Operation Conversion Mafia: Kerala’s conversion factories unmasked

The PFI, already under NIA investigation, is accused of brainwashing Hindu women and marrying them off to Muslim men.

Sushant Pathak Jamshed Adil Khan

In public, it proclaims to be a champion of diversity and equality. Kerala’s Popular Front of India (PFI) has consistently denied accusations of religious conversions, hawala funding, murderous assaults and terror links.

The PFI, already under NIA investigation, is accused of brainwashing Hindu women and marrying them off to Muslim men.

“All these allegations are baseless,” claimed Zainaba A.S., the head of the group’s woman wing, on Monday, responding to accusations that she “mentored” non-Muslim women into conversions. 

She is suspected of playing a key role in what has come to be known as Kerala’s own love-jihad case — the marriage between Hadiya, previously known by her Hindu name as Akhila Asokan, with Shafin Jahan.

In May, the state high court annulled their matrimony after the woman’s father challenged it as an act of forcible conversion for terror recruitment.

The couple’s appeal is now being heard by the supreme court.

“I contacted Hadiya only after she came to (the PFI’s sister organisation) Sathya Sarani for admission. Actually, she embraced Islam two years before. In 2013, she embraced Islam,” insisted Zainaba on Monday. “It’s no love-jihad (but) an arranged marriage.”

But before Zainaba issued this denial relating to one high-profile case, she had already shared the PFI’s dark secrets with India Today’s undercover reporters. 

Herself a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, she was caught on tape how the Popular Front of India and its sister organization Sathya Sarani in Kerala’s Manjeri carried out massive conversions.

“(In) That institute of ours… around 5,000 people have converted to Islam over the past 10 years now,”  Zainaba revealed. They, she admitted, included both Hindus and Christians.

Conversions, an emotive issue in Kerala, are banned in Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha if carried out through force or allurement. Recently, Jharkhand’s assembly also passed an anti-conversion bill recently.

At their home in Malappuram, Zainaba and her husband, Ali, spoke candidly about their involvement in proselytising several non-Muslim women into Islam.

They didn’t speak specifically about the Hadiya case though.

“We had a schoolteacher with us. She was an M.Sc. in mathematics and B.Ed,” said Ali. “Now she’s converted to Islam. She converted four years ago,” added Zainaba.

“Did you proselytize her?” the reporter probed.

“Yes,” confirmed the PFI’s woman leader. “Four years ago.”

The converted woman was previously called Shubha, Zainaba disclosed. “She’s now Fatima.” “How many non-Muslims have you proselytized?” the reporter asked.

“There are many,” replied Zainaba.

She also explained the entire modus for proselytising, emphasising conversion centres have to disguised as charitable or educational establishments in order to prevent any backlash.

“We don’t have to officially declare it to be a conversion centre. It’s an educational institute,” Zainaba admitted. “A lot of preparation goes into it. We need resources. We have to create a trust first.”

She disclosed such secret centres have to have at least 15 members to qualify for registration as a trust.

“Later, we need to figure out a place for the campus. That campus should house all facilities, such as a mosque for namaz, accommodation, a well-furnished institute like this (Sathya Sarani),” Zainaba explained. “Then we have to get it registered by the government under the Societies Registration Act.”

Further, Zainaba revealed how the PFI outsourced name-change certificates after converting inmates.

“There are two ways. Getting a certificate from some institutes that such and such person has embraced Islam. Then there’s another system of having it notarized on a declared affidavit,” she said.

In its dossier, accessed by India Today, the NIA has also accused the PFI of terror links and hawala financing, charges the group has denied vehemently.

But a founding member of the PFI, whom India Today reporters met in New Delhi under cover, admitted that the organization aimed at creating an Islamic state.

Ahmed Shareef, the PFI’s founder member and the managing editor of its mouthpiece Gulf Thejas, also confessed to illegal funding.

“All over the world. That is the motive,” Shareef acknowledged when asked whether the PFI and Sathya Sarani worked on a hidden motive to establish Islamic state in India as suspected. “All over the world. That is the motive.”

“Islamic state is the final goal?” the reported probed.

“Final goal,” Shareef replied. “All over the world. Why only India? After making India an Islamic state and then they will go to other states.”

He also revealed how he raised funds for the PFI in the Middle East five years ago and sent them back home through hawala.

“At that time, (Rs) 10 lakh or something,” Shareef said.

“Ten lakh? And how you sent it?” asked the reporter.

“Hawala,” answered Shareef. He admitted both the PFI and Sathya Sarani received funding through mainstream as well as illegal hawala channels.


Ravishankar Prasad says PFI should be banned and these leaders should be prosecuted.

“Your investigation shows that there is a PFI, the Popular Front of India, which is having an organised racket employing people who are owning it up on your channel that they are creating a radical group by some kind of psychological brainwashing,” said law minister and BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad.

“These NGOs that profess that they stand for peace, profanity stand exposed today at your channel. That’s a great job you have done. My greetings and congratulations to you,” said Prasad.

“I have to point out that unfortunately none of the reporting that has come out in the papers, one finds that they haven’t caught the the gist of the argument which thankfully your channel seems to have through this entire exercise in a very very good manner caught,” said BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli.

“These are glaring and extremely worrisome trends showing there is a well oiled machinery and psychological kidnappings as Mr Manindar Singh told the Court and as the investigation is revealing. This is not an ordinary case,” said Kohli.

“Upper caste Hindus are harassing lower Caste Hindus, that’s why they are converting to Islam for equality, justice and peace nowadays. ISI members were found in Madhya Pradesh. BJP should be banned for that and the parent organization RSS should be banned. Also follow the Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel’s footsteps who banned RSS once,” said the media coordinator Islamic Research Foundation Ilyas Sharafuddin.

“If someone violates the law of the land he should be punished, Islam does not oppose that,” said AIIA president Maulana Sajid Rashidi.

Meanwhile, NIA is monitoring India Today expose Operation Conversion Factory. The agency wants India Today to provide complete recording of investigation.

Sources say NIA will probe findings of India Today Investigation.


Kerala’s Demographic Shift: Three Axes Of Change And Salafism- swarajyamag

On 14 June 2016, Krishnendhu R Nath, an Indian, now residing in Malaysia, was travelling in Kerala’s Malappuram district when she suddenly fell sick. Nath asked for lime soda. Her husband’s friend tried to buy it from a shop on the highway. The friend was told that it was a period when Ramzan fasting was on (the eighth day of the month) and no shop there could sell soda or any eatable for that matter.

Piqued, Nath herself went and asked a shopkeeper what his problem was in selling a lime soda or lemon juice during the fasting season. She wondered what travellers would do when they are not fasting. The shopkeeper politely replied that he was eager to supply, but his shop will be destroyed after that. Nath, who recorded her nightmare in a Facebook post, said that she got similar responses from other shops too, forcing her to wonder if she was in Saudi Arabia.

The stark reality in Malappuram — where Muslims make up 70 per cent of the population — is that it is not possible now for non-Muslims — Hindus or Christians — to open shops or restaurants during Ramzan and sell eatables. Former BBC journalist and director of South Asia Studies Project at Middle East Media Research Institute in Washington, Tufail Ahmed, recording his impressions in New Age Islam, says that local Hindus have been unable to protest and have willingly accepted their position as second-class citizens or ‘dhimmis’.

Things are changing in Muslim-dominated areas in Kerala. The month of Ramzan is now called Ramadan, as in Saudi Arabia, thanks to Gulf money and its influence. The traditional veshti and lungi are being replaced by Arabian gowns, and Muslim women in Kerala are now covering themselves fully with black burqa — with the Popular Front of India (PFI) gaining a strong foothold in Muslim-dominated areas.

The situation, experts fear, is bound to aggravate, given the changing demographics of Kerala. Statistics point to the emerging ominous trend. In 1901, Hindus, numbering 43.78 lakh, made up 68.5 per cent of Kerala’s population with Muslims and Christians making up 17.5 per cent and 14 per cent respectively. By the 1960s, the Hindu population dropped to 60.9 per cent, while that of Muslims increased marginally to 17.9 per cent. Christian population expanded to 21.2 per cent.

Since then, there has been a dramatic change in the composition of Kerala’s population. In the next decade, Muslim population grew at over 35 per cent, with that of Christians and Hindus registering a growth of about 25 per cent. The growth of Hindu population has been on a downhill since then, growing by a meagre 2.29 per cent between 2001 and 2011. The phenomenal growth of Muslim population has continued, though it slowed to 12.84 per cent in the said period.

Today, Hindus make up around 55 per cent of the population (55.05 per cent in 2011 Census), Muslims 27 per cent (26.56 per cent in the Census) and Christians 18 per cent. But there is another development that has taken place in 2016 – the number of Muslim births exceeding that of Hindu births.

According to the Kerala Department of Economics and Statistics, the percentage of Muslim births topped that of Hindus at 42.55 per cent in 2016. This means, of every 100 children born in Kerala, over 42 were Muslim, while the number for Hindu children was slightly lower at 41.88. In terms of real numbers, over 2.11 lakh Muslim children were born in 2016 compared with 2.07 lakh Hindu children.

A former bureaucrat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, says Muslims will make up 40 per cent of Kerala’s population by 2030 going by the current trend in births. “There are attempts to ensure that Muslims make up over 50 per cent of the population as soon as possible. That’s why you hear stories of love jihad,” the bureaucrat said. The rising Muslim population is only one aspect of a three-dimensional problem. This issue has hogged the headlines because it is so much visible that people have seldom taken note of the other two.

The second dimension of Kerala’s changing demography is the ageing population of the state. Nearly 15 per cent of the population is above 60 years of age. A study has found that since 1981 Kerala has been adding 10 lakh elderly people to its population every year. Kerala has seen a lakh people above the age of 80 being added in every Census since 1980 until 2001. In 2011, this increased to 2 lakh — compared with 2001.

A paper prepared by S Irudaya Rajan of Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram, and three others, says that age specific growth in Kerala has declined with the exception of 60 years and above. The most concerning aspect is that there is a negative growth in the young population of 0-14 years. And added to this, fertility and mortality rates have declined. The fact that there are 1,084 females for every 1,000 males is another problem that Kerala has to grapple with. This dimension then leaves Kerala to face the danger of having more elderly people in due course of time.

The third dimension of Kerala’s changing demography is increasing migration to Kerala. It all started at the beginning of the century when it had to bring people from the east and north-east to tap rubber in plantations. Local youth were reluctant to take up rubber-tapping due to a variety of problems, including finding brides. Later on, the state has had to depend on migrant workers to do carpentry, plumbing, construction and electrical works.

According to Gulati Institute of Finance and Taxation, in 2017 at least 35 to 40 lakh migrant workers could have been working in Kerala, though economic stagnation during 2017-18 fiscal could have resulted in some of them leaving. The state is also seeing over 20 lakh people migrating abroad every year and over 60 lakh people to other states.

Irudaya Rajan says in his paper that Kerala is bound to witness a negative growth in its native population. This means, migration is set to alter the composition of the population. The state needs these migrants in agriculture, services and construction sectors. As migrant workers are set to play a key role in Kerala’s economic growth, the change in the state’s demography could be sooner than expected. Along with Kerala, other southern states like Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are also likely to see a transformation in their demography.

Politically, the Muslim community seems to receive patronage under the regimes of both the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF).

With the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) calling the shots in the UDF government, its members got the key ministries, such as industries, information technology, electricity, education, panchayats and urban development. There is one advantage for the person who gets panchayat and urban/rural development as his/her portfolio. Most funds from Centre come to these ministries and the person in charge can utilise these to promote his/her party or personal agenda through schools and other institutions, including local bodies.

IUML walking away with panchayat and urban development portfolios helped it to look after its constituency of voters, mainly the Muslim community. So, most funds headed to panchayats controlled by IUML, with Muslim-run or dominated schools also getting a helping hand. In the current LDF cabinet, panchayats, rural and urban development are in the hands of A C Moideen, thus ensuring the Muslims continue to get priority in fund allocations.

Muslim domination in places like Malappuram, Kasaragod, Kannur and Kozhikode has left Christians worried too, as these districts are seeing young Muslims attracted to the extremist Salafist ideology. Two years ago, a procession taken out by Hindus to celebrate Krishna Jayanthi faced stiff resistance from these elements.

A Christian family in north Kerala says that non-Muslims in the region are more concerned over growing Salafism, with youth aggressively backing organisations like Islamic State (IS). In July 2016, 21 people left Kerala to join IS in Syria. All the 21 were well educated — some of them even doctors — and came from influential backgrounds. It later emerged that these 21 were promised ‘good postings’ in the areas controlled by IS.

At least four of the 21 are dead, while what happened to the other 17 is not known. Unfortunately, the courts aren’t viewing the issue with the required seriousness. At least two people who were deported to India from the war-torn areas controlled by IS have been acquitted by the Kerala High Court, which said that supporting such terrorist ideology is not waging a war against the state.

Love jihad and entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple are other issues that are seeing the changing demography and simultaneous appeasement by state government come into play with full force. In the Hadiya case, the Supreme Court failed to take note of a very important aspect. Hadiya was born Akhila Ashokan but converted to Islam. When she was under the care of a woman Zainaba, who has links with PFI, she was married off to a Muslim, Shafin Jehan. When Hadiya’s father petitioned the Kerala High Court, the marriage was annulled. But the Supreme Court overturned the ruling and allowed Hadiya to go with Jehan. How can a caretaker or guardian marry off a girl without informing the parents when it is not a case of love?

Amid the current controversy of women’s entry into Sabarimala temple, Rehana Fathima trekked up the hill in an attempt to break the age-old tradition, backed by the Pinarayi Vijayan government’s police. Unfortunately for her, the devotees held firm and the temple tantri, too, threatened to close the shrine, forcing her to back pedal.

So, Kerala is growing older, is witnessing more migrants coming in, and is growing more Muslim each decade. All of this, meanwhile, comes against the backdrop of appeasement politics of both the LDF and the UDF. And regarding appeasement, history is unambiguous — it only makes the aggressor more aggressive. If such is the state of affairs when Muslims make up less than 27 per cent of the population, what does Kerala have in store when that number goes above 30?


Collecting, translating, producing, and disseminating open source information that meets the needs of policymakers, the military, state and local law enforcement, operations officers, and analysts through-out Governments.
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