The official figure so far as the annual remittance through hawala channels into Kerala is Rs 20000 crore. This figure which is available with the Union Home Ministry tells us the story of this state which has become a hub for extremists.
Today the focus of every possible national agency probing terrorism related cases is focused on Kerala and what one gets to understand is that the situation is going from bad to worse. The factors for such extremism are many. The communally charged up feelings in the state and also the fact that this state is almost a corridor between India and the Gulf.
The hawala remittance into this state is the highest when compared to any other state in India. There is a large population from Kerala which lives in the Gulf and remitting money back home had always been a big worry for these persons. They then started to adopt to the hawala module which helped them transfer large sums of money with ease. Now it is a known fact that terrorists have a big role to play in hawala transactions and hence taking advantage of the situation, they began pumping in their money too. The Kerala government was in the know of money being sent in through hawala channels, but what they did not bother to check was that terrorists too were pumping in money using the same channels and today the problem is immense that they are finding it difficult to clean up.
The National Investigating Agency which has its eyes on this state has also found that large sums of money which has been pumped in from the Gulf had been used to execute the blasts at Delhi, Bangalore and also at Ahmedabad.
The biggest worry for any terrorist group is the finances and with this in place, it became easy for these groups to go about the other jobs. The Indian Intelligence Bureau says that a couple of years back, Kerala was only a corridor to terror in the South. However today the problem is immense and it is without a doubt the main breeding centre for such extremist groups in the country.
Sources say that for the ISI it was easy to set up terror camps in this state. The political will was lacking and elections were far more important compared to national security. Due to politics smaller groups were allowed to grow and a main fighting plank during the elections became communal rioting. This helped such forces to grow and before anyone realised that they had set up base comfortably.
While it was obvious that the nature of this state was changing gradually the first big information regarding the reach of the Kerala cadre was known only when a cell phone belonging to a person by the name Umar was traced. Umar was an operative of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba operating in Kashmir and investigations went on to show that he was from Kannur. Subsequently more news trickled in and it was found that three more persons from Kerala were killed in an encounter in Kashmir. This raised alarm bells among the security agencies who realised that it was probably for the first time that Indian cadres were used in the battle at Kashmir and ironically they were all picked up from Kerala. However of the men, Jabbar who was picked up the police for training stated that he thought they were being taken for training in Islam. I was taken aback when they told me my training would be with arms. In fact we were told if we did not take up arms then our families would be harmed.
According to IB reports, the ISI has set up strong modules of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba in the Gulf. The Oman module is also very strong and the fact is that these modules are directly connected to the modules in Kerala. In fact when the ISI started to set up Gulf modules, it initially had a lot of youth from Uttar Pradesh. However gradually the cadres from UP were being replaced with those from Kerala. These youth were in charge of sending across funds and also pulling out youth from Kerala and sending them for training again using the Gulf route. For the ISI, the Gulf module is one of the strongest today and what works against India is that the Gulf and the Kerala are directly connected. In fact it appears as though modules in the Gulf were formed keeping Kerala in mind.
Although the exact number of Lashkar modules in Kerala are not known, sources say that they could be anything between 50 to 100. The number of sleeper cells is almost double this number they also point out. Most of the cadres in these modules undertake a dual job. During the elections they become party workers and often create the necessary ruckus for politicians. This ensures that they get the immunity which helps them go underground and go about their real job.
In this context it would be pertinent to note the role played by T Nasir, an accused in the Bangalore blasts case. He had become the perfect link between the modules in Kerala and the ISI. He was a part of the Students Islamic Movement of India before it was banned. He then moved out of Kerala and worked in Muscat and Dubai before coming in contact with agents of the ISI. He was asked to recruit youth back in Kerala for terror operations which he did on his return to Kerala.
The likes of Nazir are trained in this job and they constantly keep a watch for youth who have issues abroad. They pick and chose youth with visa or job problems and offer help. While doing so they take them into their fold and convince them to take the extremist route. Once they manage to convince them they are either sent to Pakistan or Bangladesh for training.
Over the past one year there has been a slight change in the manner in which they have been operating. The trips to Pakistan or Bangladesh for the newer recruits are proving to be dangerous for these groups and hence they have decided to set up dedicated training camps in Kerala itself.
Recently the Kerala police seized compact discs and transcripts which had details on the Taliban styled military training. This was just a tip of the ice berg and further investigations led the police to find that there were many training camps in Kerala which followed the Taliban style of training. Such training in Kerala takes place in secluded areas of the state and it is clear that these youth who undergo such training are being prepared for bigger roles.
The expectation from the Kerala modules is that they build up a strong force which can carry out attacks in India. A thorough home bred outfit is what they are looking for following the fall of the Indian Mujahideen. In addition to this they are also expected to provide cadres for the battle in Kashmir and very shortly they would be asked to assist terror groups fighting in Pakistan and Afghanistan as well.
For the Indian agencies the primary worry is however the growth of the home bred extremist groups which they will need to scuttle as soon as possible. Prior to Kerala, the main modules were in Uttar Pradesh, but today Kerala is the clear choice. It takes every investigating agency a while to understand the pattern that is being followed in each state. They managed to overcome the problem in Uttar Pradesh and doing the same in Kerala will not be an issue provided there is political will.
The agencies from across the country also push the case regarding a state more aggressively in case of a terror strike. Kerala has not witnessed a major strike so far and this is a deliberate ploy as per security agencies. Carrying out a strike on a large scale only gathers a lot of attention and this would ensure a complete crackdown. Hence these groups feel that it would be better to go about their acticvities quietly and breed terror for the rest of India. Take the case of Hyderabad which was a major hub for such groups. Today it is relatively quiet due to the crack down by the police and this was largely because of the back to back terror strikes in the city.
The IB says that their investigations do not show one particular group gaining in this state. A lot of splinter groups and also cadres of the IM and the rest have all come together and are setting up their base in Kerala. Over the past year there has also been a lot of movement from UP as well. Kerala does not only provide a safe hiding ground, but also a route to escape into the Gulf once the heat is on.