Kerala Muslims, ISIS and Indian Media’s Communal Concoction

Sahla Nechiyil

On last Saturday, 9.7.2016, almost all the local and national newspapers of Kerala edition had two lead stories; the one that of the financial budget of newly elected LDF government and the other on the expose of alleged recruitment to ISIS from Kerala. Some Keralites, apparently Muslims, found missing and it was easily assumed that they might have joined IS (Islamic State). Despite the lack of evidence and detailed investigation, national newspapers have cunningly fabricated this news. By deliberately ignoring the facts and findings of Investigation agencies, national newspapers have maliciously framed their own stories as a way of spreading Islamophobia. Let us have a glance at the reportage on the issue of some of the national newspapers such as The Hindu, The New Indian Express and Times of India.

On the very first day, when 15 Keralites found missing, The New Indian Express published a confirmed report that the missing have joined IS and quoted the ADGP North Zone Sudesh Kumar, saying they are in the final process of verifying details. Subsequently,Loknath Behra, the state police chief declined all the rumours about Keralites’ IS recruitment discerning the media interest and knowing the obscurity of the incident. This official move, which had the potential to weaken the market value of this news, was reported by a very few local newspapers. When all the national newspapers united in maintaining the ‘terror’ in the air by neglecting this official disclosure,The Hindu showed a minimum decency with its report. But interestingly, a emboldened caption; ‘State serious on IS issue: CM’, was cleverly composed for this report in an attempt of keeping the momentum and saying that the issue is real.

While turning a blind eye towards this official disclosure, Express put one step ahead of Intelligence and other investigation agencies as they found that fresh recruits to IS has been happening over a year in Kerala and it’s the state machinery who caught napping.

“Though intelligence agencies are yet to find definitive leads in their effort to trace this terror group operating in the State, Express has found out from the family members of some of the fresh recruits that all missing persons were very close to one another and their activities were being coordinated by the leaders of the terror group during the last one year in preparation for their jihadi trip to Syria.”  

Now, an ‘in-depth’ work done by Times of India is amazing as they dug out the banned and not-banned Muslim organizations and political parties pointing that they might have a link with the extremist groups. Despite the official findings which prove that the missing persons were not part of any so called organization, Times wanted to put the whole Muslim community under suspicion.

“State and central intelligence agencies have decided to probe whether sleeper cells of banned outfits have any role in the recruitment of youth into the IS. “People who were supporting the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and its former members who have crossed the age-limit of 30 are now currently members of several other organizations. Activities of such people would be monitored in the wake of recent developments. They might have knowledge about the inside operations of extremist organizations,” said an intelligence officer. After SIMI was banned, many supporters of the outfit in Kerala had joined the Popular Front of India and the National Development Front.  A few also joined the Peoples Democratic Party floated by Abdul Nasser

Throwing a serious neglect towards the findings of state police, Express chased the former DGP Jacob Punnoose disclosing that he ‘admits’ jihadi terror is a reality after 18 years of his retirement. But, while reading the report, you can’t find any new ‘admit’ other than the repetition of what he has been saying for years, which was severely criticised by state investigative machineries themselves. In an addition to this, Express came up with conversion stories which is completely out of context and lacked authenticity. The story starts as follows:

“There may not be any direct correlation between the number of conversions taking place in Kerala and the recent expose on alleged recruitment to ISIS from the state. But the fact remains that there have been close to 900 conversions to Islam in 2015 alone”

In fact, Express itself warns the readers not to be logical and says it is not necessary to have connection with the stories. Rather, any story which is smacked with an anti-Islam attitude can be placed on the front page as a lead news.

On 12th July, an imparted meeting by Intelligence Bureau was held in Delhi, reassured the absence of evidences confirming the IS recruitment of Malayalees. Look at excerpts from a local newspaper, ‘Madhyamam’;

“The high-ranked officials from RAW, I.B and NIA, police teams from various states and other officials of secret investigation agencies were present at the meeting.“ The issue that Keralites found missing has been seriously discussed in the conference. But,no evidence confirming their IS relation was available thus far”, said R. Sreelekha, Kerala Intelligence ADGP. “Investigation is still going on and we can’t jump into conclusion now”, she added” .

While tactically neglecting this summon and its disclosure, the arrest of two ISIS operatives from Hyderabad made bold headlines for all the national newspapers on the next day.

Meanwhile, a bunch of counter-narratives started coming up in the local newspapers, which talk about a small fringe of Muslims in Kerala who think that goat farming is the life style of Prophet Muhammad and we need to pursue the same occupation in order to follow him. Such cult groups, known as Dammaj Salafis, consider Yemen as their capital. A primary investigation, based on the passports of these people, has given an assumption to the Police that these people might belong to this group.

At the same time, newspapers keep bringing new stories and cry for slapping UAPA on the missing. But, the investigation team has revealed that, they can neither slap UAPA nor hand over the case to NIA until they get credible evidence which substantiate the anti-national activity of these people. A local newspaper reports,

“It is not possible to slap UAPA just because you want us to hand over the case to NIA. Everything can only be done on the basis of strong evidences which we get during investigation.There might be different media interpretations. But, Police can’t move in line with such news, the probe team made clear.”

However, this intentional neglect of facts and the act of jumping into conclusions will bring farsighted consequences. It is obvious that all these mainstream media have some vested interests which they try to nurture with cooked up stories and vicious judgments.




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