It could have gone down in records as yet another encounter between the Pakistan trained terrorists and Indian jawans in Kashmir but the one that took place in Kupwara on October 5, 2008, had one major difference. The two terrorists shot dead were from distant Kerala — Mohammed Yasin (born Varghese Joseph) and Thaikkandi Fayas. Five days later, in another encounter in the nearby Lolab forest, another two terrorists of Kerala origin — Abdul Hamid and Mohammed Faiz — were among three killed. Abdul Jabbar, who escaped on that occasion, was picked up later in Kerala.
The trail of those two encounters led to the busting of fidayeen recruitment camps in Kerala and exactly five years on, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) special court in Kochi has sentenced 13 convicts in the terror recruitment case to life imprisonment. The alarming aspect about Kerala jihadis is that it is not poverty or alienation that drives them. Despite ample space for social and political expression, the home-grown jihadis continue to be injected with doses of religious extremism. While seeking solutions to counter this dangerous mindset, an approximation of an answer can be heard in the statement made by Safiya, mother of Thaikkandi Fayas: Those who took my son to his death deserved to die.
The extent of the cancerous growth of jihadi culture in the fertile grounds of Kerala has become evident with the NIA’s disclosure that around 180 persons in Kerala were ready to join the terror network. Hence, it is not surprising that the NIA termed Kerala a “red zone” rife with “sleeper cells” ready to get activated. Terror cases are on the rise in Kerala with NIA zeroing in on seven clear-cut cases in the state in the past seven years. It is time to act and dispel the impression that terror cells are being protected in the name of political expediency.