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Religious Conversion: A Major Threat to India's Survival - Part IV
|by Dr. Jaipal Singh|
Continued from the Previous Page
After independence in and partition of the country in 1947 on religious lines, the formal exchange of population between the newly created dominions could not be implemented due to various reasons. While Pakistan formally became an Islamic state but the politicians responsible for writing the destiny of India chose it to remain a secular and democratic nation. In a state where the governance was largely in the hands of the Hindu leaders, erstwhile state persecution and indulgence in the obnoxious activities of the Islamic and colonial era suo moto ceased. However, radicals and hardliners in Islam discovered different ways and means as also the modus operandi over a period to accomplish their long cherished goal. If the public utterances of communal nature by some Muslim leaders and clerics are of any clue, the community must increase its population to a level suffice enough to capture political power directly or with other like-minded partners. It is not surprising that many of them are found supporting or extending sympathy to the cause of the Bangladeshi and Rohingya illegal migrants, conversion of the target groups, etc., and one could easily find some even defending terrorism in Kashmir. In the present piece, the author would briefly discuss such standard modules operating in India.
1. Illegal Migration from Foreign Countries
India has been facing a serious problem of illegal immigrants from the neighbouring countries, particularly Bangladesh and Myanmar for the last many decades following its independence in 1947. The Border States in the north-eastern region, particularly Assam and West Bengal, had constant influx of illegal immigrants mainly from the neighbouring Bangladesh (erstwhile East Pakistan) threatening their demography, economy, peace and prosperity. Although some of these immigrants also belonged to persecuted minorities (Hindu and Sikhs) from these countries but a large population is comprised of Muslims from Bangladesh crossing border for various reasons. To check this influx, necessary laws were enacted and a national register of citizens (NRC) was created in 1951 based on the census data but it was neither properly maintained nor updated thereafter. Till about 1980, the Centre and most of these states were either directly ruled by the Indian National Congress or parties friendly to them but they never made any sincere efforts to address the problem of illegal immigration. While the CPM and Congress led successive state governments avoided NRC in West Bengal, it was only half-heartedly undertaken only in Assam.
When the issue of the illegal immigrants in Assam became more serious towards the end of 1970s, the then Congress government passed a new law in Parliament and notified it as “The Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act, 1983”. The Law provided a tribunal process for identifying illegal migrants in Assam that too didn’t produce results. Ultimately, the Supreme Court of India struck down this law as unconstitutional in 2005 and directed the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh government to update the Assam NRC. The work was, however, sincerely undertaken by the Modi Government under the supervision of the apex judiciary, which published the final updated NRC in August 2019 identifying about 1.9 million people who failed to give any credible data in support of their being Indian citizen. The Muslims in India have vehemently opposed the government’s move to implement NRC in Assam and other states. Another paradoxical change is that though the law was enacted and work was undertaken for the identification of illegal immigrants by the Congress government at centre but the same political party is now opposing it along with the Left and some other like-minded opposition parties.
According to an estimate in year 2000, the total number of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in India was at 15 million, with around 3 lakh people crossing the border every year. The majority of immigrants have settled in the border districts of West Bengal and Assam, but a significant number has also moved over to faraway places like Mumbai, Delhi and other major cities. More recently, one state minister at centre has put this figure around 20 million. The Left parties and Trinamool Congress in West Bengal have been soft pedaling about the number as well as measures to check infiltration as these immigrants are mostly Muslims which constitute their regular electoral base. In Delhi alone, their number is in the range of 40-50 thousand including both the Bangladeshi and Rohingya Muslims, many of them are feared as potential threat to the national security and integration.
Ever since the insurgency problem escalated in Rakhine (formerly Arakan) province of Myanmar in 1990s and counter measures were taken by the Myanmar government, the influx of Rohingya Muslims too started in the Indian bordering states. It is widely believed that they initially take shelter in Bangladesh and then the touts and middlemen push them in the Indian states through the porous border. Officially, India has not accepted any Rohingya refugees in the country, however, it is estimated that over 40,000 Rohingya immigrants had already illegally entered in the Indian Territory few years back and are living in the bordering districts and even remote places like Delhi and Jammu & Kashmir. As per intelligence inputs, many radicalized Rohingyas are a serious security threat to the state besides being locally engaged in many illegal activities. In the past, it was also revealed by the media in several instances how the people in particular minority community have been extending overt and covert support to Rohingya immigrants. An investigation in a small ghetto of about eighty plus Rohingya families in Mewat revealed that they had not only illegally established houses and hutments on the government land with the connivance of a few government officials but also mustered facilities of electricity, water and other necessities. In fact, many of them have even managed to get Ration and Voter identity cards, and even PAN cards, etc.
Due to varying interests and approach of different political parties as also overt and covert support of the particular minority community, the country has not been able so far to take effective measures against the illegal immigrants. In fact, they are now not limited to the bordering states and mega cities like Delhi and Mumbai but have even infiltrated in other cities of the country as well including some rural areas. Till recently, any Indian national outside the state of the Jammu and Kashmir was not entitled to seek settlement or property rights there but many illegal Rohingya Muslims settlements are present in Jammu region for many years. Jammu citizens consider the presence of Rohingya Muslims in Jammu as an attempt to change demography of the region and long term threat for the Indian security. Kerala is about 2,500 km away from Bangladesh, but a large number of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, many of them with valid Indian documents, have moved there and now constitute unskilled and semi-skilled labour force. Tripura demographics have considerably changed following the influx of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. Even many cities of Uttar Pradesh, including the state capital Lucknow, have such illegal immigrants many with fake identities and names supported by Aadhar cards, Voter IDs and ration cards.
Notwithstanding these facts, some political parties and influential members of the Muslim community constantly underplay the problem and the state government of West Bengal and the Bangladesh Government have always remained in a denial mode. The border states of Assam and West Bengal have been the most affected states but, ironically, both have looked at the problem of illegal immigrants from altogether different perspectives. For instance, a large number of the persecuted and uprooted non-Muslim Chakmas and Hajongs from the Chittagong Hill Tracts took refuge in neighbouring Assam in 1960s and 1970s and, simultaneously, a large influx of Muslim immigrants also took place settling along the lower (southern) reaches of Brahmaputra River basin. In a way both influxes were illegal but the first one deserved sympathetic consideration due to discrimination and religious persecution in Bangladesh while the other came seeking better opportunity or for purported reasons under an going agenda. The State of Assam has experienced a long drawn agitation against the illegal infiltration of foreigners from Bangladesh in previous decades and the political party Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) is a product of this agitation.
The successive state governments of West Bengal and even present Trinamool government has opposed NRC in West Bengal. The main reason for this appears a rivalry among political parties for the sizeable chunk of electoral base comprised of the Muslim population in the state. Although media reported several times that the illegal Bangladeshi migrants have trickled into parts of rural Bengal, including Nandigram, over the years, and settled down as sharecroppers with the help of local Left leaders but respective governments have seldom taken a note of it. The available demographic data suggest that Muslim population in West Bengal was around 19% in 1951 which is estimated to be around 30% in 2021. While people generally try to attribute it to a higher population growth rate amongst the Muslims but a closer look at the demography along the India-Bangladesh border districts present altogether a different picture with a decadal growth rate in a range of 34-38%. India is a multi-lingual and multi-ethnic country but only Muslims are opposing Citizens Amendment Act (CAA), NRC and National Population Register (NPR) lock, stock and barrel. Many of the illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar, though already managed identity papers with the connivance of local officials and agencies promoting them, could easily be distinguished with their spoken language, attire and social habits.
Even if one takes a global outlook, an interesting trend in migration of Muslim population emerges world over. Many Muslim countries such as Iraq, Syria, Somalia, and so on, are badly disturbed with civil war and various terror groups. The war and terrorism in these countries produces a large number of refugees who seek asylum in other countries. Currently, there are about 57 Islamic countries, many of them being affluent and large enough to offer help to their Muslim brethren. However, any Islamic country seldom offers refuge to these displaced people; consequently, they seek assistance from the countries of the Western Europe, Canada, US and India, etc. In the latest takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and Haqqani Network, the majority leaders are on UN sanctions list and some of them even carry a reward on their heads. The country is passing through a grave crisis with thousands of people from Tajik and Hajara communities seeking asylum in other countries but any Islamic country has not come forward so far to accept refugees from Afghanistan. Should there be any doubt in any minds that the hoards of illegal immigrants from the neighbouring Bangladesh and Myanmar over the decades have not only competed with the original inhabitants of Indian states for the livelihood and other resources but also posed social, cultural and security threat to the very existence of natives in their own homeland. Many parts of Assam, West Bengal, Kerala and Western Uttar Pradesh, including some other regions of central and northeastern states are experiencing noticeable demographic and cultural changes over a period.
2. Ongoing Conversion Rackets
In the history of modern India, while large scale conversions and killings of men and rape or enslavement of non-Muslims women have been reported during the major upheavals such as the partition of India in 1947 and Bangladesh Liberation Movement in 1971, the same has occurred during the peace time too albeit at a much slower pace. The classical examples are Pakistan and Bangladesh, which were parts of India till 14 August 1947. Bangladesh (erstwhile East Pakistan) had over 22% Hindu population which has reduced to around 7% after seven decades and position in Pakistan is for worse. Apart from the Islamists in Pakistan constantly preaching the concepts like Gazwa-e-Hind, even some radical elements in India too have similar vision and mission, and so often talk about converting India to an Islamic state. For instance, during anti-CAA protests in 2020, the radicalized student leaders like Sharjeel Imam and some of his associates were repeatedly found giving inflammatory speeches and instigating people to cut Assam off India. They were, however, nabbed and prosecuted on sedition charges.
Many conversion rackets have been busted in India in the past where the target people were compelled to change their religion through coercion or enticement. There is no point in digging and narrating all such cases but a more recent one is worth illustrating here. Recently, on 21 June 2021, the Uttar Pradesh Anti Terrorist Squad (UP ATS) had nabbed two clerics - Mohammad Umar Gautam and Mufti Qazi Jahageer Alam Qasmi - from the national capital Delhi on the charges of running a huge conversion racket and the two were allegedly involved in the conversion of thousands of people over a period. The ATS claimed that the two clerics were spearheading the mass conversion of people into Islam through coercion and inducements, such as marriage, money, job and so on. Investigation revealed that the aforesaid clerics of the Islamic Dawah Cenre India had a large nexus operating in other states as well; consequently, eight more people were arrested and prosecuted, four from Maharashtra, and one each from Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Haryana. Their main targets among Hindus for conversion were the poor and unemployed, people from the underprivileged classes, women and children with disabilities.
In the same context, yet another alleged Islamic scholar Kaleem Siddiqui has been arrested by the same investigating agency on 22 September from Meerut, Uttar Pradesh on the charges of organizing illegal conversions. According to the agency report, they have now busted the country’s ''largest conversion racket'' involved in marriage, deceit, coercion or incitement in the recent times. The said Maulana Siddiqui is a native of Muzaffarnagar, UP but mostly lives in Delhi. He runs a Trust in the name Jamia Imam Waliullah, in the garb of educational and social organization, but is actually engaged in illegal conversions across the country in the name of social harmony often by bribing the people. According to the investigating agency, this conversion racket was being run in an organized manner, and many popular people and outfits are also involved in it. He has been receiving funds in the name of Trust from foreign countries through Hawala and other channels, with Bahrain as one of the sources in the Middle East. Investigations has revealed that the trust recently received Rs 3 crore in foreign funding including Rs 1.5 crore from Bahrain. The cleric frequently used Madrassas to speak about heaven and hell, and put fear and greed in the minds of people while encouraging them to accept Islam and motivate others for conversion to Islam.
The two clerics apprehended from Delhi in June 2021 are believed to have converted at least a thousand people to Islam. The rampant racket of converting people into the fold of Islam had come to fore when the case of a deaf and dumb boy of Kanpur came to light, who was converted and sent to South India. In this context, another shocking story of three Hindu brothers of Surat, Gujarat is also worth mentioning. The three brothers had lost their parents while they were still very young. With no elder at home, they fell an easy prey to the conversion mafia. One day, 16-years old Santosh went out for work but didn’t return. Attempts of his two brothers Rajesh and Dinesh to trace him failed and they finally reconciled. Years later, Santosh cont acted the two again from NCR Delhi but now as Abdullah converted to Islam. With great efforts of the community and assistance from the Police Commissioner of Surat, Santosh alias Abdullah was brought back to Surat but by now he had been so indoctrinated that he revolted against his two brothers and reportedly even tried to kill them with the help of outsiders. As already illustrated in the previous two parts, conversion to bring all others in the fold has always been on the platter and only modus oprandi has changed with times.
3. Love Jihad – A Reality or Islamophobic Conspiracy
At the outset, the author must admit that he was not only amused but shocked to read the narrative and details on love jihad entered into and locked to stop any course correction in Wikipedia which has become a major source of information in the recent times for the internet users. According to Wikipedia, the love jihad is an Islamophobic conspiracy theory developed by the proponents of the Hindutva ideology. An attempt has also been made in Wikipedia to establish an analogy of love jihad in India with anti-Semitic trope of “Jewish world domination” and few other western concepts. This is an undeniable fact that the Judaism is much older religion compared to the Christianity and Islam and millions of Jews were persecuted and killed in Europe, Asia and other places in the 20th century alone with the current population of Jews in the world being just about 13 million, of which about 6.8 million Jews are in the Israel alone. In spite of the fact that their own survival in the world is threatened yet the particular world lobby opposed to them escalates the narrative of the Jewish world domination. The alleged conspiracy theory propounded in Wikipedia presumes Hindutva as some kind of a dangerous concept and threat for the followers of other faiths, as propagated by some countries, particular minority communities and some self-proclaimed liberals in India, while two separate benches of the Supreme Court of India comprising of three and seven judges in their judgments delivered in 1995 and 2016, respectively, have already clarified it as “ a way of life” and nothing to do with the alleged narrow fundamentalist Hindu religious ideology.
The Love Jihad is relatively a more recent terminology used for the Muslim men targeting women of other communities, particularly Hindus, by feigning love with an aim of converting them to Islam. Ordinarily, the term includes methods like seduction, deception and pretention for love leading to marriage and conversion to Islam. In some cases, this involves even abduction and forced marriage; although such cases have been few in India but are so often reported from the neighbouring countries of Pakistan and Bangladesh. More recently, two Sikh girls were reportedly abducted and converted in Islam in June 2021, which became a major law and order issue in the state. Later, one of the girls was recovered and immediately married to a man in own community. During June/July 2020, this author had observed duly authenticated 36 marriage certificates circulating on social media from the Telangana region; the girls in all cases were Hindus mostly in the age group of 18 – 25 years while all the men were Muslims in the range of 20 -40 years. When the parents and relatives in both communities do not approve inter-religion marriage, such a large number of cases in a short time-frame from one region indeed raise suspicion and alarm. Whatever Wikipedia may say, but the love jihad is a grim reality for thousands of non-Muslims women, if not lakh, every year. The usual strategy adopted is of luring vulnerable non-Muslim girls, a majority of them being Hindus, by the concerned agency of deception, lies and intimidation, or by feigned love to bring them under the fold of Islam. Thereafter, instead of genuine marital bliss, these girls are usually get trapped in a web of deceit and lies, and they are in most cases coerced and even tortured to relinquish their faith and convert to Islam.
This had invited national attention in India around 2009 in the context of certain cases of conversions in the states of Kerala and Karnataka. In one case, while hearing bail plea of two accused in "love jihad" cases, the Court had observed that there had been 3,000-4,000 such conversions in past four years. One case of Akhila Ashokan (now Hadiya), a missing 24 year old homeopathic medical student from Vaikom, Kerala, married to a Muslim man and converted to Islam in 2016, had received much publicity and attention at national level. Akhila was found staying with the president of the woman wing of the Popular Front of India (PFI), a radical Muslim organization, involved in many controversies and recent anti-CAA/NRC agitation. In May 2017, the Kerala High Court annulled Hadiya’s marriage based on a report of the National Investigating Agency (NIA) but the Supreme Court reversed the decision in March 2018 restoring her inter-religion marriage. Later it was revealed that three top lawyers of the Supreme Court who fought her husband’s case without any known resources, had received rupees 92 lakhs (approximately) funded by PFI; of which, Rs 77 lakh was received as client fees by one advocate and former Congress Cabinet Minister alone.
A case of love jihad was reported from Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh in April 2021, wherein the complainant woman filed a case that her 25-year old husband had kept his real identity hidden for two years since marriage and pretended to be Arman Kohli while he was actually Afzal. She charged that her husband revealed his real identity only after their daughter was born. Yet another case came in light in May 2021, wherein a man named Abid posed as ‘Inspector Aditya’ to blackmail a Hindu woman to marry him and then convert to Islam. The cases of love jihad were initially reported from Kerala and Mangalore in the coastal Karnataka region. In 2020 alone, several cases were reported from Kerala where Hindu and Christian girls had gone missing and it was later revealed that they were targeted, married to Muslims and converted, some were even brainwashed later to join ISIS. In some cases, victims have been mortally wounded or even killed by the assailants for refusing to convert their religion or threatening to file a police complaint against the perpetrators.
According to the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council, about 4,500 Christian girls had been targeted by October 2009, whereas the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti claimed that about 30 thousand girls had been converted in Karnataka alone. While rise in love jihad cases in India is of relatively recent phenomenon, the abduction, marriage and forced conversion has occurred for decades in the neighbouring Islamic countries of Pakistan and Bangladesh. In a heart-rending incident in 2016, one Hindu girl rescued from abductors in Pakistan was sold by a police official to another person. Few days later, she was forcibly converted to Islam and married to yet another man. According to the annual report of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in 2018, the Southern Sindh province alone had over 1,000 forced conversions of Hindu and Christian girls. Annual Report 2013 of United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) pointed out that minority Hindus in Pakistan are vulnerable to kidnapping, rapes, and forced conversions of women, including minors with 15 to 20 kidnapping cases reported every month. Thus there have been numerous credible cases that conclusively debunk the assertions of Islamists, Wikipedia and Indian pseudo-liberals denying the existence of love jihad. The growing instances of love jihad have even forced several state governments in India to enact stringent laws to curb this growing menace.
4. Terrorism as Standard Tool
A lot has already been written and discussed about the state sponsored terrorism in Kashmir and other parts of the country for the last many decades. Currently, Pakistan is the international terror hub and the majority of terrorists wanted by India and other affected countries as also their permanent headquarters are located in Pakistan. Even al Qaeda leader Osama-bin-Laden responsible for the 11 September 2001 terror attack on the US was apprehended and killed by the US marines forces in May 2011 near Abbottabad cantonment right under the nose of Pakistani army. Needless to mention that the same terrorists and radical elements were responsible for killing, converting and driving out Hindus and Sikhs from the Kashmir Valley in 1990s. The arms, ammunitions, training and shelter to various terror groups is actively imparted by the Pakistani ISI and army under the political patronage, who often address them as freedom fighters devoted to the Islamic cause. The use of terror to kill, convert or drive out people from a defined territory has emerged as a standard tool of operation in the later part of the last century to achieve intended goal.
How the Indian Demography have Changed!
A review of the Indian demography reveals that the share of Hindus and other communities in India has constantly decreased while that of Muslims has considerably increased during the same period since Indian independence in 1947. The standard explanation given for the said demographic trend in India is that the Muslims could have up to four wives and consequently have more children which is responsible for a higher growth in Muslim population vis-à-vis other communities. High Muslim birthrates are also ascribed to Muslims being unwilling or less willing to adopt family planning norms and that Muslim women have a larger fertility period since they get married at a much younger age compared to Hindu women. The National Family and Health survey conducted in 1998–99 pointed out that average Indian Muslim couples consider a substantially higher number of children to be ideal for a family as compared to Hindu couples who preferred a small family for the better health and prosperity. Apart from this, the factors like the illegal immigration, conversions and love jihad too have their impact on total population.
The following tables indicates the relative growth of Hindu and Muslim population in India in since 1951 largely based on census data: The Table ‘A’ depicts the decadal growth of the two communities since 1951 in percentage terms while the Table ‘B’ depicts how the share of the population has changed in percentage terms during the same period.
Table 'A' - Decadal Growth (%)
Table 'B' - Total Population Share (%)
* Others include, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis, etc.
It has been noticed on many occasions that the Muslim community leaders, clerics as also common people oppose any move of the government for a realistic assessment of the population and associated social parameters for an effective implementation of various development and welfare schemes. The recent protests by the community over the implementation of the CAA, NRC and NPR could be cited as the case in point. Consequently, despite regular census after each decade, the data so arrived about the Muslim population remain shrouded under controversies. For instance, the total Muslim population in 2011 in India as per census data was 172 million and PEW Research has estimated it to be about 213 million in 2020. As against these estimates, the AIMIM leader Akbaruddin Owaisi claimed it to be 250 million in 2014, author Shakir Lakhani 262 million in 2017, Congress Legislature Arif Masood 250 million in 2020, and the absconding Muslim cleric Zakir Naik 300 million in 2020.
Varying estimates and controversies associated with the census data of Muslims only suggest that their actual number and percentage is significantly under-pitched and be actually more than the census data. Though the Indian Constitution put the citizens at the same pedestal irrespective of their religion, creed or caste; however, the Nehru government had promptly enacted Hindu Personal Law, Hindu Marriage act and such other laws in 1950s in the name of Hindu reforms, but he and his government consciously avoided taking any such step for the Muslims. Under Sharia Law, the conversion of Muslims to other faiths is forbidden and such converts are out rightly declared apostates. Many Muslim clerics equate this apostasy to treason, a crime punishable to death in Islam. However, the non-Muslims are permitted to convert into Islam and the clerics and radical elements take this provision as mandate to bring people from other communities under the fold of Islam. Undoubtedly, the constant declining population share over the decades is an alarm for the gradual obliteration of the majority community.
To be concluded in next part...
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