Kicking up a debate, an influential Catholic Church in Kerala has said 'Love Jihad is a reality' and alleged that scores of women from Christian community from the southern state were being lured into the trap of Islamic State and used in terror activities.
The synod of Syro-Malabar Church, an apex body of Catholic Bishops chaired by Cardinal George Alencherry, also accused the state police of not viewing the matter cautiously and taking timely action in 'Love Jihad' cases.
Kerala Finance Minster Thomas Isaac said that the allegations of the Bishops have 'no factual basis'.
He said many such allegations had been levelled in the past, but government investigations had found no basis in it.
"If there are concrete cases or allegations, they will definitely be looked into.
"But the Kerala government does not believe that there is any basis for such generalisation," he told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram.
Denying the charges, the Popular Front of India (PFI), an Islamic outfit, questioned the 'timing' of the statement and urged the Church to withdraw it immediately 'as it would only help create division amid growing unity among various sections of society against Hindutva Fascism'.
The Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP) welcomed the Church statement and called for a united fight against 'Love Jihad' in Kerala Society.
An official of the Kerala State Women's Commission refused to comment, considering the sensitivity involved in the matter.
"There are circumstances in which Christian girls are killed in the name of Love Jihad in Kerala," the Synod has alleged in a statement issued through Syro-Malabar Media Commission in Kochi on Tuesday night, referring to the attacks against Christians across the world.
It termed as 'shocking' the killing of Christians in Nigeria on Christmas day.
The Synod said it was a matter of concern that Love Jihad is gaining grounds in Kerala putting in danger its social peace and communal harmony.
"It is a reality that 'Love Jihad' is happening in Kerala in a planned manner targeting Christian girls," it said.
The Synod, referring to a police record, said out of 21 people who were recruited into Islamic State terror outfit, half of them were converted from Christian faith and it should be an eye opener for the community.
Noting that unofficial accounts say many girls were being used in terror activities through Love Jihad, the Synod said it was a serious matter and such accounts state that Love Jihad is not only "in the imagination".
The Synod, however, said it was not assessing the 'Love Jihad' as an issue affecting the friendship between religions and urged the government to treat it as one related to law and order and not as a religious matter.
The Church demanded speedy action against the culprits involved in the 'Love Jihad.'
It also called for efforts to sensitise parents and children about the dangers of 'Love Jihad'.
The PFI, often being accused of playing key roles in alleged 'Love Jihad' cases in Kerala, claimed that the state police, after conducting a thorough probe, had earlier
submitted a report in the Kerala high court, stating that there was no cases of 'Love Jihad' in the state.
"The Church is raising such a baseless allegation at a time when the minorities including Muslims and Christians and the people of Hindu community are in a joint fight against the Fascist government at the Centre. Their untimely statement would only help divert the people's attention from the key issues that society is facing at present", PFI State President Naziruddin Elamaram told PTI.
Urging the Bishops to immediately withdraw the statement, he said, "I don't know what is their interest in making such a statement at this juncture."
Not a single Muslim community is holding 'Love Jihad' to increase the number of Muslims here, Elamaram claimed.
He, however, said there were instance of inter-religious marriages in Kerala in which Muslim girls marrying Hindu and Christian boys and Hindu and Christian girls selecting partners from the religions of their choice.
Such marriages cannot be termed as 'Love Jihad', he said.
Asked about the Bishops' allegations that Christian girls are targeted and recruited to Islamic State terror outfit, the PFI leader said not a single Muslim organisation in India have recognised the Islamic State and such recruitment should not be seen as part of a 'jihad' as doubts prevail in minds on who created the IS.
Former president of the VHP, S J R Kumar claimed that 'Love Jihad' exists in Kerala society.
He alleged that there were centres in Kerala to 'convert Hindu and Christian girls who are being lured into the trap of love by youths with criminal backgrounds'.
"We have brought this issue into the attention of the Kerala society much earlier. But nobody listened to us.
"Now, we are happy that the Bishops have realised the threat of Love Jihad. It is the time of a joint fight against this menace," Kumar told PTI.
He also alleged that Muslim men trap Hindu and Christian women into marriage and forcing them to convert to Islam.
"The converted Hindu and Christian girls are being used in drug trafficking and terrorism," Kumar said.