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Kerala's Missing: 'They became extremely religious'

July 15, 2016 09:45 IST

ISIS flags

'If the missing people really had any contact with IS, it would be dangerous.'
'Majority of Muslims do not approve of this.'

The news of the disappearance of more than 20 people from various parts of Kerala in the last couple of months has shocked the state.

Eleven of them hail from Padanna, a small village in Kasargod. While those missing from Padanna are all Muslims, those from Thiruvanathapuram, Kochi and Palakkad are Hindu and Christian young men and women who converted to Islam.

The last message their relatives got from the missing 20 was that they were in Sri Lanka learning Islam. But recent reports suggest that they have moved to Syria via Tehran though the investigative agencies have not confirmed their final destination.

Kasargod MP P Karunakaran of the Communist Party of India-Marxist spoke to Rediff.com's Shobha Warrier.

Among the many young men and women reported missing from Kerala, 11 are from Padanna. As the MP from Kasargod, how do you see this?

The moment the issue came to my notice, I met Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and also sent all the details to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

I also met all the family members. What I understood was that there was not a single case against any of these youngsters and they were not involved in any unacceptable religious activities.

They were said to be very well-mannered, quiet people. They are all young men and women, and all of them are educated.

Some of them had gone to the Middle-East and come back, some had gone to have religious studies, but came back. Their families got agitated only when they left home and could not be contacted after that.

It is not yet confirmed whether they went to Sri Lanka or Tehran. Yes, there was a report that 12 of them left via Calicut airport. There was also a report connecting them to Bangalore and Mumbai.

We have not yet got any confirmed news on their alleged association with Islamic State. It is not yet known whether they left to have any connection with extremism or to engage in religious activities.

Since it involves the lives of so many young people, it is a matter of grave concern and the government is very seriously pursuing it. We know that it is a very serious matter.

Some of them messaged their families that they were going to Sri Lanka to study Islam...

I am told that they sent a message that they were in Sri Lanka and happy, and that they were not extremists. Some said they were in Tehran. But we are not in a position to believe those messages right now.

That is why I sent a detailed note to the Union home minister asking for a probe into the whole issue. This is not an issue where you can only talk about one religion.

It has become a matter of concern because so many people from one place are missing.

How did this come to your notice? Did the families contact you?

Though the news of their disappearance was known a while ago, when I was in Thiruvananthapuram, I came to know that they had sent messages to their families that they wouldn't come back at all only recently.

If they really had any contact with IS, it would be dangerous and we shouldn't be taking this issue lightly. But it is still not confirmed.

How worrying is it for you as the MP of the district from where so many people went missing? Like the terrorists we saw in Bangladesh, these young men are also from well-to-do families.

Yes, it is worrying. It is shocking to know that a doctor and his family left everything to disappear from there. I was told that all these people became extremely religious and started questioning the need to make money.

I arranged a meeting of all the families in Padanna. I don't want these families to face any isolation in society; after all, they are innocent family members.

It is said the transformation of these young men happened after they got in touch with a man who came to teach at the Peace International School there...

We hear so many versions these days, but we are yet to confirm any of them.

Till the entire truth is out, the whole issue is worrying for everyone. We have to know why they left Kerala.

If they left to have religious studies, we cannot do anything, but if they have gone to join IS, it is a matter of concern.

I feel one should not come out with any opinion on this issue until the police and the intelligence agencies come out with their conclusion. It is not right to do so.

Whatever facts we get from various sources, we pass them onto the agencies. Let them do a proper inquiry and tell us what happened.

Though the chief minister has warned against any Islamophobia in the state, do you think this can lead to such a situation?

I don't think so. All Muslim organisations in the state have come out quite strongly against what has happened now.

Majority of Muslims in the state do not approve of this.

It might not have come to anyone's notice if one person went missing from some place. This became big news because so many people disappeared from one place.

We should not look at this as a Muslim or a Hindu issue. We shouldn't blame any one religion for what happened.

Shobha Warrier / Rediff.com
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