When the culture, value system and traditions of a society or a religious group get trampled upon or come under attack, the Marxists, so-called liberals and those who have flourished under the Congress eco-system for so many years, always maintain a deafening and eerie silence but when anyone comes forward and hits the nail on the head, they invoke “SECULARISM” and start shouting from rooftops declaring the person who raises the alarm as communal. This is exactly what has happened in the case of Mar Joseph Kallarangatt, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pala in Kerala.
Normal life in Pala town was disrupted in the recent days as Muslim organisations spearheaded protests against the Bishop who spoke without mincing words about ‘narcotic jihad’ and levelled the charge that the Jihadi terrorists had adopted the strategy of using it to turn non-Muslim youngsters into drug addicts.
The Kottayam Taluk Mahallu Muslim Coordination committee even termed what the Bishop had alleged as “communal and lodged a complaint against him with the Kottayam Police chief under IPC 153 A which brings under its sweep anyone charged for “promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony…..by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise,”
On Saturday 11 September 2021, Christian organisations took out a procession that was also joined by the BJP workers. They also extended full support to the Bishop at a meeting especially convened for this purpose at Pala. In the meanwhile, the CPI State unit leadership has appealed to religious leaders to desist from making statements that would divide the society. – Editorial
Dr G Shreekumar Menon
The Bishop of Pala, on Thursday 9 September 2021, while delivering the sermon on the eighth day of Lent of St. Mary at Kuravilangad, has strongly alleged: “The two main issues are love jihad and narcotic jihad used by jihadis to trap non-Muslim girls”.
The background to the anguished outburst of the bishop are reports of rising cases of non-Muslim girls being lured by false entreaties of love, subsequent conversion to Islam, thereafter entering into wedlock, and later on clandestinely proceeding to sensitive war zones in Syria and Afghanistan. There are unconfirmed reports appearing in the media that such girls end up as suicide bombers or as sex slaves.
The Bishop of Pala has alleged that “Jihadis are using different means to spread Islam and they are into targeting young non-Muslim girls for the same.”
Wide speculation has been going on in the media, for quite some time about the prevalence of a clandestine operation dubbed as ‘Love Jihad’, the objective of which was secret targeting of gullible non-Muslim girls, deceiving them with fake promises of love, marrying them after conversion to Islam, thereby causing anguish for many families, and social tension among communities. This movement was first observed in Kerala, and initial reports were brusquely dismissed by politicians and media as a false alarm. Later this type of activity was reported from other parts of India, supported by statistics. However, these were also dismissed as fabrications and a canard. When the presence of Keralites were detected by Intelligence agencies in war torn Syria, there was a torrent of information flooding the media with reports of many missing girls eloping with Muslim boys and surfacing in distant foreign countries. The Immigration authorities had no clue about such secretive movements from India to West Asia. Later investigations revealed that the first exit was to Sri Lanka and from there they were taken to the war zones. However, it is still not clear as to what was the role of these girls in the war zone. Speculation abounds that their husbands were killed in various conflicts and these girls ended up as sex slaves, trained to be suicide bombers, or were fighting on behalf of various terror groups. But such reports caused immeasurable agony to the families which turned to fury, when politicians were still in denial mode. Statistics of missing girls soon emerged and this has raised alarm.
The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data for 2016 reveals that 145 girls went missing from Kerala in 2016. Among the girls 133 are teenagers. So far over 300,000 girls have gone missing from all over India. These figures are alarming and shameful, and need to be properly investigated and taken to its logical end. It is not that all these cases represent Love Jihad cases, but there is widespread fear that some sinister plot is functioning.
The outgoing DGP of Kerala in June 2021 expressed the view that Kerala has become a recruiting ground for terror outfits. This statement has only confirmed the general view that many youth, including girls, are being converted and transported to distant lands to participate in terror wars.
The Bishop of Pala also expressed concern about ‘Narcotics Jihad’ to turn girls into drug addicts. The Bishop stated “Jihadis are using drugs as a means to destroy non-Muslim youth. They operate from different places, mainly ice-cream parlours and restaurants. The rising cases of rave parties and details of those behind organizing such parties give a clear picture.”
Both, narcotics consumption and terror recruitment in Kerala figure quite prominently in every newspaper. The seizure of Ganja and synthetic drugs are very alarming, indicating very high levels of consumption and addiction. The busting of rave parties in remote resorts indicates a sex angle also in the event.
Now that the Bishop has come out openly and expressed his indignation, the issue that has already become a raging controversy will be debated across the country in various forums. The coming elections in some States will also see this topic emerging as a key issue for discussion.
The link between narcotics and terrorism is well established and quite an old phenomenon. An interesting parallel for Love Jihad in Kerala is to be found in Egypt where Coptic Christian girls are routinely kidnapped, raped and converted. The authorities turn a blind eye to such happenings. The persecution of Copts is a historical issue in Egypt against Coptic Orthodox Christianity and its followers. The abduction and disappearance of Coptic Christian women and girls also remains a serious ongoing problem. Coptic Solidarity was established in 2010 and they released a report “Jihad of the Womb: Trafficking of Coptic Women & Girls in Egypt”, underscoring the ongoing problem of abduction of girls, including minors. Similarly, Human rights organizations assess that, each year, around 1,000 religious minority (Christian and Hindu) women and girls are kidnapped, raped and converted and forced to marry Muslim men in Pakistan.
The difference in the pattern in Kerala is what people have now started talking about and that is “use of narcotics to enslave the girls”. Synthetic drugs are highly addictive and when mixed in ice-creams and other delicacies cannot be identified. That is why the Bishop made a pointed reference to ice-cream parlors and restaurants. Perhaps, this may be a unique modus operandi not found elsewhere in the world. A teenage girl who consumes synthetic drugs everyday is likely to become an addict within a week. She will thereafter be willing to do anything just to ingest the daily dose of drugs that her body is craving for.
The government cannot remain a mute spectator anymore, nor be in denial mode, as the Bishop’s outburst has opened a Pandora’s Box and is likely to get noticed internationally. The government should formulate a series of measures to regulate inter-religious marriages. Religious conversion to either of the spouse’s religion should be held in abeyance for five years. Only a civil marriage in the Sub-Registrar’s office should be permitted. The marriage needs to be recorded in the respective jurisdictional Police stations where both the parties hail from, and a periodical watch should be maintained, as well as their outstation movements should be kept track of. Shifting residence anywhere within India should be with Police clearance, and any visit abroad or taking up employment overseas should be specially notified to the Immigration Department and the Indian Embassy.
This restriction need be in place only for five years and thereafter the parties may decide about any change of religion, using their free will and discretion. During the five-year period, any children born should use only religion neutral name, and no religious ceremony should be permitted. The point to be appreciated is because of the religious sensitivity of the marriage, and the extraordinary development of shifting the girl to foreign war zones, such stern monitoring by the State becomes necessary. The Courts take a narrow view of marriages, only whether the consenting parties are adults or not. This cannot be permitted if the marriage has devious designs on the part of the boy to subject the girl to be later used in conflicts in foreign lands.
Restaurants and ice-cream parlours, located near schools and colleges should be routinely subjected to surprise checks by anti-narcotics squad of Police and Excise, apart from the health department. In this context, the importance of conducting periodical anti-drugs awareness program for students, needs to be reiterated.
This writer, from regular experience can state that most school and college managements are averse to conducting anti-drugs awareness programs, fearing that a bad reputation would be created that their institution is having a drug problem. The government can and should issue strict guidelines that quarterly anti-drugs program should be mandatorily be conducted by every school/college. For colleges and Higher Educational Institutions (HEI) NAAC, NIRF rankings should take into consideration the number of anti-drugs programs conducted in an academic year.
This issue will intensify in the coming days, and will involve students, political parties, and religious leaders. Let us hope and pray for a sane resolution to the problem.
The author, Dr G Shreekumar Menon, IRS (Rtd) Ph. D (Narcotics), is former Director General National Academy of Customs Indirect Taxes and Narcotics, & Multi-Disciplinary School of Economic Intelligence India, Fellow, James Martin Centre for Non-Proliferation Studies, USA; Fellow, Centre for International Trade & Security, University of Georgia, USA; Fellow, Public Administration, Maxwell School of Public Administration, Syracuse University, U.S.A.; and AOTS Scholar, Japan
Writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org