IIPM Admission

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Playing with God in God's own country

IIPM BBA MBA Institute: Student Notice Board

Unless the political and security establishment come down on religious fundamentalists with an iron hand, Kerala could well become another Kashmir

It was a sleepy Sunday morning in Muvattupuzha municipality, bordering Kottayam, and Professor T. J. Joseph was coming out of a church with his 80-year-old mother and his sister. A gang of hoodlums surrounded him in broad daylight and chopped off his right hand with an axe. The gang was implementing a Taliban-model court verdict. His fault? He had prepared a question paper which allegedly hurt Muslim sentiments. Joseph's predicament brings to light the dark side of a supposedly civilised society.

Following the incident, around 15 Popular Front of India (PFI) activists were arrested. Several Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) leaders, including its state secretary Asharaf Moulavi, were questioned in connection with the assault.

Kerala, renowned for the peaceful coexistence of the cross and the crescent, the temple and the synagogue, has of late seen the rise of the fundamentalist elements. There were days when Hindu kings built churches and mosques, provided shelter to missionaries and gave them a free hand to propagate their religion. All paths lead to God and there was no scope for enmity. Resultantly, minority communities like Muslims and Christians today make up more than 40 per cent of the state's population.

But now, many well wishers of the state feel that Kerala is sitting on a powder keg of communal tension and fundamentalism. There are specific and visible signs of an impending danger to the secular fabric of the state.

William Shakespeare famously wrote, 'Mischief thou art afoot, take thou course, thou wilt.' While this may not come true right away, lack of will and lack of a containment plan on behalf of the political high-ups are certainly driving the situation to that point.

Jnanpith Award winner and noted litterateur M.T. Vasudevan Nair says, 'Those who act on religious frenzy and to protect religion are creating deep fissures within the society. Human actions won't affect God who created the universe. Protection should be given to humanism. That's worshipping real God.'

But it seems that many quotation groups (professional killers) have taken contracts to protect gods and kill people in the name of gods. The elements of love, affection, protection, security and consolation religion used to give have taken a back seat. The act of defending one's religion often ruins an individual, the very religion it seeks to defend, the society and the nation as a whole. A handful of people inflame communal hatred, opportunistic politicians lend their tacit support and misguided foot soldiers impose draconian decrees on people.

Not that Kerala has never witnessed communal conflicts in the past. The major conflict between Muslims and Hindus occurred during the Mopla riots or Malabar riots which took place in 1921. Though some historians and communist leaders like the late EMS Namboodiripad termed it as an agrarian revolution, there were many instances of communal carnage. Erection of a cross at Nilakkal near the Sabarimala shrine saw massive protests and Christians had to backtrack in 1984. And the most recent communal incident took place in 2003 at Marad beach in Kozhikode district where eight Hindu fishermen were killed by armed Muslim extremists. Districts like Pathanamthitta where the Pentecost mission is active saw conflicts when Hindu groups allegedly tried to stop the missionaries from 'converting' people. A foreign missionary was attacked at Olavanna in Kozhikode district by RSS-VHP activists. All Political parties, barring Saffron groups, condemned it. Even Christian groups opposing the Pentecost faction staged protests. Clashes between Christians and Muslims occurred in various places in Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram districts.

The RSS and other Sangh Parivar outfits have strong presence in Kerala but BJP is yet to take advantage of it. For the Communists too, most of their followers and cadres still follow their respective religions. Hence any religious or communal undertone is also bound to affect their political future.

What complicates the matter in Kerala is its history of political killings. From the beginning of the 1980s, Thalaserry has witnessed a series of savage incidents in which between CPI(M) and RSS activists have killed as many as 250 people in 30 years.

Whether it is the Left Democratic Front (LDF) or the United Democratic Front (UDF) which comes to power, Christian and Muslim minority political groups have always been deciding factors. Consequently, they exert considerable political influence in any dispensation that comes to power. Thus, from building educational institutions and hospitals for the poor and the downtrodden, the attention today is firmly fixed on increasing political clout. Formation of the Kerala Congress, its splits and the recent attempts at re-unification are seen by experts as political interventions by the Church.

The CPI(M) organised a statewide strike when former Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein was hanged. It does not spare any chance of bashing the US or to express solidarity with the Palestinian cause. The Congress and the CPI(M) have held meetings and protests in connection with the Gujarat riots and Kandhamal incidents. The aim always has been to attract Muslim and Christian votes. None have ever criticised Osama Bin Laden or any terrorist outfit.

The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) still holds major sway over the Muslim community in the state. It is a moderate body and hardliners have floated new organisations like People's Democratic Party (PDP), National Development Front (NDF), Solidarity and the Sunni Tiger Force.

Minority communities around the world tend to panic when they feel their interests are questioned. The Kerala Catholic Bishops Council's call for producing more children, which goes against the country's birth control principles, should be seen in this light. Late Bishop Acharuparambil's call to Christians to send their children to Christian educational institutions also follows in this tradition. Nearly all Christian groups joined hands against the arrest of and the narco-analysis test conducted on a priest and a nun accused in the infamous murder of Sr. Abhaya, a student at a convent. Christian schools were closed against a textbook the LDF government introduced this academic year, accusing that a lesson named 'Life without religion' hurt their sentiments.

But in all these cases, better counsel prevailed due to the key role played by liberals of the respective communities. But of late, sane voices are being snuffed out by fundamentalists. Fanaticism is slowly prevailing over fair counsel.

Like in the rest of the country and the world, publications and websites have been at the vanguard of fundamentalist propaganda in Kerala, be it Hindu, Muslim or Christian. The evidences which various investigating agencies like Military Intelligence, IB, NIA are digging out underlines that Kerala could be on its way of becoming another Kashmir. Four terrorists killed in Kupwara in October, 2008, were Keralites. There is a Kerala connection to the bangalore bomb blasts too. Banned SIMI activists conducted training camps at Vagamon, Panayikkulam and the Green Valley in which notorious elements from all over India, including Kashmir, reportedly participated.

There was a discussion in the Kerala Assembly on July 13, 2010, during an adjournment motion on terrorist and communal activities. The Taliban courts and its existence in the state, various terror activities in the state like the Kozhikode bus stand twin bomb blasts, the Ernakulam Collectorate blast, recovery of huge catches of arms and ammunition and train sabotage activities at Nilambur were discussed there.

The Central agencies are monitoring the flow of funds from foreign countries through the global money transfer system, meant for anti-national activities.

A large cache of explosives and weapons were seized from the premises of a mosque at Manappuram near Edakkad in Kannur district in July, 2010, police spotted 300 detonators and explosives in a private bus in Edakkad. Weapons were also seized from many RSS activists. Such cases are reported with alarming regularity in the media. While replying to the adjournment motion in the Assembly, state home minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said, 'It has come to the notice of the government that functionaries of the banned SIMI are working under the banner of NDF, Popular Front and the SDPI. There are reports of Taliban courts functioning in the state.'

In the Assembly, both fronts traded charges accusing each other of promoting communal forces in the state. But experts seem to agree that the demolition of the Babri Mosque at Ayodhya, consolidation of Islamist forces worldwide, 9/11 and the rise of global Muslim fundamentalism has had an impact on a section of the Muslims in the state.

There were allegations of luring of Hindu girls in love traps and later converting them into Islam. The term Love Jihad gained credibility once Kerala chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan and home minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan repeated the same quoting Intelligence agencies.

Former Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) chief and former DGP Hormis Tharakan mentioned that many Kerala youths were trained in Pakistan in terror activists. Pak-sponsored ISI forces have contacts in the state, Union minister of state for home Mullappalli Ramachandran also admitted.

There are reports of container loads of counterfeit currency notes flowing to the state. This is in addition to the hawala money transactions. More than Rs 50,000 crore of hawala money is pumped into the state, said the state home minister in the Assembly.

Many workers of the banned SIMI have infiltrated into other Muslim front organisations and so-called human rights movements. There are reports that they are working as human rights activists in bodies like National Confederation of Human Rights Organisation (NCHRO). Whenever action is taken against them, these human rights bodies take up their cause.

Documents and charts unearthed by police during a raid recently on the Popular Front of India (PFI) reveal that PFI planned to set up `jihad' modules in the state for carrying out social, economic and political missions. The documents seized also reveal that the 'Freedom Parade' of August 15, now banned, was just a strategy to frighten people. Many of the PFI activists are former SIMI activists. Formed in 1993, the outfit has grown to a level so as to confront the CPI(M) in its bastion of Kannur. It has penetrated the IUML, INL and PDP, according to police sources. More than 1500 organisations in the state are receiving foreign funds, according to the state home minister. Reports have appeared that high-level police officials have apprised the government of the PDF raising 'highly organised cadres' which could be used as a 'fifth column'.

Chief minister V.S.Achuthanandan, said in a press conference at Delhi that the Popular Front was planning to make Kerala a Muslim majority state in 20 years. He alleged Muslim youths were trapping girls of other religions and converting them to Islam.

What Achuthanandan said in Delhi, he repeated in the Assembly. He read a portion from a leaflet of the Popular Front that 'No force can stop the establishment of Islamic rule in India'. In the Assembly, he said, 'I said this based on the reports of classes and propaganda by the subversive organisations known as NDF, Popular Front and SDPI. They are not the spokesmen of the Muslim community. They are whipping passions using religion.' Popular Front leader Nazaruddin Elamaram reacted to this by saying that the 'chief minister speaks in RSS language'.

The state home minister has also backed his chief minister. He said, 'Earlier, the Centre had banned SIMI. It has to be investigated whether the same SIMI is the Popular Front. Chopping of the hand of the professor was engineered to intensify communal tension. It was an experiment to test whether by acting as hardliners, Muslim believers can be attracted into the fold. The state has no power to inspect and plug the flow of foreign money and to monitor its usage. We will ask the Centre to provide the state with that power,' he said.

'The police and Intelligence agencies are keeping tabs on certain organisations that are working in the guise of human rights organisations. They are sourcing funds from political parties and religious organisations as also from abroad,' the home minister said in the Assembly. 'The state government will not allow any force to turn religious places into armouries,' he added.

Four Malayali youths were killed in an encounter with the security forces on the boarders with Pakistan. That exposed Kerala's link to terror groups, especially the Lashkar'e-Taiba. In a case of recruiting youths for terror training in Kashmir, 18 people were arrested in Kerala.

NIA said in court that the arrested terror accused Thadiyantavida Nazeer has a key role in imparting terror training in Kashmir. He is involved in the Kashmir recruitment case, Bangalore blast case, Kozhikode double explosions case and Kalamassery bus burning case, NIA told the court.

People's Democratic Party (PDP) chairman Abdul Naser Madani was arrested recently by the Karnataka police. A contingent of cops from Karnataka and Kerala took him into custody when he was coming out of his residence to surrender before a court. Ironically, the CPI(M) has had no qualms about sharing dais with him at Ponnani during the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. Fanatics and extremist forces were always there in Hindu, Christian and Muslim religions. But their striking power was negligible. The Gulf boom helped the Muslims of Kerala to establish direct contact with the world Muslim fraternity. Lucrative business ventures and holding of prime land in the heart of almost every city, coupled with political clout, elevated Muslims to higher social plane. Most Muslims do not want a communal flareup. Not without reason, the Indian Union Muslim League organised a meeting of different Muslim religious organisations at Malappuram to flay the hardliners and plan a campaign against terror groups. They want to distance themselves from hardliners like PDF, Jamaat-e-Islami and PDP.

IUML state president Panakkad Syed Hyderali Shihab Thangal said, 'IUML has never compromised on the issue of opposing terrorism. We do not support those who act against the interests of the country and democracy.' Mosques are like open books and 'there is no need to store weapons in mosque,' he added.

Kerala's religious harmony is paving way to religious bigotry, rigidity and violence. It is interesting to note how extremist elements take revenge on liberal and progressive Muslims. It is now 17 years since Quran Sunnath Society leader Chekannur Moulavi was murdered by Islamic fundamentalists. On 1993, July 29 night, he was taken out from his house and since then no one has seen him. Local police and Crime Branch probed and the case reached nowhere. In 1996, the case was handed over to CBI. CBI found clinching evidences but the probe was scuttled by vested interests. Chembirikka-Mangalapuram Khasi, an Islamic scholar, and Samastha Kerala Jam-Iyyathul Ulema vice-president C.M. Abdulla Moulavi were found dead amid mysterious circumstances.

'I will oppose Popular Front, PDP, SIMI till my death. I don't want their votes,' Congress leader Aryadan Muhammed told the Assembly. Someone from the ruling LDF asked him whether he did not want League votes too. Aryadan retorted, 'If we leave League out, you will welcome them with open hands.' That speaks volumes of the politics of wooing communal groups.

Darul Khada is the religious court of the NDF. Ruling of Darul Khada court has led to 25 murders, according to CPI(M) leader P. Jayarajan.

Hatred is the new mantra. When fundamentalists propagate hatred, even their own community members are not safe. Unless strong steps and action are taken, the terror factory, still in relative infancy, will grow into a mass-production industry. The onus is on the political and security establishment to stop Kerala from turning into another Kashmir. K.M. Sharief

General secretary, Popular Front of India

Religion is not the culprit. Some people exploit religion for political interests. Mainstream parties are birds of the same feather. The Congress and the CPI(M) are the B and C teams of BJP. Only difference is that BJP has got their open agenda. But the others pretend to do something and execute something else. At the end of the day they are not in Muslim interest. IUML's base is shrinking because they don't address the core Muslim issues. PDP is not a grassroot organisation. They do not address the core issues either.

E. Abu Baker
National president, Social Democratic Party Of India

The crux of the problem is the Islamophobia raised by US and Israel. Its dimension is large in Kerala. Because, Christians are more attached to Western world. The banned book titled Chinvad Palam is an example. The chopping of the college teacher's hand is not justifiable. But, it is a fact that he committed blasphemy. 'Love Jihad' is another example. Even though the controversy was kicked off by the RSS, it was hijacked by the Church. Even though others keep on hurting Muslim religious sentiments, Muslims do not do it in return. While upper class Hindus and Christians rule the roost in the job market, it creates unrest in the minds of the members of other societies. Muslims have to fight social imbalance and achieve further progress.

Kummanam Rajasekharan
General secretary, Hindu Aikyavedi, Kerala

The philosophies which spread intolerance in the name of religion got acceptance in several parts of the world. This led to tension and enmity among organised religions. The paramount goal of religions to attain spiritual progress through individual progress has been given up. Some semitic religions promote intolerance and try to increase the prominence and influence of their own religions. But the great sages of India always upheld the stand of sarva dharma samabhava based on sanathana values. Therefore, they are dead against religious disharmony, intolerance and extremism.

Joseph Pulikkunnel
Director, Indian Institute of Christian Studies

It is true that religions are becoming more and more commercial and sale of spirituality has become common to all religions. But, the real spirituality of humaneness is getting lost in the process of commercial expansion. Prophet Mohammed declared in the first ayath that Allah is merciful and a sea of love but unfortunately many Muslim leaders have forgotten the words of the Quran. In the name of religion, religious people are being led to commit unmerciful acts. Real religion should go back to the source books, that is the Quran, the Bible and the Puranas so that they may know how God revealed himself in the history to the real faithful.

Fr Paul Thelakat
Spokesman, Syro Malabar Church

We live in a globalised world where identities are often threatened. Then there comes an easy way of finding identity in what my be called Hegelian tribalism. After all Hegel's politics was tribal politics of the Prussian State. His politics was one of war coming from dialectics. He wrote: 'With out its monarch ... the people are just formless multitude'.This takes a form of religiosity based on blood and soil and not on reason and equality. Democracy is a socio-political way of life based on moral reason and parliamentary debate.

M.K. Muneer
Leader, Indian Union Muslim League

It is not the spread of worship that builds up communalism. But it is the result of religion-based radical fundamentalism. They create disharmony. 'Mine is the best religion' is their policy. Now the situation has assumed such a dimension that even street goons claim religious leadership. When the chopping off of the teacher's hand took place, most Muslims denounced it. In Kerala, Sangh Parivar is not at all powerful to upset the secular equation, thanks to the strong stand of the mainstream parties like the Congress, the CPI(M) and IUML. BJP has not been able to open its account in the state Assembly. Hindus in Kerala are secular. Jamaat-e-Islami spearheads religious polarisation. This is a camouflage for grabbing power. But, the League stands for a secular society.

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