K Surendran held an election rally in Pathanamthitta’s Tiruvalla and Ranni, which are Christian minority vote banks in Kerala.

Kerala BJP chief K Surendran addressing a rally. He is smiling in the picture, and is wearing the BJP shawl around his neck
news 2021 Kerala Assembly Election Thursday, March 04, 2021 - 18:16

K Surendran, the BJP chief in Kerala, started his impassioned speech at an Assembly election rally in Pathanamthitta district’s Tiruvalla on Thursday claiming that the people of the state has accepted the party without any religious and political leaning. But, before long, he launched into an attack on the Muslim community in Kerala, raising the bogey of ‘love jihad’ — a term coined by right-wing groups, claiming that Muslim men are targeting Hindu women and forcefully converting them into Islam via marriage.

“People who love Kerala are considering the BJP without any religious and political inclination. There was a time when people in Kerala compartmentalised us as a party for one particular community. Now, you cannot sideline the BJP from Kerala politics and give us the communal label. People from the Malabar region, too, are joining us now,” said Surendran at the election rally ahead of the 2021 Kerala Assembly election on April 6, where he also announced that the ‘Metroman’ E Sreedharan is BJP’s Chief Minister face in Kerala.

Incidentally, the election rally was held in Tiruvalla, a hotbed of Christian minority voters in Kerala, apart from other regions such as Ranni (Pathanamthitta) and Pala in Kottayam district. And so, in an attempt to woo the Christian voters there, the Kerala BJP chief tossed the Christian women into the ‘love jihad’ narrative. Besides, the BJP has been using the ‘love jihad’ narrative as a poll plank to amass Christain votes, especially from the Catholics. Incidentally, Catholic churches have also been intensifying their campaign against interfaith marriages.

Read: Kerala Church and the BJP: A shift towards the right or seeking patronage?

Surendran referred to the July 2010 incident, when activists of the Popular Front of India (PFI) had chopped off the right hand of TJ Joseph, a Malayalam professor at Newmans College in Idukki’s Thodupuzha, for insulting Prophet Muhammed in a question paper he had set. The professor was also excommunicated from his church as well.

According to Surendran, Christians could not oppose the attack on Joseph and had lost their self-confidence at the time. “Today, if such an incident takes place, the BJP will be with you,” he said.

He then claimed that the Hindu women and Christian women are being “targetted by terrorists in the name of love jihad.”

“There are some terrorist forces functioning in Kerala that are targeting Hindu and Christians. In fact, Christians are also being targetted worldwide. Churches being destroyed is an example. The Christian communities in Kerala have also started feeling this. So, we must be cautious, stay united and fight these religious fundamentalists, else what happened in Syria and Yemen, will happen here, in Kerala also,” remarked Surendran.

Taking a jibe at CPI(M), Surendran said, “The CPI(M) calls it (interfaith marriages) a love marriage and not ‘love jihad’. Then, why are the couples going to Syria, why are they wearing Arab chaaku (sack, probably referring to the hijab and burkha), why are they making couples rear sheep.”

Surendran's rhetoric comes at a time when Sangh Parivar members have been accused of harassing inter-faith couples. Moreover, in February 2020,  Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy told the Parliament that “no such case of ‘Love Jihad’ has been reported by any of the central agencies.” In fact, he pointed out that the term ‘love jihad’ is not defined under the current laws.

Read: Video: The justifications of women who left Kerala to join ISIS with their families

According to Surendran trusting Congress and CPI(M) will lead to “a Syria situation in Kerala.”

“What happened to the Hindu during the Sabarimala agitation will happen to the Christians soon. Congress is in the hands of communal forces, while the CPI(M) is hand-in-glove with the terrorists. These communal forces, whether Left or right-leaning, cannot move ahead,” he said.

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