Clear and present danger in Kerala

Kerala was jolted by the terror lurking in its backyard for the first time in October 2008, when five youths from the state were killed in an encounter with security forces in Jammu & Kashmir. The state government and the police had then just woken up to the reality that terror had arrived in God’s Own Country.

However, little did they realise that much water had already flown under the bridge well before that incident thanks to the political deals struck by both the UDF and LDF with organisations of dubious repute overtly and covertly. The events of the past few months and police raids have now established that terrorism has taken roots in the state.

Kerala may have so far witnessed only a series of low intensity bomb blasts like the Kozhikode twin blasts and the Ernakulam civil station blasts. However, seizure of gelatin sticks, detonators and other materials for making explosives, hawala money and counterfeit notes have been frequently reported, even as recent as last week from Kannur.

It was the investigation into the recent barbaric chopping of the palm of a professor for framing a ‘provocative’ question about Prophet Mohammed that has unearthed a minefield of information. Pamphlets inducing hate, documents showing transaction of huge quantities of money, an al-Qaeda CD showing the brutal maiming of westerners et all have been seized from the houses of PFI activists. Four days ago, the brake pipes of a passenger train were found cut off at several places when it was stationed at Nilambur in Malappuram district.

PFI under scanner
At the centre of the emerging terror scenario are a clutch of organisations, primarily the Popular Front of India (PFI) which swears by the rights of Muslims, dalits and other minorities. The PFI is a confederation of three organisations — the Karnataka Forum for Dignity (KDF), the National Development Front in Kerala and Manitha Neethi Pasarai (MNP) in Tamil Nadu.

It was reported almost a decade ago when the NDF was formed that the organisation was imparting training to its cadres. Their involvement in the 2003 Marad killings is yet to be proven but strongly suspected as it was alleged at that time that NDF activists owned dual membership in the Indian Union Muslim League. However, there has been no concerted attempt to bridle the activities of the organisation.

In fact, the PFI and its precursor National Development Front (NDF) have been involved in many incidences of violence, instances of threatening police officials and campaigns for imposing dress codes for Muslim women.

“The ISI’s presence is also very much there in Kerala and its money is funding organisations here,” said Congress leader Aryadan Mohammed.

However, both the Congress-led UDF as well as the CPM-led ruling LDF had befriended PFI and the Jama’at-e-Islami overtly or covertly in the past. The NDF activists had campaigned for home minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan in his constituency Thalassery in Kannur when he contested the assembly elections in 2006. The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), a prominent constituent of the UDF, had held secret discussions a month ago with the Jama’at-e-Islami which created a big uproar in political circles.

Most of the youths who died in the Kashmir encounter were NDF activists and several of them who have now been arrested in connection with the Bangalore blasts are also connected with the outfit. PDP chairman Abdul Nasser Madhani who is accused of having influenced many Muslim youths to turn to the extremist path more than a decade ago may be a changed man now.

However, his past associations and followers who were led to extremism have been hounding him with the result that after being let off in the Coimbatore blasts case, he has now been chargesheeted in the Bangalore blasts case.

Clearly shaken by the new revelations, the Kerala government and Assembly separately discussed the growing menace of terrorism on Monday. A high-level meeting came to the conclusion that the palm-chopping incident as well as the attempt to sabotage the passenger train were the handiwork of terrorists.

This is the first time that the state has spelled out clearly that terrorists are indeed operating in its backyard. Certainly, many Malayalis who took pride in the fact that they have been insulated from the blasts and terror modules which have been active elsewhere in the country are now worried. God’s Own Country is no more a safe place.

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