In June last year, shock waves rippled across Kerala as a number of young people reportedly converted to Islam from Kasargod and Palakkad, and left India to join the Islamic State.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has been investigating the departure of at least 21 youths from Kerala and their involvement with ISIS since July last year. The agency has now released the sketches of the missing people. See them below.
The NIA has deemed all of their statuses as absconding and a red corner notice has been issued against all except five - Hafeesudheen Theke Koleth, Reffeala, Ajmala, Shajeer Mangalasseri and Sidhik Hul Aslam. While Sidhik left for Saudi Arabia two years ago, the others have been reported dead.
Keralaâ€™s missing 21, as the media came to call them in 2016, included six couples and children. Further investigations revealed a sinister connection of radicalisation between the 21.
This chart from 2016 sheds some light on how these individuals and families knew each other.
Their disappearance also dragged into controversy Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, as a few of them had apparently been listening to him. It had also raised questions about the Salafi thought in Islam as some of the missing youngsters had visited the Salafi commune at Athikkad hills in Malappuram district.
TNMâ€™s Megha Varier had visited this commune last year and written, â€śSalafis are people who believe that the right way of life was the one led by the early Muslims â€“ those who lived within 400 years of Prophet Mohammedâ€™s death. They believe the lives of people of that time are worth emulating, down to the last detail, hence the focus on religious scriptures.â€ť
The missing youth had apparently visited the commune to learn about the Salafi way of life. Musthafa, a resident of the commune and the man who confirmed this, had also told TNM, â€śI do not know if they joined the IS but I am sure that they have left as life in Kerala has become unbearable. Our fight is not against other religions. We cannot tolerate Muslims who are not practising true Islam.â€ť
Photos courtesy NIA