'Love jihad' or love-struck? Kerala home department says conversions to Islam mostly for romantic reasons

‘Love’ is the major factor behind conversions to Islam in the southern Indian state of Kerala, according to the state home department. The department has zeroed in on the reason for the conversion after scrutinising over 7,200 cases of conversions during the period from 2011 to 2016.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The investigation conducted with the help of Central intelligence agencies could not find any evidence to support the allegation by certain Hindu groups that the conversions were part of an organised move to convert Hindu girls to Islam. The Hindu organisations had alleged that some Muslim outfits had pressed trained youths to trap Hindu girls by feigning love. They called the operation ‘love jihad’.

The allegation got credence after it was found that 21 people who left Kerala in June 2015 to join the Islamic State (IS) included five Hindus and Christians, who had converted to Islam.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is investigating the case, found that the youths who hailed mostly from Kasargod and Palakkad districts in the state had landed in the IS front in Afghanistan.

The investigation into conversions was ordered by the government after the Sangh Parivar took it up and unleashed a nationwide propaganda. The investigation report said the driving force behind the conversions recorded in the state during the six-year period was love.

The investigation showed that as many as 61 percent of the 7,229 cases analysed by them had embraced Islam for the sake of love. The probe report cited family problems (12 percent), poverty (8 percent), social reasons (8 percent) and mental disturbances (7 percent) as the other key reasons for conversion.

The investigation revealed that only a small percentage of people had converted due to faith in Islam. A significant finding of the investigation is that a lion’s share (82 persons) of the converts were Hindus. Christians, who constitute about 18 percent of the state’s population, accounted for 17.9 percent of the conversions.

Another important finding of the investigation is that 64 percent of those who changed their faith during the six-year period belonged to economically backward sections. About 35 percent are from middle class. None from affluent sections of Hindu and Christian communities joined Islam.

The report states that 74 percent of those who converted to Islam are below the age of 35. As many as 40 percent are between the age of 18 and 25. Thirty-five percent of the converts have not completed their school education. The percentage of those who have completed school education is 45 percent. Eleven percent are graduates and 4 percent postgraduates.

About 65 percent of those who have converted to Islam hailed from nuclear families. Thirty-two percent of them came from joint families. Thrissur district in central Kerala accounted for the maximum number of conversions, followed by Palakkad.

Contrary to the home department finding, the NIA that investigated a few cases of conversion in the state had found an "organised effort" behind the conversions. In a status report filed before the Supreme Court two months ago, the agency said that five women they examined as part of the investigation had claimed that they were lured to convert to Islam.

The report said that there was a common thread behind the cases they investigated. The NIA had picked 30 out of 89 cases referred to them by the Kerala Police for scrutiny. The agency took up the cases after Supreme Court asked them to investigate the case of Akhila Asokan alias Hadiya, a 25-year-old Hindu woman, who converted to Islam and married a Muslim man.

Rahul Easwar, a writer and social activist, said he chose to agree with the findings of the Kerala home department. He told Firstpost that the probe report identifying economic factor as one of the reasons for conversion had supported his position that the major reason for conversion from Hinduism to Islam was the lack of social support system in the Hindu community.

"Muslims can turn to the jamat and Christians to the church for help whenever they face a crisis in their life. The temples where the Hindus go have no provision to offer any such aid. A poojari in a temple does not have time even to listen to the woes of the faithful. If such people take refuge in another faith they cannot be blamed," said Rahul, who is the grandson of the supreme priest of the famed Sabarimala hill shrine.

The activist said the Hindus were vulnerable to conversion since they also lacked spiritual orientation and religious education as the Christians and Muslims. The Sunday schools in the churches and the madrasa classes in the mosques on Fridays lay a strong religious foundation to Christians and Muslims.

"The temples have no such communions to fathom the spirituality of the faithful. The Hindus come together only during the annual festivals in the temples. Unfortunately, these festivals have turned out to be carnivals these days," Rahul said.

He said the Hindu community could not blame others for the conversions. "Conversions will continue if the community does not reform itself. The need of the hour is inner strengthening. Unfortunately, the leaders of the community are trying for organised polarisation," he said.

"The leaders are trying to polarise the Hindus by spreading hatred against the Muslims. This will not help the community. This will only suit the political agenda of the leaders. What we need is reforms from within. Unfortunately, the ruling class is trying to address the issues in other religious communities," Rahul said.

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Updated Date: Jan 03, 2018 20:27:00 IST

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