Radicalisation is an issue that has plagued the Kerala youth community in the past few years. Youths from places like Palakkad and Kasargod are being influenced to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) and Al-Qaeda. These youths are influenced by books and speeches of radicals and by other radicalised youth. Social media too plays a big role in this. Messaging apps like Telegram have been used by members of these terrorist organisations to sway the minds of youths to “join the cause”. This was how Nashidul Hamzafar, a Wayanad native, was influenced to join the Islamic State in Afghanistan. He would have joined if it had not been for his timely capture by the Afghani authorities. After his deportation to India, he was questioned by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and it revealed exactly how the recruitment of the group works.
Hamzafar was influenced by other youths, some who were his friends, who had already joined the IS. He was studying in Bangalore and was visited by a Tablighi Jamaat teacher who talked to him about the “just cause” for which he had to give himself to. He also met Shihas and Bestin Vincent (later changed his name to Yahiya) who are now in Afghanistan with the IS. They helped Hamzafar travel to Afghanistan and arranged everything for him. Stories like these have sadly become more and more common in Kerala and the number of radicalised youths is increasing.
The recent Colombo bombings have been perpetrated by the IS operatives in Sri Lanka, and the IS operatives of Kerala have similar ideologies. The ideology of Zaharan Hashim, the supposed mastermind behind Colombo and that of Kerala Salafis are similar.
A study titled “Prospects of Daesh’s Expansion in South Asia” conducted by Abdullah Khan, the Managing Director of the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies says that Wilayat-e-Hind is the new chapter of the Daesh which is quickly attracting educated youth in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. It says that Kerala youths find the Islamic State more enticing than other groups. 54 people have joined the IS from Kerala in the last 3 years.
There are several reasons for this radicalisation. Organisations like the Popular Front of India (PFI) and Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) are strong in Kerala and receive a lot of political patronage. There has been a large Wahhabi influx from Saudi Arabia and their preachers have invested in new mosques where their ideologies are preached. Poster offering prayers to Ajmal Kasab and Osama Bin Laden could be seen during their deaths.
Radicalisation is increasingly becoming a danger for youths in Kerala. The government should take a closer look at the mosques in Kerala to see which is functioning correctly and which is not. Parents of youths should be made aware of the issue and should be given the ability to inform the authorities if they notice any radical behaviour in their children. As this is the youth of our country, the issue should be handled with more care. If the government is too authoritative then things could get worse.