Tensions are on the rise between the ruling CPI-M and the Social Democratic Party of India in Ambalapuzha in Kerala after Left activists were attacked, allegedly for arranging the wedding of a Muslim boy and a Hindu girl.
The SDPI is second only to the Indian Union Muslim League in terms of its vote-share and influence in the Muslim population in Kerala, a powerful community that accounts for about 28% of the state population.
SDPI positions itself as a champion of the underprivileged classes and a leading force against ‘Fascism’.
The fast-growing SDPI was seen as slightly supportive of the Left front in last year’s election as its main competitor, Muslim League, is a traditional component of the rival Congress-led United Democratic Front.
The latest incident, however, threatens to further accentuate the divide between the two parties that had started with a crackdown on Islamist evangelical activities in the state.
The incident relates to Ansil, who is a Muslim, and his wedding with a girl belonging to the Nair community.
The wedding was organized by the CPI-M and its youth wing, DYFI, on Aug 27. The Left parties in Kerala have a tradition of supporting weddings that face social opposition due to differences in the couples’ social backgrounds.
This enraged conservatives within the local Muslim community, who were allegedly led by a local SDPI activist.
They tried to dissuade the marriage that was taking place without the girl getting converted to Islam.
Ansil and his family were subsequently debarred from entering the local Masjid and local Muslims were warned not to attend the wedding.
The wedding, however, went ahead as planned with the strong support of the local CPIM cadre, and was attended by several Muslim families in the area as well.
This led to a flare up in tensions, and the SDPI installed a flag next to a CPIM flag at the local square.
SDPI also installed a banner in front of a banner installed by DYFI to congratulate the couple. The banner was subsequently moved away after the police intervened.
There were frequent arguments between supporters of both parties in the area, and subsequently, a CPIM worker complained to the police that SDPI members has made racial (caste) insults against him at a local teashop.
This led to some comrades filing a case against the activists at the police station. When they were on the way back from the police station after the complaint was filed, they were waylaid and attacked with knives and swords.
One person, Dileesh, sustained serious sword injuries to his head and his hand. The injured persons identified their attackers as Zafar Ali, Naufal, Savad, Sheraf, Nizam and Pasha, according to Deshabhimani daily, considered close to the ruling dispensation.
Another incident, involving an attack on Left activists with iron rods, was also reported on Sunday.
The version of events narrated by CPIM workers has been disputed by SDPI activists.
The Alleppey branch of the party said the communists were alarmed by its rising popularity and was using violence to crush its growth.
Tensions have been rising between the Left Front government and Islamic activists in the state.
The latest incident has added to worries that the state government is being ‘especially harsh’ on Islamists.
Islamist activists have been feeling uneasy after a local court annulled the marriage of a Hindu girl to a Muslim man after she converted to Islam, holding that the marriage was a sham intended to mislead the court.
The man, incidentally, also belonged to the SDPI.
This was followed by the arrest of Islamist evangelists near Kochi for distributing leaflets that characterized Hindu religion as false.
There were also reports that the state government is investigating ‘Love Jihad’ allegedly conducted by some Muslim groups.
The incidents have led to disillusionment about the Left government among hardliners.
In contrast, they now see the previous UDF government having been more sympathetic to ‘minority rights’. During UDF rule, the top three positions in the government, including the post of Chief Minister, were occupied by members of Christian and Muslim minorities.