When terror penetrates marrow: Frightening story of Islamic radicalization in Kerala’s Kasaragod

Over the years the town has changed much! Kanhangad, a small coastal town in Kasaragod in the northern Malabar protected by the string of mountains, the Western Ghats, in the east and the deepest waters of Indian Ocean in the west, was once upon a time the richest soil that cherished rich cultural heritage.

Bekal and Chandragiri Forts, temples such as Madhur Madhanantheshwara Temple and Anantha Padmanabha temple, the abodes of peace the Nityanandashram and Anandashram are a few among them that evoke the nostalgic memories of the bygone era, yet proudly stand firm.

A piece of land which was gloriously known as Saptha Bhasha Sangama Bhoomi – the land where seven languages meet — is but a place that evokes terror in human hearts. Probably the negligence of the governing bodies came into power after the British fled, even the changing governments failed to palpate the changes happening in the district raise a grave threat to the entire nation.

Communal venom spread across the district in Kasaragod has led to 469 clashes in 10 years and as per records, there are a minimum of nine deaths related to the same. Since there are national concerns about the ISIS-afflicted radicalization of Kasaragod, government’s anti-terrorism intelligence agencies, such as the NIA and the IB are vigilant in the area especially after 22 Muslim youths of this area disappeared to join as ISIS militants.

When this is just an official figure of youths disappeared for participating in terrorist activities in the recent times, the original figures are yet to be calculated. An incident where a change in name was made for a locality to Gaza was inaugurated by the president of a local body itself shows how the political system works in the area. A minor slip would lead to the leakage of votes from the community, nothing but an appeasing policy could ensure the survival of any political party in the district.

It was as per the request of one of my friends I visited a so-called institution named Marcas Anwarul Madinah located in the outskirts of Kanhangad in the district. A body registered under trust deed is seeking advice for further expanding their institution by conducting empowerment programme for women – considering the possible support that I could offer to this mighty cause, when I visited, a rather mysterious picture was unveiling in front of me that throw light upon probably the very reason behind the increasing religious fanaticism and intolerance in the district.

A rented building within which I could only hear female voices suppressed within the walls where it was told they are being taught Islam and Sharia, there were only two including the person who runs the institution whom I could find. All I knew was that they were seeking some kind of affiliation under an open school scheme that would protect them from visits by government agencies.

I remember quite recently, one of my cousins encountering a situation, where in the Muslim school she teaches, kids wrote ‘Hindus’ while they were asked to write about the worst things they hate. So is the condition, and in a few schools, even parent-teachers meeting are being held where there are curtains to separate females from the rest of the people.

The shocking fact was that there were even small girl children whom they didn’t want to send to regular schooling. In their own words, long duration at regular schooling would stop them learning their lessons effectively. I could not find even a single student outside probably because meeting with strangers were forbidden. During the conversation the words like deeni (religious), etc., were often repeated, though I never got an opportunity to find out the syllabus being taught. I remember quite recently, one of my cousins encountering a situation, where in the Muslim school she teaches, kids wrote ‘Hindus’ while they were asked to write about the worst things they hate. So is the condition, and in a few schools, even parent-teachers meeting are being held where there are curtains to separate females from the rest of the people. A video footage shot during a programme near the capital city, I could find a government health worker talking to a curtain where the audience was behind the veil of ignorance. Nevertheless, it’s all about protecting their religious faith.

Marcas Anwarul Madinah is not just the only religious school in Kerala but among hundreds of known and unknown, affiliated and nonaffiliated, girls or boys institutions in this small locality that as far as I am known, the major factor spreading hatred in the society. While Islamic orphanages or Yatheem khanas and the innumerable madrasas in the district pose a major threat to the country’s religious harmony by instilling the deadly venom of religion and intolerance, however, a probe into the same would once again ‘hurt the sentiments’ of religious minorities and would even lead to communal violence.

The question is who will interfere in bringing control over such menaces. Though central agencies like NIA are into the probe on such institutions, the operations of such institutions are beyond their jurisdiction or if brought into the consideration of a court, these points would be ruled out to protect the right of religious practice. The tragedy is that there are even small kids who are being exploited for ‘safeguarding the religious interests’ of Islam by turning into mere instruments for further popularizing religious fanaticism. No doubt this will bring grave influence in their little brains which will have irrevocable effect in their lives. In other words, they are simply snatching the future from those kids.

Areas, especially where Hindu worshippers gather at large are being surrounded by mosques where are leaders ban their community members from selling property to Hindus. There are often attempts to vandalize Hindu temples in the area, a probe into which leads to nowhere. The present situation in a tiny district of Kasaragod alarming, where we would see the district turns into a Hindu minority district soon. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t mind to see the tragic disaster of turning a region that cherish its rich heritage of Hinduism into an area of Islamic fundamentalists, but I am worried about the coming generation who would be denied their right to live a harmonious life. I am worried if Kerala would turn into another Kashmir where in the streets instead of temple bells, we would hear gun-firing and like that of Pandits in Kashmir, Hindus would have to flee to safer places just to protect their lives.

Shruti, a girl recently converted to Islam but later reverted, says:“I was fascinated by them looking at them gathering on particular days and offer prayers, whereas when my parents find me praying for long hours, I would be labeled as mad. I was fascinated by seeing their unity whereas I find the members of our community seek the opportunity to hurt each other.” We lack a set of rules to sustain our religion; we need an authority that would bring each and every one under a single umbrella where we will all stand united for the sake of protecting our faith. I am not against Islam or any specific religion but I have firm belief in a religion that advocates peace and harmony in the world and that lets each and every living being in this world live without fear, holding their head high – this is not the charity they ought to beg, but the very fundamental right that’s their due.

Post Script: If the chanting in temples would help inner peace, if the preaching in a mosque would address humanity and the choirs in a church would sing songs of universal love, I am not against religions.