After farmer, pilgrims, including  five women, go ‘missing’ in Israel

The state police chief has constituted a special team to probe the case.   
Image for representational purpose only. (Express Illustration)
Image for representational purpose only. (Express Illustration)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Six Malayalis who were on a pilgrimage to Israel have been reported missing by their tour coordinator. The missing persons, all aged above 50, absconded during the trip, according to a complaint submitted to state police chief Anil Kant. The incident comes just days after a Kannur-based farmer reportedly went missing during a state-sponsored trip to the same country.     

Fr George Joshua, who led the group of pilgrims, told mediapersons here that five of the missing are women. The pilgrimage covering multiple countries entered Israel on February 11. Three persons went missing on February 14 and the rest on the 15th. Three of them hail from Thiruvananthapuram, two from Kollam and one is a native of Idukki, currently residing in Varkala.

Fr George suspects a conspiracy behind the incident. “Those absconding may have received assistance from people living there. All of them left their luggage at the hotel,” the priest said. He filed a complaint with the Israeli Immigration Police on February 15.

I have been organising trips to the Holy Land since 2006 and this is the first such incident, he said. The priest said the state government was in the clear in the case of the missing farmer. “They [missing persons] make us believe that they are genuine,” he said. The state police chief has constituted a special team to probe the case.   

Govt to trace Biju

The state government is taking steps to cancel the visa of Biju, the Iritty-based farmer who went missing during a state-sponsored trip, Agriculture Minister P Prasad said. The government is duty bound to track him and bring him back to Kerala, he said.   

Biju was part of the 27-member delegation sent by Kerala government to Israel to study modern farming techniques. He went missing from the hotel where they were staying on February 17. The delegation led by Agriculture Secretary B Ashok returned to Kerala on Monday. The minister said Biju’s family members have not lodged a formal complaint.  

Prasad said state-sponsored study tours will not be scrapped because of this incident. The minister said he will also join such trips if he gets the time. The minister rejected the allegation that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan directed him not to join the Israel trip. He did not go because of the budget session. Israel was suggested by farmers during the interactions he had with them, he added.

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The New Indian Express