Kottayam: The alleged ‘love jihad’ cases in Kerala should be probed and addressed, Kerala Congress (M) chief Jose K. Mani has said ahead of the assembly elections in the state.
In an exclusive interview to ThePrint, Mani said ‘love jihad’ is a social issue and his party will be addressing them. “There are some cases which have come up that need to be addressed, we should definitely address it. If something like this is taking place, we should address it,” Mani said.
‘Love jihad’ is a term coined by religious fundamentalist groups, alleging that there is a conspiracy by Muslim men to convert non-Muslim girls in the guise of love.
Kerala Congress (M) is one of the most popular parties among the Christian community, which forms about 19 per cent of the state’s population. While the Kerala Congress (M) hadn’t said much on the issue so far, various Christian bodies, most notably the Syro-Malabar church, have taken a fairly strong position on the subject.
Last year, the institution, which is the second-largest eastern catholic church in the world after the Ukrainian Church, released an official communique saying Christian girls are being “targeted and killed” in the name of ‘love jihad’ in the state.
“There are some issues and apprehension about this. The government should clearly come out about what has happened and if there are any such cases (of ‘love jihad’), they should be addressed and stopped,” Mani told ThePrint.
‘Church not gaining proximity to BJP’
Last year, Mani’s Kerala Congress (M) split from the United Democratic Front (UDF) after four decades. It later joined the Left Democratic Front (LDF).
Mani resigned from the Rajya Sabha earlier this year to contest the assembly elections from Pala constituency — a seat his late father and architect of the party K.M. Mani held from 1967 to 2019.
The party enjoys substantial influence among sections of the Christian community in Kerala, making its shift from UDF to LDF an important factor in the upcoming assembly polls.
Two months ago, heads of various church bodies including the archbishop of Syro-Malabar church met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and discussed the ‘love jihad’ issue as well.
While this meeting between the church heads and PM Modi raised several eyebrows, Jose K. Mani rejected the possibility that this could signal a shift of the church bodies towards the BJP. “I don’t think it’s true, absolutely not,” he said.
“It is only some social issues that they have mentioned to the leadership which is common to the church also. It is not a shifting of loyalty. The church is not political at all, they just comment on social issues,” Mani said.
‘Local body poll results fitting answer to UDF’
In June 2020, the UDF suspended the Kerala Congress (M) from its coalition, triggered by Mani’s decision to not vacate the Kottayam district panchayat president’s chair for a candidate of the P.J. Joseph faction in the Kerala Congress (M).
Subsequently, in October 2020, Mani-led Kerala Congress (M) joined hands with the LDF — a first in the history of the party.
“For four decades, we were with the UDF, and without any reason we were kicked out… for no reason at all. But we have joined the LDF and are raising important issues together,” Mani said.
In the local body elections in December last year, the LDF won big numbers in Central Kerala districts of Kottayam, Idukki and Pathanamthitta, which had until then been traditional UDF strongholds.
“After we joined the LDF, we had the local body election where we got a wonderful response. We secured a historic win for the LDF. This is only fitting answer to the UDF… what they have done is not justifiable at all,” Mani said.
“Since joining the LDF, within a span of four months, we have been able to solve issues concerning farmers. For example, the problem of rubber farmers… the minimum support price has been raised to Rs 170 (in the budget session),” he said.