The Roman Catholic Pala diocese is a major centre for the church in Kerala as this area comprises rich and effluent Christians with high academic background.
The Kerala BJP and the Sangh Parivar forces have been clamouring about ‘Love Jihad’ or Muslim youths luring Hindu girls under the pretext of love, converting them and marrying them and later ditching them and in extreme cases taking them to Afghanisthan and Syria as suicide bombers.
The two have also been in the forefront of this subject and the movement suddenly got a shot in the arm when the Archbishop of Pala, Mar Joseph Kallarangat had stated that young men and women belonging to the Christian community and other non-Muslim faiths were being lured and targeted via ‘love jihad’ and ‘narcotic jihad’.
The Bishop went on to say that those who said that ‘love jihad’ does not exist in the society, were turning a blind eye to the reality.
He also charged heavily against politicians and social, cultural organisations and media and said that those who does not accept the truth have their own vested interests. He said that the Church was losing their women and that this was not love but a war strategy to destroy their lives.
The Bishop also alluded with the statement of the former Kerala Director General of Police (DGP), Loknath Behra that the state was becoming a recruitment centre for terrorists and a home for sleeper cells.
He went on to citethe examples of Nimisha, a Hindu girl from Thiruvananthapuram who was a dental student and got converted to Islam. She changed her name to Fatima and went to Afghanistan.
He also narrated the ordeal of the Christian Catholic girl, Sonia Sebastian who became Ayesha and went to Afghanistan.
Mar Joseph Kallarangat said that how such women are ending up in terror camps have to be studied in detail.
The statement of the Bishop while addressing the laity at a public programme in September 2021 created ripples in Kerala with several Muslim organisations coming out against his remarks.
The Muslim organisations led by the extremist organisation, Popular Front of India (PFI) and other organisations conducted a march towards the Pala Bishop House and even threatened physical assault against the Bishop.
However this was an opportune moment for the Kerala BJP and other arms of the Sangh Parivar who found a partner in Bishop Kallarangat.
The Kerala state president of the BJP, K. Surendran immediately said that ‘love jihad’ and ‘narcotic jihad’ were real and the perpetrators were linked to extremist elements.
The Christian Association and Alliance for Social Action (CASA), a Kerala based Christian movement, has been in the forefront of exposing ‘love jihad’.
It has time and again warned that ‘love jihad’ is a global phenomenon and Muslim youths have been trying to lure women to convert to marry them or to take them to conflict-hit nations like Afghanistan and Syria.
The BJP has been using the statement of the Bishop and the covert and overt stands taken by the Catholic church especially the Syro Malabar church regarding ‘love jihad’.
On the condition of anonymity, a senior BJP leader told IANS: “The situation is entirely different. The Syro Malabar Church has now waken up to the reality that women are being lost and that they were being taken to international terror camps and that both the left front and the Congress-led United Democratic Front would never support them. They know that it is only the BJP and Sangh Parivar who extend a hand to them and naturally we know that they have become more friendlier towards us.”
The BJP and the RSS has been conducting several outreach programmes with the Church in Kerala and ‘love jihad’ has been a prominent subject in all these meetings.
The Church also feels that they need not keep a distance from the BJP as the issues are real and that the Christian community is suffering the most.
The BJP knows for sure that it needs the support of the Catholic church to win at least a few seats in Kerala in the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections and with the Church also waking up to the reality that it can unite with the saffron camp.
The left-front and the Congress-led opposition United Democratic Front came out against Pala Arch Bishop on his statements and this is also another reason why the Christian community is reaching out to the BJP.
With the ground realities in its favour, the saffron groups are mounting extensive campaign among the Christian groups including CASA and the Churches to support them.
It has however to be seen whether the laity would support the saffron groups as expected by the Church and the BJP, RSS groupings and this could be clear only in the run up to the 2024 general elections.
(The story has been published via a syndicated feed.)