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Indian Jews: The Minority Community retains its unique Religious Identity for 2,000 Years

Indian Jews are the only Jews throughout the world who have never encountered any form of racial discrimination since the 2 millennia.

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Indian Jews in 1905. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
  • The Indian Jews is an ancient and sparse community and was given the official minority status by the Maharashtra state government on June 21, 2016
  • Out of 4,650 Jews in India, Maharashtra is home to 2466 Jews
  • This community is made up of three traditional communities who settled in the West, South and the East coast of India

The Indian Jews is an ancient and sparse community that was given the official minority status on June 21, 2016, by the Maharashtra state government. Maharashtra is the second state to give this official recognition to Indian Jews after West Bengal, as it was necessary for the very survival this community due to its precarious condition. Out of 4,650 Jews in India, Maharashtra is home to 2466 Jews, mentioned a leading News portal.

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However, in the post-independence era, Jewish population always revolved around 5000 due to the large-scale immigration during the 1950s and 1960s to Israel. Therefore, being recognised as a minority will help Indian Jews to retain their religious and cultural traditions, and their unique heritage on the Indian subcontinent. This present recognition has raised the community’s hopes of being recognised as a minority by the central government.

Indian Jews are the only Jews throughout the world who have never encountered any form of racial discrimination since the two millennia, mentioned firstpost.com. This community is made up of three traditional communities who were settled in the West, South and the East coast of India.

With numerous tale of displacement from their native land, their settlement in India as well as their migration to Israel and the West; there exist several distinct communities of Jews. But all of these communities arrived in Indian Subcontinent by sea or came as maritime traders and in the end settled here.

The Paradesi Jews

India’s Jewish legacy is popular among the world because of foreign Jewish community of Kochi and their attractive 500-year-old synagogue at Mattancherry. Author Salman Rushdie in his novel “The Moor’s last Sigh” extolled the beauty of Synagogue and mentioned that “Legends had begun to stick to them. Some said that if you explored long enough/ You’d find your own story…because pictures on the tiles could change, were changing, /Generation by generation, to tell the story of the Cochin Jews.”

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However, Paradesis are the smallest group in comparison to the Cochini Jews and never exceeded 200 individuals.

The Paradesi Jews came to the Malabar Coast in waves- as traders and some to escape persecution from the Spanish Inquisition in the domain of the rajah of Cochin during the 14th and 15th centuries. This fair skinned and light- eyed community were from Baghdad, Yemen, Kurdistan, Spain, Germany, and Portugal, mostly belonged to the trading families.

A map of India, showing the main areas of Jewish concentration.
A map of India, showing the main areas of Jewish concentration, Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Today, Jew Town is overrun by shops selling tourist- souvenirs, books, and antiques, since the synagogue and the nearby royal temple and the “Dutch” Palace are the main the tourist spots.

The propinquity of these two heritage sites, they share a common compound wall, indicates the respect for the Paradesis in the eyes of Rajahs of Cochin.

The rule of the Dutch East India Company(1663-1773) was the golden era for this community. Especially, when Ezekial Rahabi II (b.1694-d.1771) became the chief merchant of the company whom the Dutch negotiated with the Rajah of Cochin.

Malabari Jews of Kochi are probably the oldest community of Jews in India, and today only 20 individual exist from this community. They came to the Indian subcontinent around 68CE. about the same time that the Bene-Israel Jews of Maharashtra’s Konkan Coast were shipwrecked at Navgaon (south of Mumbai).

The sasnam (grant) inscribed on the Jewish copper plates gives the principality of Anjuvvanam (now Kondungallur), with its 70 villages and its revenue, to Joseph Rabban and his family in perpetuity. There are some evidence that they belong from the Chera period of the 10th century.

It is this principality of Anjuvannam, close to the ancient entrêport of Muziris (where there is an ongoing Archaeological Survey of India excavation), which is the legendary medieval Indian Jewish kingdom of Shingly. This kingdom existed is reiterated by a body of Hebrew songs composed during the period Anjuvannam and after its abandonment, and almost until the 17th century, it was known as the Shingly tunes.

To keep this joyous legacy alive, both Cochini Jews and Malabar Jews sing Shingly tunes on several religious occasions.
During festivals like Simchat Torah, the theme of royalty is played by Cochin Jews and Torah scrolls are carried in seven circuits within the Synagogue, according to the tradition. A royal procession is also held in the compound of the synagogue.

This is also a day of mourning for Jews all over the world, as on this very day it is believed that the First and the Second Jewish temple in Jerusalem were destroyed.

The Jews of Cochin

The fusion of the distinct histories of the Malabar Jews and Paradesi Jews is exemplified in the Paradesi (Mattancherry) Synagogue, where the foundation stone of the first Synagogue in cochin was built by the Malabar Jews in the year 1344.

Migrations from the Malabar Jewish Community to Cochin is believed to have started in 1341, and integrated with the constant decline of Anjuvannam (Shingly), and got settled in the vicinity of Cochin at Ernakulam, Parur, Mala, Chendamangalam, and Mattancherry. The last named though associated with the Paradesis was originally founded by settlers from Anjuvannam — Samuel Castiel, Joseph Levi, David Belila, and Ephraim Sala.

Just like the Paradesis, the Malabar Jews too were faithful to the Perumal royal family of Cochin because of their religious tolerance and protection of Jews. This community consists of small traders, oil pressers and stevedores, suppliers of foodstuffs to ships that anchored off Cochin.

During the formation of the State of Israel in 1948, a strong Zionist vehemence to return to the native land grasped the minds of this community. The entire community, like the Jews of Malabar, started migrating to Israel and decided to settle in agricultural settlements. The Paradesi Jews also immigrated themselves to Israel, settling in the cities of Tel, Aviv and Haifa. Now, this Jew community consists of a large number of professionals, like doctors and engineers.

To protect and preserve the unique culture and heritage of Indian Jews community, Kerela state government has also given them the status of the minority as this community has retained their unique religious identity in India for 2,000 years.

– prepared by Akansha Sharma of NewsGram. Twitter: Akansha4117

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‘Janaraksha Yatra Kerala’ Witnesses escalating BJP-Left Confrontation

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Amit Shah, President of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Amit Shah, President of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Wikimedia

Hurling anti-left maneuver during Janaraksha Yatra Kerala, Indian BJP National President Amit Shah launched serious allegation against the ruling CPM government for triggering political violence and imputed to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan the culpability for the mass killings of party workers in the state.

The BJP Chief traced back the origin of violence-centric politics in ”God’s Own Country” to the inception of the Communist regime. “Left always paralyses the state it rules. West Bengal and Tripura witnessed similar political vehemence under the CPM government”, elucidated the President.

Criticizing the Human Rights Activists of the nation, Amit Shah pointed out that they are very selective when it comes to what they support. “You turn your eyes away when our workers die. Why is there no march in Delhi? Violence has no color. More than 120 workers of the BJP have succumbed due to political violence so far. What was their fault? They were working for the betterment of Kerala”, complained the BJP Chief.

Acclaiming BJP’s ideology enthusiastically, Shah called upon the people to join as workers. Addressing the gathering at ‘Janaraksha Yatra Kerala’, the President added that family members of the deceased have stood by the BJP and he wouldn’t let the martyrdom of the workers go waste.

Amit Shah inaugurated the ‘Janaraksha Yatra Kerala’ at Payyannur to protest against alleged killings of party workers. The “padayatra” was led by the party’s State President Kummanam Rajashekhharan.

The National President of BJP attributed the diminishing power of the CPM to their increasing reliance on political violence. Apart from CPM, the once dominating Congress is also losing momentum thereby giving BJP the opportunity to flourish with their ideology. “More the mud of violence, more the lotus will bloom” added Shah.

The BJP Chief assured his party workers and volunteers that BJP would fight the war with CPM until emerging victorious. Shah declared, “We must all unite against the rule of the Left Government.”

Shortly after the launching of the yatra, three BJP workers adorning the National Highway 66 were ambushed by anonymous men on Monday. During his address, Shah alleged that the assailants were CPM cadres who have also destroyed BJP flags in the area.

Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is ready to augment the saffron stand with his visit to Kerala on Wednesday. As per the report of Times Now, Adityanath will basically be in the Muslim-dominated district of Mallapuram.

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Kerala Catholic Priest Tom Uzhunnallil Abducted by ISIS Rescued from Yemen: Sushma Swaraj

The priest's release was achieved through the intervention of the Oman government

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Kerala Catholic priest Tom Uzhunnallil
Kerala Catholic priest Tom Uzhunnallil. Sushma Swaraj Twitter handle

Thiruvananthapuram | New Delhi, Sep 13, 2017: Kerala Catholic priest Tom Uzhunnallil, abducted by terrorists in Aden in March last year, has been rescued from captivity from an undisclosed location in Yemen.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted about the release of the Catholic priest, who was abducted in March last year.

“I am happy to inform that Father Tom Uzhunnalil has been rescued,” she said.

The priest’s release was achieved through the intervention of the Oman government.

According to reports reaching Kerala, after his release the priest was flown from Yemen to Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman.

He has left Oman on a chartered flight — either for New Delhi or for the Vatican, reports said.

The media in Oman confirmed the news of the release of the priest and posted a picture of him — standing in a room with the picture of the Oman king in the background.

He will be flown to Kerala later in the day.

Expressing happiness at the news, the priest’s brother Mathew Uzhunnallil said their prayers have been finally answered.

A spokesperson of the church Fr C. Jimmy told the media that the news has been received with a great sense of happiness.

In March 2016, militants barged into a care home for the elderly set up by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in Yemen’s Aden and shot dead many people, including four nuns of the charity organisation, among whom one was from India.

After the shooting, the militants took away the Catholic priest. Since then, other than a few videos released from time to time, there has been no news of his whereabouts.

Uzhunnalil’s ancestral home in Ramapuram in Kottayam district is presently shut as two of his brothers live abroad, while another lives in Gujarat. (IANS)

 

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Is There a Pattern in Love Jihad Cases? Hindu Girl Elopes, Gets Converted, Marries Muslim Man

The agency on Wednesday claimed that the Love Jihad campaign is following a 'pattern' that has been emerging in Kerala

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Love Jihad
Pakistani Hindus Girls undergo forcible conversions in Pakistan

August 17, 2017: A Hindu girl, Ravita Meghwar living in a village in Pakistan for 16 years was recently married off to a Muslim Man. The family members of the Hindu girl believe that the kidnappers drugged them and abdicated their daughter. Ravita who was rechristened to Gulnaz says she eloped and married by her own choice.

In the recent years, case after case has been reported of Hindu girls converting to Islam in the courts in Pakistan’s southern eastern Sindh province which is also the home to the majority of Pakistani Hindus. Lower-caste and low-income Hindus in Sindh work on farmlands for powerful, rich landowners as a result of which they face discrimination and are often cut off from the Hindu community at large.

The purportedly forcible conversions of Hindus have almost similar pattern in the cases. Targeting of minor girls has deeply disturbed the Hindu population in Pakistan.

The alarming situation feeds into a wider judgment-

After 70 decades of Partition of Indian Sub continent, Pakistan isn't safe for Pakistani Hindus. Click To Tweet

Today Pakistan is deemed as an Islamic nationalist state where hardline religious groups are an intimidating force, and religious minorities are voiceless.

Pakistan was established as a Muslim state in 1947 where the country’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah proclaimed that the religious minorities should have the independence to live in the nation and follow their religion, however, as the time elapsed such has not been the scenario

The prominent Islamic religious organizations are striving hard to convert Hindu girls to Islam due to which some Hindus are leaving their settlements and migrating to other cities in Pakistan, or even so leaving Pakistan completely and departing to India. The community of Hindus in Pakistan has sharply declined from roughly 23 per cent in 1947 to barely 6 per cent presently owing to coerced conversions, suppression and oppression in Pakistan, mentioned ANI.

Ravita Meghwar’s brother-in-law, Lajpat Meghwadh says with respect to the issue, “The person who Ravita has gone off with has no connection to the family, except that they had a dispute. He has never come to our house”.

There are two contradictory perceptions from both the religious groups- while the Hindu activists claim that young girls are kidnaped, forced into converting to Islam, and wedded to Muslim men in an orderly manner, the Muslim leaders are defensive about the issue saying that conversions are a way of meriting blessings. Shockingly, these conversions are often strengthened by powerful muslim clerics and local politicians which assert that the girl voluntarily flew, converted, and married.

This poses a hurdle for lawyers who have to decide the justice for such cases. And in most of the cases, the girl’s assertion to marry at her own will settles the case, whereas her parents live in denial.`

Forced conversions became the focal point of the nation in 2012 when three Hindu girls were reported to have been forcibly converted to Islam and married to Muslim men.

Before we know what those cases were, here is a brief understanding of ‘Love Jihad’:

Where did Love Jihad come from?

In Islam, ‘Jihad’ typically means struggle or battle for a religious cause. Hence, ‘Love Jihad’ basically is a push to instill infatuation in girls of religious minorities by feigning love and hopes of marriage. In 2009, there were claims of forceful religious conversions in Kerala and Mangalore. In 2009, Justice KT Sankaran (Retd.), observed there were indications of forceful religious conversions in Kerala and that the government should mull over a law to prohibit such instances. “Under the pretext of love, there cannot be any compulsive, deceptive conversion,” the court said.

Some of the famous cases of Love Jihad: 

In 2014, a case of Kaleem and Shalu Tyagi’s love affair from Meerut caught national attention which was pitched as a case of ‘Love Jihad’.

In the same year, another famous case where a national-level shooter Tara Shahdeo alleged that the person whom she thought to be a Hindu was actually a Muslim and that her in-laws were coercing her to convert to Islam.

This year, again with the Hadiya case, ‘Love Jihad’ came into recognition. The Kerala High Court declared the marriage of a Hindu girl and Muslim man null and void after the woman’s father testified that his daughter has been recruited by Islamic State (IS) in Syria. After this, the Muslim husband approached the Supreme court seeking justice. On Wednesday, NIA stated that ‘Love Jihad existed’ in a response to SC orders. The agency further claimed it was not a distinctive incident on the part of Love Jihad campaign but a ‘pattern’ that has been emerging in Kerala, mentioned PTI.


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