From literacy to primary health care, the southernmost state of Kerala has over the years been a source of envy for the other states of the Indian Union. But it has been leading the nation in yet another field?the growth of Islamic fundamentalism.
Forget the Moplah riots of the past, the Marad massacre, the victory of extremist groups, led by people like the key accused in the Coimbatore blasts Abdul Nasser Madani, in the recent Assembly polls and the rising fundamentalistic activities are indicators of the country'smost literate state fast becoming the hotbed of Islamic terrorism.
While the so-called progressives have been dismissing such elements as fringe groups, some recent incidents in the otherwise secular haven are indications of the subtle but increasing influence of these hardliners in the large number of Islamic institutions spread across the state.
After opposing the recital of national song Vande Mataram, which had inspired millions of Indians to rise against British imperialism, and targeting Onam, perhaps the most secular festival in the country after Republic Day and Independence Day, the hardcore Muslim fundamentalists in the state recently attacked a fellow believer for having dared to unfurl the tricolour at the Madrasa he taught.
Mujeeb Rehman was attacked on September 3 for unfurling the tricolour on Independence Day and not succumbing to the pressures of a section of fellow-Muslims who stoutly opposed it.
?Once you dare to do this here, tomorrow you will do the same in the mosque also,? the assailants told Mujeeb as they beat him black and blue. Mujeeb should have known that the green flags atop mosques across the country strikingly resemble the Pakistani flag, to which the Mullahs have no objection whatsoever.
Writhing in pain in his bed at the Manjeri Taluk Hospital in the pre-dominantly Muslim district of Malappuram, Mujeeb told reporters that though opinion was divided on the issue (unfurling the national flag) among the followers, the majority of them was in its favour.
?But after the attack, they all vanished into thin air, leaving me alone?, he said.
Not wanting to pick up a fight with the fundamentalists, Mujeeb did not file any police complaint but the incident became the talk of the town after he vomitted blood and had to be hospitalized again.
Though Police have registered a case against six of the goons, they were still in the process of ?examining Mujeeb'scomplaint.?
After all, in a state where arch rivals, the Congress-led United Democratic Front and the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front, had the audacity to come together ahead of the Assembly elections and pass a unanimous resolution in the Assembly demanding Madani'srelease, one cannot expect much from the Police.
However, the silver lining among the dark clouds is that Mujeeb does not regret his actions. He continues to believe that he did the right thing despite his friends and colleagues not supporting him. Mujeeb represents the miniscule but growing tribe of nationalist Muslims, who have realized the futility of vote bank and divisive politics and the importance of being the inheritor of a centuries-old legacy.
Earlier this month, the Muslim management of the AWH Engineering College at Kuttikattoor in the pre-dominantly Muslim Kozhikode district decided to prohibit Onam celebrations on the campus.
Kerala'srenowned harvest festival has always been cited as a symbol of the state'ssecular character as it has for centuries been celebrated by Hindus, Muslims and Christians alike despite its Hindu origins.
The incident came to light even as reports poured in from Agra about an enraged Muslim father disowning his son and divesting him of his family property for committing the grave sin of singing ?Vande Mataram?, which was ?un-Islamic?.
It remains to be seen whether a property dispute is being given a ?patriotic? colour but here too the ray of hope is that the boy'smother has backed her son to the hilt and asserts there is nothing wrong in singing the national song.
Another disturbing trend which came to light in the last few days is the aggressive conversion attempts being made by Christian institutions. Prompted and encouraged by the anti-Hindu and pro-minority stance of non-BJP governments at the Centre and the states, these institutions are blatantly indulging in religious propaganda.
Lucknow'sprestigious Loreto Convent recently organised a date with Lord Jesus Christ which led to several students fainting and horrified parents questioning the school'swisdom and motive behind it.
The school Principal, a dozen staff members and about 250 girls from Class VIII to XII were privy to the ?special? occult session that had a medium ?transforming? into Christ and blessing them. A dozen students fainted while some others required medical attention. Most of the students were either too horrified or shocked to narrate the experience.
The innocent children, mostly non-Christian, were exposed to a demonstration of the little-known Chandra cult based in Krishnagar, West Bengal.
The cult is headed by Nobo Kumar Mandal, a rickshaw-puller patronised by the Murshidabad-based Catholic priest Father Sebastian Kuzhipala. Father Sebastian and Sister Monica, the school'sPrincipal, conducted the show where Mandal served as the medium to bring Jesus to ?heal and bless? the gathering. Mandal is said to gone around grunting and growling, making hissing sounds while ?inducing? Jesus to enter into his body.
?It is not unusual to be terrified when the Lord comes before you. Even I was frightened?it is very painful when Jesus enters the body. That is why he was writhing on the ground?, explained the Principal.
The aforesaid incidents, one hopes, would serve as eye openers for the so-called secularists who continue to insist that Madrasas are not ?anti-national? and that the Christian-run schools are progressive.