Kerala is sitting on a powder keg, according to reports of National Investigation Agency (NIA) which also says that the State has become a nerve centre for recruiting youths to terror outfits like Islamic State (IS). Militants are said to have planned suicide attacks in Kerala.
It was the Easter blast series in Sri Lanka by Islamic terror organisations and subsequent reports of some of the militants escaping to India that led to the NIA swoop down on these ultras leading to the arrest of four of them.
Initially, after the mayhem in Lanka, it was believed that terror outfit National Thawheed Jamaat was responsible for the massacre of more than 200 people. But subsequently, IS claimed responsibility and some of the culprits were believed to have escaped to neighbouring Indian States of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, resulting in the NIA arrests.
IS activism in Kerala has been on for quite some time. And the NIA's handling of the probe into the infamous Panayikulam SIMI camp resulted in the accused being acquitted after more than a decade.
On August 15, 2006, a group of youths came together for a meeting on ‘The Role of Muslims in India's Freedom Movement' at Panayikulam in Ernakulam district. But even before the meeting began, the police landed on the scene and claimed that on the basis of a complaint, the 18 youths present at the venue, they had to come to the police station.
Around this time, a few Hindu organisations had gathered outside the venue and finally a case of sedition was slapped on five of those present and 11 others faced other charges. Also, leaflets of the banned SIMI were said to have been found from them.
It took years for the probe by the local police and finally it was handed over to NIA in 2011.The trial began and the NIA court convicted five of them and acquitted 11. Finally, in April 2019, Kerala High Court acquitted the five too and said the NIA court committed serious error in convicting the accused.
But the case did put the State on the alert as slowly instances of Islamic terror activism started coming to light. In 2016, a group of five families left Kerala hoping to reach Islamic State territory via Afghanistan.
Two youths were nabbed from Kasaragod after the Easter blasts in Lanka, one from Karunagappally and another from Palakkad.Muhammed Faisal of Karunagappally and Aboobacker Siddique and Ahamed Arafat of Kasaragod were were said to be involved propagating and strengthening IS-related activities in the country, especially in Kerala. NIA claimed it had strong and concrete evidence of a suicide attack plan in Kochi. Similar attacks were planned in different crowded parts of the State.
NIA collected significant information backed with digital evidence from Riyas Abubakar of Palakkad and is said to have had links with Thowheed Jamath which is close to IS.Further arrests are expected after getting details of those who chatted with him on FB and other social media platforms.A camp of youths coñmmitted to IS activities was said to have been convened under the leadership of Riyas in Tamil Nadu some time ago.
NIA sources made shocking revelations. Two groups were engaged in recruiting youths and were led by Kasaragod natives Mohammed Sajjad and Mohammed Rashid. The two had through voice messages asked its supporters in Kerala to carry out blasts way back in 2017. They had recruited around 20 people from Kerala and had planned a major attack in Kochi. A suicide bomber was to drive a vehicle straight into a public gathering in Kochi. Fortunately, this failed.
However, the blame game has begun. NIA claimed details were passed on to the local police and little action was taken. Further, state police failed to take up leads from the failed Kochi attack plan for further investigation.
NIA sources said that those arrested admitted that they were inspired by speeches of Islamic scholars calling for attacks and one even claimed he was mentally prepared to take lead in such suicide attacks.
Youngsters and families, including children, were being recruited to IS and taken to Dubai and from there to Yemen and Afghanistan. Syria, which was the haven for IS activists, is no longer a safe den. It was recently that a woman who had gone to Afghanistan with her husband and child returned and sought police assistance for getting back her son from her husband's custody.
The threat is looming as there is a movement on to radicalise Muslim youths and lead them to jihads. The shocking findings of NIA need to be followed up by the local police force or else Lankan like disasters can happen in this State which has been among the centres for recruiting youths who are easy prey for such activities of religious intolerance.