The Pala Bishop’s statement to act against ‘Narcotic Jihad’ and ‘Love Jihad’ has triggered a massive controversy. While Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan is feigning ignorance by describing them as non-issues, facts tell a different story
Consequently, when the Bishop of Pala diocese of Syro Malabar Church in Kerala, Mar Joseph Kallarangatt spoke out recently against the ‘narcotic jihad’ and ‘love jihad’ being waged by radical Islamists against Christian and Hindu girls in Kerala, it kicked up a political storm. The CPI(M) and the Congress denied it outrightly. Only the BJP supported the bishop.
Despite the word narco-terrorism or narcotics jihad currently being the buzzword among national security experts worldwide and the global media, including the Arab media widely reporting it, the State Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan feigned ignorance about it. In response to the Bishop, he said he had never once heard the word.
Dismissing the genuine demand to act on the statement, the CM said both love jihad and narcotic jihad were not based on any statistics or facts. “How can we call an all-party meeting on such non-issues? Both are non-existent. We don’t want to call a meeting on non-existent issues. Some people are trying to exploit the situation by whipping them up and we have to isolate them first.”
Debunking the love jihad theory, the CM said if the data on those involved in religious conversions and narcotics are analysed, it becomes clear that minorities do not have any special role in such activities. On the fact that few Christians and Hindus who converted to Islam joined the IS from Kerala, he said none of this has any religious involvement, nor can it be included in the category of religion.
Meanwhile, Opposition leader VD Satheesan of the Congress also condemned the statement of the Bishop. The BJP Kerala president K Surendran said the link between terrorism and drug trafficking is as clear as daylight. He categorically extended BJP’s support to the Bishop on the issue. Meanwhile, Muslim organisations in Kerala demanded that the Bishop should disclose the details on the narco jihad in Kerala.
Evidence of Narco Jihad
Is there evidence of Narco Jihad in India, including Kerala? The answer is in the affirmative. India’s national media has extensively reported it; recently, the Indian Navy was widely quoted by the media on narco jihad. A statement issued by the Indian Navy at Kochi on April 19, this year, said the spoils of the narcotic trade feed syndicates involved in terrorism, radicalisation and criminal activities. The statement was issued after a haul of drugs worth Rs 3000 crore was illegally kept in a Sri Lankan fishing vessel off Minicoy in the Arabian sea. The Indian Navy’s warship INS Suvarna intercepted the boat, and the drugs were seized in a search.
In March 2021, the Indian Coast Guard intercepted another Sri Lankan boat off the Kerala coast and seized 300 kg of heroin, and five AK-47 rifles kept illegally. The media reports said that the seizure of drugs points to the narco Jihad in South Asia, covering India and Sri Lanka. Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, has created sleeper cells in the neighbouring countries and exported narcotics sourced from Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan to all over South Asia, including Kerala, to fund illegal activities, including radicalisation and terrorism.
The sheer volume of drugs seized from Kerala and a variety of drugs trafficked which includes cocaine, hashish oil and MDMA, prove the international links of the drug mafia operating in the State. The risks and uncertainties involved in trafficking make political support, nexus with corrupt officials and protection from armed and well-entrenched terrorist groups sine qua non for drug trafficking.
The Islamic terrorists, LTTE and Maoists are all involved in the drug peddling network in Kerala. In July, the Q branch of Tamil Nadu police, in coordination along with the anti-terrorist squad of Kerala Police, arrested three Sri Lankan nationals who were illegally staying in Angamaly, near Kochi in Kerala. Of the arrested, Suresh Raj, aka Chinna Suresh, was a kingpin of the drug trade in South Asia with close links to the Sri Lankan drug mafia, Pakistan’s drug cartels and the ISI. Media reports said he has confessed to the NIA his incriminating role as a handler of drugs and illegal arms sent by Pakistan’s narco jihadi groups. The fact that he stayed in Kerala with forged documents means he got help from the local associates, including politicians and officials. It would be puerile to think that he would not sell the drugs in the local market or refuse to be part of the ISI to spread the terror network in Kerala.
The recent arrest of a gang including a controversial lady Tayyiba Oulad, a native of Thiruvalla in Pathanamthitta district, with Rs 11 crore worth MDMA from Kakkanad, Kochi, shines light into the dark alleys of Narco Jihad and Love Jihad and the influence of drug cartels in Kerala politics. She is reported to be a convert with links to an extremist group. Tayyiba was present when the Kochi excise arrested her gang members and seized drugs. Still, she was let off initially, presumably following pressure from a leader of the ruling front, and her name was not included in the FIR. This led to an uproar, and later the crime branch of the state excise department arrested her.
Take the example of Muhammad Siddique aka, Snipper Sheikh, who was arrested by the state excise in May 2017.He agrees with the opinion of Pala Bishop about narco Jihad. Muhammad, the kingpin of a drugs racket, deals in synthetic drugs, mainly Nitrazepam, which focuses on ladies and students, especially girls. A handsome youngster with effeminate manners and long silky hair, Muhammad and his cohorts would lie in ambush in ice cream parlours and bakeries in Aluva to strike friendship with girls and lure them.
After establishing a friendship, they would lace sweets and soft drinks with synthetic drugs that would easily dissolve and give them to unwitty victims free of cost. The customers would feel special energy after the intake and would soon become regulars at the parlours. Later they would willingly spend and would graduate to other drugs. Those unable to pay would become carriers. Reports said those who got addicted were sexually exploited and radicalised.
When Kerala’s excise department seized around Rs 200 crore worth of ecstasy drug MDMA from a courier company office in Kochi in 2019, it shocked the country. Such vast amounts of MDMA has never been seized from the State. The drug was to be sent to Malaysia. The mastermind of the racket, Abdul Rahman alias Ali was later arrested from Trichy airport Tamil Nadu. The media had reported that he was associated with extremist groups.
Concept of Narco Jihad
The bishop of Pala does not invent the term narco-terrorism or narco-jihad. Even the United Nations Office widely uses it on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The UNODC considers narco-terrorism a global threat and works together with different nations to curb the menace. Narco-terrorism originated in South America and then spread to West Asia. Colombian Leftist guerrilla groups like FARC and M-19 once depended on narcotic money. Now the ISIS, the Taliban, Hezbollah, the Haqqani Network and to a certain extent The Al Qaeda depends on it for funding. Even the Saudi Arabian media, including the Arab News and Al Arabiya television, use the term while reporting terrorism.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena had confirmed the involvement of international drug cartels in organising the Easter Sunday blast using the local Islamic terrorist group of National Tawaheed Jamaat (NTJ). The war against terrorism and the war against drugs have merged into one in many countries. Sri Lanka is the nearest example. However, political leaders of the CPI (M) and the Congress in Kerala are yet to hear about it.
Suppressing the truth
Terrorism is the elephant in the room in Kerala. Political parties, media and the police know precisely about the terrorist groups operating in the State, their wide network, their links with drug syndicates, investments and the full scope of their nefarious activities. But, even when cases are charged against terrorist groups, the security agencies never investigate their funding, relation with local authorities or political parties. Similarly, while charging cases against drug peddlers and seizing drugs, the police are not found to investigate the money trail of the drugs trade. The source of drugs that come to Kerala or lower-level peddlers links is not even discussed.
The former state police chief of Kerala Loknath Behera recently admitted the presence of sleeper cells of ISIS in Kerala, but Chief Minister Pinarayi contradicted him later and categorically denied it. Instead of acting on the facts, the Left and Congress in Kerala deny the truths about terrorist groups and the drug trade in the State. The result is both menaces are engulfing the State.