric of the country by each passing day. And that too by a responsible church leadership, after the baseless allegation once let loose by communal and raectionary forces once, was later banished thanks to the vigilance and timely intervention of the secular Kerala with its legacy of inter-communal amity.   It is perhaps a paradox too that religious conversion is being portrayed as a conspiracy by a church that it inherits the legacy of St Thomas who was appointed for propagation of the Gospels to convert the entire Indians to Christianity.

It was the same outcome a decade ago, after a similar 'alert' circular was released in 2009 by  the Commission for Social Harmony and Vigilance under Kerala Catholic Bishops Council.  That circular then was issued with mention of over four thousand girls being caught in love trap during four years from 2005,  and with the district-wise figures of those who eloped after being caught in love jihad net during 2006-2009.    And when the church came out with this cautionary circular,  the sangh parivar outfits were demonising the Muslim community in the name of love marriages with blown up stories.   Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Christian voluntary organizations came forward with joint agitatons too. 

Following this,  Kerala High Court directed the chief of state police to study and submit a report on whether any organization was functioning within the state with the name Love Jihad (Romeo Jihad),  their financial sources, mode of operation,  the number of converts in the preceding three years,  its connections with smuggling,  drug and terrorist acts.  His report was that there was no evidence of the existence of such a phenomenon in Kerala.  On the basis of this,  the High Court disposed of that case too.

It is the same allegations raised then that are brought up now too.   The synod has said that love jihad is not being viewed as an issue affecting amity between religions, and demanded that it should be treated as a law and order matter and expeditious action taken on that basis.  But the question remains why the church then gave it a religious colour without treating the law and order issues of love marriage as such.   But it is notable that the eccelesiastical council of Archdiocese of Ernakulam through its organ came out with an observation that the synod's circular was untimely,  and when the country was boiling in the name of religion-based politics, a stance belittling a particular religion should not be taken.

Many parishes under the Syro-Malabar church abstained from reading the parish letter.  Also, a section of the church devotees treat this propaganda move as an attempt to divert attention from the several inernal issues faced by the church.  In any case,  now that the High Court has already dismised the allegation based on a detailed enquiry report earlier,  and now the central home ministry has clarified the status,  the church can be expected to refrain from moves that can cause disunity in the society and save themselves and the society.

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