Islamic Terror Tentacles: Kerala Militants Fighting for Kashmir?

Animesh Roul

The identification of at least four slain Kerala based militants in Jammu and Kashmir early this month raises some vital questions about Islam and terrorism in India: What inspired Muslim youths of Kerala to fight for a cause alien to them and that to in a distant land? How far these Terror groups have penetrated into India's hinterlands getting easy recruits for their subversive activities?

Mohammad Fayaz and Abdul Faiz of Kannur; and Muhammad Yasir of Kochi and Abdul Rahim of Malappuram who have joined Lashkar-e-Toiba ranks recently, were killed in the encounters in Lolab valley in Kupwara district of J&K. The slain militants were trying to sneak into Pakistan for training.

It is common knowledge now that Pakistan based and J&K centric terror groups like LeT, Hizbul Mujahidin, and Jaish-e Muhammad have been trying to broad base their cadre strength by seeking recruits from various parts of the country especially from Uttar Pradesh, Hyderabad, Kerala, and Karnataka. The idea is to Indianize their (un)holy struggle with more Indian face. These groups always use the above mentioned places as hibernation ground or hiding place. In CTB, we discussed about this trend, especially the militancy situation in Kerala and how the territory has been used as a hibernation place for militants. Remember how the Kerala units of Hizbul Mujahidin issued a letter threatening to blow up the Kerala Assembly House to avenge the arrest of one Hizbul cadre in Idukki district of Kerala!

The State is also an active playground for the outlawed Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) cadres. Recently, on Oct 06, two suspected Students Islamic Movement of India cadres Abdul Hakeem and Shameer were arrested from Thrissur. Both have reportedly attended a secret SIMI camp at Panayikulam, Kochi in mid 2006. Again in 2007, a similar clandestine SIMI camp was organized at Wagamon.

Kerala State police succeeded in apprehending one Faisal on Oct 25 who recruited several youths and brainwashed them to fight and die for Islam and for so called ''Muslim Land''. According to his confessions, as many as 300 youths (mostly with criminal records) from Kerala have been recruited by various terrorist groups; the recruited youths have undergone initial indoctrinations in Hyderabad (India) and Bangalore and then traveled to Pakistan for further training.

Now the State police along with other intelligence agencies have initiated a three dimensional investigation: The suspected role of reformist/revivalist organizations (particularly Ahle Hadith and Tablighi Jamaat) in the indoctrination process, the role of pro-Muslim regional political parties and their student bodies; and last but not the least, the role of Kashmir trader networks in the State. There are cases where Islamists highlight the sufferings of Muslims in Kashmir, Chechnya and elsewhere to get Muslim youths to avenge the alleged ill treatment. If this was the reason for Kerala youths to reach Kashmir at the behest of ISI/LeT, then a dangerous trend is brewing in India and the days are not far when these inspired "recruits" would join Al Qaeda or like minded outfits and seen fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Author Note
Animesh Roul, Executive Director (Research), Society for the Study of Peace and Conflict, New Delhi.