Bengaluru: There is a section that lives in absolute denial about the concept called as Love Jihad which had caught on at a rapid pace in Kerala. Recently a woman from Kannur opened up about her ordeal she had to undergo and how she was rescued from the trap of Love Jihad.

She said that she had a met a person called Mushabeer and fallen in love with him. However, he began to pressurise her to change her religion in case she wanted to marry him. She said that he threatened to pour acid on her if she did not convert.

Love Jihad has been rampant in Kerala and its bordering areas in Mangaluru for several years now. Such cases have been reported from Telangana as well. It is a clear trap that is set on the pretext of marriage. The aim is to convert the girl to Islam and there have been cases in Kerala, where they have been forced into joining terror groups as well.
More than meets the eye:

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At an adalat that was held in Pathanamthitta district in August, a 26-year-old girl narrated her ordeal about how she was forced to join the Islamic State. She said that when she refused, she was tortured.

She said that she had met with a Muslim youth in Telangana. He was a Christian who had later converted to Islam. She further alleged that she had started living with him. When she had asked him to marry her, he had refused. However, he later said that she should join the Islamic State as a nurse and when she refused, she was abandoned. 

In the year 2018 the National Investigation Agency had detained one Muhammad Riyaz who was accused of forcibly converting his wife. It was also alleged that he was attempting to sell her off as a sex slave to the ISIS. The lady even went on to petition the Kerala High Court and said that the marriage was conducted using fraudulent documents.

These are serious concerns that have been ignored over the years by the state of Kerala. Central agencies have often warned that such cases ought not to be taken lightly as they have a direct link to terror as well, the Kerala government has chosen to look the other way.

While now, the aim is to recruit into the ISIS, one must recall an intelligence report of 2009. It has specifically spoken about a plan by the Lashkar-e-Taiba which had directed its foot soldiers in Kerala and Mangaluru to start building a rapport with women. The intent was to convert, blackmail them and use them for terror related activities.

Not just Hindus:

Complaints of Love Jihad have not only been made by the Hindus. In 2012, the Global Council of Indian Christians had warned their flock about this context. 

The same year the commission for social harmony and vigilance of the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council had reported that there had been 2,868 female victims of love jihad in Kerala between 2006 and 2009. The panel had made several recommendations to parents through its newsletter, including a recommendation to monitor children's cell-phones and computers, so that they can be better prepared to fight the phenomenon and resist charming young Muslim men involved in the scheme. 

Several officials that MyNation spoke with said that women had become mere pawns in criminal activities. They are forced to convert and then they are threatened. In a bid to avoid social stigma, they end up doing whatever they are told to do. A Wikileaks cable had said that Sajjan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians was convinced that there was a concerted effort in South India by some Muslim men to get Christian women to fall in love them in order to convert them.

As recently as September 2019, the National Commission for Minorities had written to the Union home minister Amit Shah stating that Christians are soft targets for Islamic terror recruits in Kerala.

"The spate of organised religious conversions and using the victims for terror activities by trapping them through 'love jihad' has shown that the Christian community is a soft target for Islamic radicals,” he also wrote in the letter.

The ISIS problem:

The birth of the Islamic State in India has to it many problems attached. Down in Syria and Iraq, the outfit has been trying to spread its tentacles in Asia. In India, it found easy targets in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The primary motive was however to set up shop in Afghanistan and for this purpose it needed plenty of recruits.

The ISIS did manage to get a large number of recruits from India for its Afghanistan Khorasan. Official records show that the number of pro-ISIS cases reported from Kerala between 2014 and 2018 stood at 180. The Afghan Khorasan has followed a similar pattern that the ISIS has followed in Iraq and Syria. There is a major demand for women recruits for a variety of reasons. While women would be used to increase the population of their tribe, they are also used for household works and serve the fighters. In Iraq and Syria, there was a major demand for women nurses.

The NIA is probing a case in which at least 21 persons from Kerala including women had left the state to be part of the ISIS. Of the 21, four are women of which two go by the names Pallath Merrin Jacob and Sebastian Sonia. The NIA says that these women were converted forcibly before being taken to Afghanistan.

The NIA believes that one person, part of the module who goes by the name Shihas had played a major role. Officials say that luring the women, converting them and then using them for related activities is a major cause for concern. Further officials also say that while they may be in other countries now, the major worry is when they try and return to India and carry out subversive activities.

Worrying numbers:

Officials who have probed cases of Love Jihad say that it is an undercurrent and many are not ready to accept the problem. There is a concerted effort to lure women from the Hindu and Christian community and convert them to Islam.

In the letter to Shah, Kurian had pointed out that a study had found that more than 2,600 women were converted to Islam between 2006 and 2009. He also said that 50 of them were from the Kozhikode district. He further stated that in most cases it was found that the victims were brainwashed and in some cases, they had been used as couriers for terror related activities. 

Police officials in Kerala say that the problem is that many do not come forward and report the cases. There are organisations which have taken up the cause, but unless and until the families or the victim report such cases, there is very little that one can do. Most of them do not come forward fearing threat or social stigma and hence the issues remain under the carpet, a police officer said.

An NIA officer informed that it is hard to find evidence in such cases and this is owing to the fact that the victim or the families do not come forward. They post messages on the social media, speak on condition of anonymity, but owing to a serious threat, they never come before the investigation agency. In some cases, some have come forward but had turned hostile and this we later realised was due to threat and blackmail, the officer also said.

In addition to this, there is also a large section including the administration which has been living in denial about such cases. Several officials that MyNation spoke with said that in Kerala and the other southern states they have found it extremely difficult to operate. The Muslims constitute a huge vote bank and hence the administration tends to look the other way. This has also been a primary factor for cases such as Love Jihad being on the rise, they also say. The officials conclude by saying that it is a serious issue and there is an undercurrent and if repeatedly ignored, many more girls are going to fall prey to this menace.