The Kerala story: Illegal conversions, fear and melancholy of God's Own Country

Sudipto Sen's documentary, 'In the Name of Love — Melancholy of God's Own Country', puts the spotlight on the so-called '...

Sudipto Sen's documentary, 'In the Name of Love — Melancholy of God's Own Country', puts the spotlight on the so-called 'Love Jihad' in Kerala and what he calls an international conspiracy to convert thousands of women to Islam every year. Sharing his experience of filming the now-controversial documentary and interviewing parents of women allegedly converted to Islam and also those re-converted after their lucky escape, the author recounts how he was harassed by the Left-backed JNU students' union during a screening of his film at the university.

On 24 July, 2010, CPM patriarch VS Achuthanandan said in Delhi: “The Popular Front (PFI) is trying to make Kerala a Muslim State within the next 20 years -- just like the agenda of the banned organisation, NDF. Their activities include cutting off the arms and legs of their rivals. They are influencing youngsters by giving them money, converting non-Muslims into Muslims, marrying non-Muslim girls…all eventually making Kerala a Muslim majority state, slowly.”

In 2011, Kerala got a Congress government headed by Oommen Chandi. Next year on 25 June, a scintillating report was placed on the floor of the Kerala Assembly. According to it, since 2005 on average, 2,800-3,200 girls are being converted to Islam every year. (The number of girls converted in the last 10 years could be a staggering 30,000 and more. After conversion, most of them go untraceable, and are sent to Afghanistan and Middle-Eastern war zones controlled by the Taliban, ISIS and Al-Qaeda)

According to a Times of India report on 11 May, 2017, of the total 516,013 live births in the state in 2015, 42.87 percent belonged to the Hindu community (which accounts for 55 percent of Kerala's population), 41.45 percent to the Muslim community (27 percent of Kerala's population) and 15.42 percent to the Christian community (18 percent of Kerala's population).

If we club these three reports, then every Indian has reasons to be worried, as I got worried when I went to Kerala in 2017 for some work. As a filmmaker – politics is my academic interest – I am indeed a liberal and least bothered about religious jingoism. But after seeing villages in Malappuram under Sharia law, meeting the parents of eloped girls and, most importantly, meeting the girls who escaped from the clutches of terror syndicates after conversion, there was no doubt that my consciousness shaken. I was petrified.

While making my film In the Name of Love, we were not bothered about any politics or any kind of political agenda. We were only overwhelmed by the stories of the converted girls reaching Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey. We were definitely concerned about the international conspiracy angle and that it was hatched long back, as VS said. Later on, our concerns were vindicated, through every word spoken in interviews for the film and every drop of tear that rolled down. Most of the victims' parents refused to come before our camera due to some invisible fear. All-round fear was palpable when we were shooting. Today, four years after, the problem is definitely bigger and worse.

The Kerala government's report cited above suggests about 32,000 girls may have been converted in the past decade -- and most of them are vanishing in Central and West Asian deserts.

We have heard the cry of their despair. We tried hearing the suppressed sighs of their parents. And we felt the melancholy of a country that is losing its daughters in thousands every year. We don’t want any daughter, any parent to go through this anguish, no matter what their faith or religion is.

In spite of these facts, there is hardly any action that is visible on ground zero. Police and administrative machineries are muffled. The government is in denial mode (clearly due to fears of possible erosion of the vote bank). As a result, rampant religious conversions through deep-rooted indoctrination networks have spread in Kerala like a fire in hay, dealing a blow to the ‘God’s Own Country’.

Drugs and medicines are used to create mindless killing machines of Islamic State, Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Islamic Brotherhood and the Haqqani Network. Fenethylline is a psychostimulant -- and this drug used by the IS is dubbed "chemical courage". It keeps users awake for long periods and also makes users feel energetic and focused. Prolong use of it makes a human being emotionless, bitter and angry. We were told by the re-converted girls that the well-knit indoctrination process forces girls towards these drugs. These vulnerable, drug-influenced girls get the dose of sex and passion, and then they are converted.

There was no confusion about the fact that my film was highly controversial and we were prepared for repercussions. Because, being a filmmaker, I was very clear: this is not something we get to read and hear from the mainstream media, and I need to tell the truth and put the spotlight on areas that are out of bounds due to obnoxious political compulsions.

This political compulsion is such that a Union minister is compelled to tell Parliament: “No constitutional phrase like ‘love jihad’ exists in Indian legal system or society."

There is no doubt about the fact that India is a multi-cultural and diverse country. Inter-religion marriage exists traditionally in our society, from time immemorial. Love itself is religion in our faith and belief. But in these “love jihad” cases, conversion to Islam is the precondition of “love” -- and here lies the conspiracy. Saddam Hussain once said, “We don’t need to fight any war. We shall take over the world with population ‘bomb’.” And Kerala is now a model state for that. What is happening in Kerala in the name of conversion and inter-religion marriage is dangerous and threatening.

I witnessed a dangerous and threatening fallout of my film at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) on 28 April, 2018, when at the request of The Vivekanand Vichar Manch and Global Indian Foundation I went to the premier institute for a screening of my film and a discussion with the supposedly progressive youth there.

Screening was arranged at Sabarmati dhaba. In my biggest surprise, members of the Left-dominated JNU students' union disrupted the screening by unleashing unprecedented violence at the venue, claiming that the organisers were promoting hate through the film. I repeatedly requested them to watch the film before coming to any conclusion. Unbelievable intolerance among Leftist students is still a big surprise to me. Hailing from West Bengal and coming from a family of Leftists, I was shocked by the ugly display of insensitivity. Their so-called protest caused 17 FIRs, more than 30 injuries (security guard Yogesh Kumar suffered a permanent leg injury), and loss of property.

Whatever politics is being played, whatever international conspiracy is being hatched, there is no denial that thousands and thousands of daughters of India are vanishing into Middle Eastern deserts. In my film, I tried to feel the sorrow of a country that is losing her daughters in the thousands every year.

The author is a filmmaker. Views expressed are personal

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India World News: The Kerala story: Illegal conversions, fear and melancholy of God's Own Country
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