interfaith marriage

During the 1930s, MS Golwalkar, the main ideologue of RSS stated that `we have 3 enemies: Christians, Muslims and Communists’. The socialists, communists, Congress, Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis and even Christians were struggling against British colonialism at that time. But the ideology of RSS was very clear. The struggle was not against the British, but against the above three forces namely Christians, Muslims and the Communists. The RSS and all its family relatives of Sangh Parivar, Hindutva forces and BJP have sustained this ideology ever since that period. From that time onwards, there was also a conscious effort to manufacture Islamophobia as well as Christianophobia in this country.

The manufactured political campaign against the Muslims at the ground level was that the Muslims are multiplying in number. As far as Christians are concerned, the main complaint was that they are converting the Hindus. Many lies have been propagated on a large scale throughout history from this perspective from the 1930s onwards. That process is still continuing.

The above vision soon found a central space in the creation of communal fascist violence and hate politics. The weapon called Love Jihad which was used to beat Muslims is not a new phenomenon. It was there during the freedom struggle itself. A different version of the same propaganda was used against the Christians by the Hindutva forces to manufacture public hate in Kandhamal as well as in many other places. The principle has been that if you manufacture public hatred against a community, then the following violence against that community would be justified. With such strategies, stories were spread against the Christians that they used their girls to entice, seduce and trap innocent Hindu boys into Christianity.

For further information on the nature of such propaganda, please watch the documentary “Voices from the Ruins”

However, the term Love Jihad on the Muslims was sufficiently exposed in Kerala. But most of the Christians in Kerala do not know how similar campaigns on Christians are being initiated by the Sangh Parivar. The stories were similar to the stories on Love Jihad on the Muslims. The violence on the Christians was initiated only after spreading such stories and hate campaigns. The Bishop of Pala should only look at the well documented persecution of Christians in this country in all the States and even Union Territories. The Human Rights Defender, a strong believer of Christian faith, who did such an excellent job of documentation is facing Sedition Charges today for such an important work. We are sure that the Pala Bishop and his friends will not lift a finger in support of such human rights defenders from the Christian faith itself.

The politics of RSS and Sangh Parivar in the manufacture of stories against the Christians and Muslims in India is understandable. The question today is why is the Christian Bishop Joseph Kallaragattu of Pala initiating such fake propaganda against the Muslim Community? Two years back, Cardinal Joseph Alencherry tried the same stunt against the Muslims using the term Love Jihad. That intervention was already exposed widely in Kerala. The other branding of Love Jihad that came up widely in Kerala was on Hadiaya. Hadiya had to struggle for a long time till the Supreme Court restored her marriage in March, 2018. Again, the term Love Jihad was sufficiently exposed in Kerala. In places like UP and Western Karnataka, Muslim boys were often lynched or killed in the name of Love Jihad. But the term Love Jihad which was used by the Sangh Parivar was borrowed by a section of Brahminical Christian leadership in Kerala. The Pala Bishop’s category was totally fresh. It was called `Narcotic Jihad’. The issue became grave, when the Kerala Bishops Council expressed support for this nonsensical terminology.

When there are people from every faith and no faith involved in the consumption of drugs, the separation of one community on drugs is not spiritually motivated, but it is with political intentions. Even intellectual efforts have been made to supplement data targets and separate one community alone in this affair. Whether the Church leadership in Kerala is supplementing RSS or whether the RSS is supplementing the Church leadership is another debate.

Jesus was mentioned in the Qur’an with respect in many places. Many Christian leaders of international repute have gone out of their way to generate harmony between Muslims and Christians. However, our Bishop of Pala and his friends made a conscious step towards an instigation of disharmony between two communities. Why was such a step towards hate politics initiated?

To answer this question, we must look into the structure of the Church in India. The majority of the Christians in India are Adivasi Christians or Dalit Christians. The upper caste Christian dominance is much more in Kerala. There is also a pride that they are the first `Brahmin’ converts to Christianity. This section of Christians should really reflect on their own pride. Neither the Bible nor Christianity accepts caste or race discrimination. Therefore, the upper caste Christians should decide about their own identity. Either you are Brahmins or you are Christians. You can’t be both.

The other side of reality is on class and gender. The church is already being criticized on many areas related to gender discrimination. The nuns have come out on this issue on many occasions. But the Church in Kerala has not been willing to listen to these voices of women within their own Church.The patriarchal powers of the Bishops need restructuring, if the Christian women and nuns should feel safe and equal as Christians.

The third dimension is also an insecurity due to attachment of property and resources. The BJP Government is coming out heavily on FCRA of the Christian institutions. A large section of Christian institutions and NGOs are affected by this policy of BJP. The service sector of education and health institutions of the churches in India, many are affected with such blackmails by the BJP Government. Instead of confronting this policy of injustice based on right to association and service, the Church leaders have maintained a policy of servitude towards the BJP leadership. Hence, the policy of blackmail by BJP has effectively worked. Nevertheless, the sad reality of this irresponsible gesture is that the virus of communal hatred has been sown by the Church leadership itself.

The only point of relief in this situation is that the secular forces, the Muslims and even Christians and ordinary Hindus voiced their concerns against such dangerous creation of a scandal for communal divide. Hence now, the Bishop of Pala and his friends are on the defensive side to their own argument.

Well known human rights activist and Jesuit Priest Fr. Cedric Prakash who is extremely outspoken against communal violence in Gujarat says responded by warning the Bishops of falling into the `the meticulously planned trap of the Sangh Parivar’ by lending credibility to the Right-wing narrative about `love jihad’ and adding to it by making claims about a `narcotics jihad’. Dr. John Dayal, who is a well known human rights activist with an experience of being with the National Integration Council of India, adds on: `The collateral damage is the secular image of Kerala, and the history of communal peace, if not genuine amity, that has marked relationships between Christians and their larger Muslim and Hindu neighbours. And in a development not foreseen by the leaders, it may well impact relations with the Islamic countries of the Gulf where large numbers of Malayalis of all faiths work and send home the precious remittances that underpin the home state’s economy’.

The Metropolitan of the Mar Thoma Church has already stated that the statement of the Bishop of Pala aggravated communal divides in Kerala, while the Bishop of Malankara Orthodox Church, Dr. Yulios Geevarghese also demanded a public apology from Bishop Kallarangatt. The above voices even within the Christian community are not rare expressions today. What matters for the public in India as well as for the world is that the Bishop of Pala and his friends are highly exposed in India and abroad in this game of spreading hate politics within their own community.

Several Catholic women across India came out with a statement. In a statement urging the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India and its Kerala unit to take special steps to foster peace and avoid strife. Their statement certainly provides hope for a refoundation of communal harmony in India. They wrote:

` It is very unfortunate that the term “Narcotic Jihad” was coined and used by someone holding a responsible position in the Catholic Church leadership in Kerala without foreseeing the dreadful consequences of using such an expression.

The Chief Minister of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan also came out strongly against the statement of Bishop Joseph Kallaragattu.

While it is argued that the Bishop of Pala has used this expression as a precautionary measure to safeguard catholic youth from getting trapped by terrorist forces, the terminology deployed is extremely dangerous as it cuts deep into the core religious sensibilities of a community. The use of narcotics is a very serious crime in any part of the world and it is possible that there could be deeper links between the narcotic business and terrorism. If at all this is true, it is up to the government machinery to address it, not the bishops. To brand one particular community with the narcotic label and that too without substantiating evidence is an equally serious offence as it destroys the health and wellbeing of a society. Besides polarizing religious communities that have been coexisting thus far without major conflicts in this state, allegations of this nature have led to divisions even within the Christian community and its families.

We strongly object also to the term “Love Jihad” referring to the inter-religious marriages of Catholic women with Muslim partners. This term undermines a woman’s autonomy to choose her partner in life, as well as the freedom of the woman to change her faith if she so wishes. These freedoms are guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as by the Constitution of India. We demand that women be respected and treated as adults who can freely exercise their rights. Negating their freedom to choose their life partner or their faith violates their human dignity and deprives them of their personal agency. Using expressions like “Love Jihad” only serve to sow seeds of hate and divisiveness between communities and in the bargain and poison young minds’.

Even after 2000 years, the spirit of Jesus Christ is still on the air throughout the world. Jesus inspired thousands of singers, poets, film makers, actors, institutions and people from all walks of life. What was the root of this inspiration? It was love and not hatred. The Bishop of Pala and his friends should read the Bible once again from that perspective. Perhaps, they may be able to purify themselves by reading the Bible and the messages of love to humanity from Jesus Christ.

The right to love is fundamental to all human beings. Christianity as a religion took roots in this landscape called India, by preaching about love. It is only unfortunate that a section of the Church leaders are focusing on hatred in order to poison the public minds and to create disharmony between religions. Today, the entry of these Church leaders to heaven or hell may be based on our own words from the civil society: `Father, Forgive Them, For They Do Not Know What They Are Doing!’ Or do they really know?

K.P. Sasi is a film maker, cartoonist, writer and activist.


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