TP Senkumar, who stepped down as the head of Kerala’s police force a week ago, has stirred a hornet’s nest in the southern states by expressing alarm over the relatively higher fertility rate of Kerala’s Muslim community compared to others.
Quoting government of Kerala’s statistics, Senkumar pointed out that 41.5% of the children born in the state belonged to Muslim parents, even though the community made up only around 26.5% of the total population in the state.
According to government statistics for 2015, the number of children born to Hindu parents and Muslim parents in the state were almost the same, at about 2.2 lakhs, even though the number of Hindus in the state was nearly double that of Muslims (see chart).
The former state intelligence chief also said there was a coordinated move by Islamic forces to increase the number of followers of the religion by encouraging youngsters from the community to marry non-Muslims.
Given this, he asked, “what kind of (social) change is going to come (in Kerala) in the future?”
Senkumar expressed alarm over the spread of radical ideology in the state.
“The primary tool (used by extremists) is the concept of Jihad,” said Senkumar in his interview with PS Ramshad of ‘Contemporary Malayalam’ magazine.
“They teach that it is the duty of every Muslim to wage Jihad (holy war), and that Jihad means either converting or killing those who don’t follow Islam,” said the officer, who was at the helm of Kerala’s police force for two years.
Echoing the views of former Kerala chief minister VS Achyuthanandan, Senkumar said he was convinced that there was an organized movement to convert girls to Islam using young boys from the community.
“Many people are engaged in this. It’s not fiction,” he said, referring to ‘Love Jihad‘ or the targeting of Hindu and Christian girls by Muslim boys for marriage and conversion.
“If these conversion-marriages were happening purely on the basis of love, then we would find that the number of such conversions was the same for all communities, but that’s not the case. The numbers are lopsided,” he said in the interview.
He said the Christians in Kerala also engaged in converting others to their religion, but this doesn’t lead to similar clashes and controversies. “It’s because they are not doing it covertly through Love Jihad. They have an openness about it,” he said.
“It is important to speak some truths. We cannot keep applying ointment on the skin without addressing the underlying infection,” he added.
He said the state and the police have a limited role in preventing radicalization of the followers of Islam, and the major role has to be played by community elders.
“In his Ramzan speech, a cleric (in Kerala) was seen telling his followers that people are being killed for the sake of the cow. Such speeches will have tremendous impact. There should be action (within the community) against such speeches, and such stances must be corrected,” he said.
He also warned against justifying the acts of outfits like Islamic State by pointing to the acts of the RSS or Rashtreeya Swayamsevak Sangh — the ideological parent of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. He said the two were incomparable.
Senkumar’s statements have drawn the ire of Muslims across the state, while gathering support from some other corners.
Many Muslims have pointed out that they should not be blamed if Hindus and Christians choose to have fewer kids.
“We are ahead of you, because you are behind us,” said Facebook user Faisil Pachu in a widely circulated response, urging everyone irrespective of religion to have more kids.
The Christian and Hindu communities in the state have seen a steep decline in their fertility rates in the last three decades due to the adoption of the two-child norm.
However, this has also led to widening disparities in the population growth rates.
Some Church organizations have even gone to the extent of giving financial support to parents within the community for having a third and a fourth child.
Vellappally Nateshan, head of SNDP — which functions largely like a community organization of the state’s largest Hindu group Ezhavas — recently urged Hindus to have three or four kids to ensure that they did not become a minority. The comment provided fodder for satirical programs on Kerala’s television news channels for several days.
Like its fellow South Indian states, Kerala has largely achieved population stability, and the state’s population has stopped growing.
With increasing education levels, the state has also faced a shortage of cheap manual laborers. This shortage is currently being met by the influx of lakhs of Bangla-speaking Muslims to the state in recent years.