Complex web of conversion and radicalization of Kerala’s missing 17; suspect ISIS links

Thiruvananthapuram: At least 17 youths, including three women, from the state who travelled to the Middle East and reportedly went missing, may have joined the IS, with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan saying it is a “very serious issue”.

The disappearance of the youths, some of whom are medicos and engineering graduates, came to the fore after their relatives brought the matter before the authorities.

The News Minute has spoken to five of the 8 families involved to weave all the stories together and establish the connections between those who have gone missing. Who are these people? How did they know each other? And how did they get radicalized?

Who is missing?

Image Courtesy: The News Minute
Image Courtesy: The News Minute

Some families from Kasargod and Palakkad districts had approached Kasargod MP P Karunakaran and expressed fear that their children were missing for the past one month and they have no contact with them.

The Chief Minister termed the issue as “very serious” and ordered an urgent probe. “This is a very serious issue. This has to be examined,” he told reporters in Kochi.

When contacted, DGP Loknath Behara said on the basis of information provided by the families, police has started investigation and said its a complex tale of conversion and religious brainwashing.

“We do not know if children and women are part of the group. But they (families) say that some women are in the group. We also do not have any confirmation so far that the missing youths have joined the IS. But we have started investigation”, Behara told PTI.

Of the 17 persons, 11 hail from Padna and Thrikaripur in the northernmost Kasaragod district while the others hailed from Palakkad. There are at least three women including an eight month pregnant woman.

Meanwhile, families of two more youths filed a complaint before Chandera police in Kasaragod tabout their disappearance.

Kasaragod District Panchayat member V P P Mustafa said that during Eid, the parents of two missing youth received ‘Whatsapp’ messages saying “we are not coming back. Here there is Divine Rule. You aso should join us”.

“We have joined IS to fight US for attacking Muslims”, read another message, he said adding the veracity of the messages has to be checked.

On being approached by the families, Karunakaran, Thrikarippur MLA M Rajagopalan and Mustafa informed the Chief Minister about the matter.

Rajagopal said that all those missing were below the age of 30 and highly qualified, including medicos and engineering graduates, family members said.

Hakim, father of Hafesuddin who is among those missing from Kasaragod, told television channels that his son had left a month ago and there was no news from him.

“If he returns as a good man, I will welcome him. If not, I do not want to see even his dead body,” he said.

Karunakaran said the family members told him that the youth had left for Middle East a month ago stating that they were going for religious studies.

But for the last one month, their families had no communication from them and so they were suspicious, he said.

The youth hail from Padna and Thrikaripur in Kasaragod district and Palakkad district.

Mustafa said among the missing were Dr Ijaz and his dentist wife. They had left home saying they were going to Lakshadweep, he said.

Abdul Rasheed, an engineering graduate, had left home with his wife and a two-year old daughter, stating that they were going to Mumbai for a job.


Bexen, Bestin and Merrin, who were all born Christians after conversion, took the name Isa, Eshia and Mirriam respectively.

Their parents are unclear about when exactly their sons converted to Islam and got married in a sudden move that surprised them.

Bindu, mother of a young pregnant woman Nimisha, who converted to Islam after she married, said her daughter was among the missing people. Born into a Hindu Nair family Nimisha chose the name Fathima. She was a final year Dental student in Kasaragod when she met and got married to a Bexen.

All those missing had middle class backgrounds, were aged under 30, were all highly qualified and showed keen interest in religious matters since the past two years, Mustafa claimed.

— With inputs from PTI