Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the State Assembly on Monday that 21 persons declared missing in the State are suspected to be in the camps of the Islamic State (IS) in Syria or Afghanistan, as per news reports. They include 17 persons from Kasargod and four from Palakkad.
Responding to a submission by Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala, Mr. Vijayan said the issue had come to light after P. Karunakaran, CPI(M) MP in Kasargod, and M. Rajagopal, its MLA in Thrikkaripur, petitioned the Government on behalf of the kin of the missing.
Working with Centre
The Chief Minister said the State government would be uncompromising in its approach to terror, but observed that the State would not be able to tackle the issue on its own. But the State agencies would work in tandem with those of the Centre, he said.
Informed sources told The Hindu that the National Investigation Agency is expected to take over the probe after the State police register cases under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
“This is a very serious issue and it needs more clarity. Terrorism has no religion. Extremist activities cannot be attributed to any particular religion,” Mr. Vijayan asserted, cautioning against attempts by vested interests to whip up anti-Muslim feelings in the wake of the news reports.
In Kerala, indoctrination fears rule high
Reports of the possibility of 21 missing persons from Kerala have joined the Islamic State has set off ripples across the State.
On Monday, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) workers clashed with the police in Kasaragod outside a dental college.
The ABVP workers laid siege to the college, alleging that it was fomenting extremism, and blocked the adjacent National Highway.
The issue of IS links has also cast a shadow on religious schooling in districts such as Kannur. The media reports have raised concerns among Muslim parents with children in community-linked schools, with heightened fears of possible radicalisation.
“As a parent of two school-going children, the reports give me the jitters,” a 40-year old businessman told The Hindu.
He has not been sending his children to the local madrassa and ensures basic religious education at home for fear of indoctrination. He pointed out that it would be difficult to help them withstand peer pressure.
Scores of educational institutions promoting religious education along with English-medium normal schooling now dot north Kerala, besides kindergarten-type centers called Islamic pre-schools.
Of late, several Hifzul Koran (memorization of the Koran) institutions in and around the region are also drawing many children.
Hameed Chennamangaloor, the writer, and critic, told The Hindu that extremist outfits have been effectively using Internet-based media.
On the sidelines, the case of controversial tele-evangelist Zakir Naik is now emerging as a focal point amid the turmoil.
Sources say leaders of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), which had resolved at its State committee meeting in Kozhikode on Sunday that Naik was being wrongly painted in extremist colors, had to ride down opposition from a section in the party to that official line. The dissenters had called for restraint till the probe on Naik was completed.
Dr. Naik found backing from other sections too. A joint secretariat meet of Kerala Nadvathul Mujahideen (KNM), Ithihadu Shubbanil Mujahideen (ISM) Mujahid Students Movement (MSM) and Muslim Girls and Women’s Movement (MGM) have termed the attack on him a part the move by the BJP-led union government to “decimate” Islamic institutions.