Abandoning its long-held restraint when it comes to commenting on extremists originating from minority communities, the Kerala unit of CPIM has included warnings about ‘attempts to spread extremism’ among students belonging to Muslim and Christian communities in Kerala.
The warning, contained in this year’s guidebook for student leaders, was in addition to the traditional instruction to counter saffron extremists on campus, and a call to checkmate BJP’s attempts to use temples to push its ‘communal agenda’.
Nevertheless, this year’s handbook goes into territory that is usually avoided by the Left Front — right wing extremism among Muslims and Christians, and contains a chapter on ‘Minority Communalism’.
“The activities of the Sangh Parivar have led to insecurity among minorities. We must also acknowledge the fact that Muslim communal-extremist politics is trying to infiltrate into all Muslim organizations and create problems.
“We must realize that Jamaat-e-Isami, whose aim is to establish Muslim rule in India, is carrying out activities to leverage the current situation and spread its roots into the Muslim community and into [Kerala] society in general.
“They are trying to spread their ideology not only through Madhyamam [a newspaper controlled by Jamaat-e-Islami affiliates], but also through social media interventions.
“It is a matter of grave concern for us that Kerala is seeing the rise of opinion supportive of organizations like the Taliban, which is spurned not only by democratic forces across the world, but also by the majority of Muslims. Jamaat-e-Islami is focused on spreading its ideology.
“There is a conscious effort to attract young people towards communalism and extremist attitudes,” this year’s handbook said.
Interestingly, next line in the handbook seemed to bear out some of the allegations raised by some Catholic bishops and Hindu activists in the state around the topic of ‘Love Jihad’.
“There are conscious efforts centered on professional [engineering and medical] colleges to attract well-educated young women onto this path [of Islamist extremism],” the handbook said, urging student unions and youth organizations to be wary of this.
The handbook then went on to explain that Congress Party’s greed for power led it to ally with Jamaat-e-Islami’s political wing, Welfare Party, and that this alliance continues to hold good covertly and overtly even now.
“We must expose this these links [on campus],” it added.
The comments may reflect two trends within the Left establishment in the state — a growing wariness about the rise of pro-BJP sentiments among traditional CPIM voters — particularly young people — and the rise of non-upper caste leaders within the Left establishment.
The CPIM gets around 55-60% of its votes from OBCs and Dalits — two groups also targeted by the BJP.
While older generations within these segments still largely look towards the Left as a sane alternative to the upper-caste- and minority-dominated Congress party, many youngsters have ended up in the saffron camp via Sangh-affiliated student and professional organizations.
These youngsters tend to see the Sangh as the protector of their interests as Hindus.
The BJP’s fortunes have also been favored by an apparent increase in income disparity in recent years between the largely job-oriented Hindus on one side and the business-oriented Muslim and Christian communities on the other in recent years.
Finally, the rise of leaders from the lower strata of the society — such as VS Achuthanandan and Pinarayi Vijayan — has also made the CPIM more in touch with ground realities and ‘bahujan’ sentiments.
Earlier, the Left agenda was set almost exclusively by upper caste leaders from feudal and privileged backgrounds, who tended to be highly ideological, dogmatic and ‘secular’.
In fact, it was VS Achuthanandan — the first non-upper caste chief minister from the Left Front — who brought the touchy subject of ‘Love Jihad’ into Kerala’s mainstream political narrative.
In 2010, long before BJP leaders in the North had even heard of the term ‘love jihad’, CM Achuthanandan created a storm by saying his police is investigating whether there was an organized attempt to lure Hindu and Christian girls into Islam by entrapping them in romantic relationships. This, he said, was apparently being done by people who wanted to turn Kerala into a Muslim majority state.
Meanwhile, the Left’s abandonment of its traditional silence on minority-related extremism threatens to disrupt BJP’s biggest electoral plank in a state that is expected to see its Hindu population fall below the halfway mark in the next few years.
BJP tried, for several years, to destroy the Left’s goodwill among OBCs and Dalits and build a Hindu coalition to take on the Congress-led UDF, which is seen as dominated by Muslims and Christians.
However, the saffron outfit has had limited success in attracting OBCs and Dalits. At the same time, with Congress struggling, BJP is unexpectedly finding supportive noises coming from segments of the Syrian Christian community.
Church leaders have, in recent years, been vocal in expressing their fears around ‘love jihad’ and ‘population jihad’ and have also urged Christian families to have as many kids as possible. According to government figures, over 52% of the total babies born in Kerala are born to Muslim parents, which has led to rising discomfort among community leaders in other groups.