Amid reports that a group of Keralites had joined terror outfit Islamic State, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan today informed the Assembly that a total of 21 persons have been missing from the state.
Among them, 17 were from Kasaragod and four from Palakkad as per the preliminary information available, Vijayan told the Assembly while replying to a submission raised by opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala.
The Chief Minister made it clear that extremism and terrorism has no religion and the government would not allow any move to trigger anti-Muslim sentiments in society over the issue.
"The missing persons from Kasaragod included four women and three children. Two women were among those missing from Palakkad," he said.
These people had left their homes stating different reasons, he said.
As per the media reports, these people had gone to Syria and Afghanistan and they were in ISIS camps, he said.
Quoting media reports, Vijayan said one Firoz from Kasaragod has been taken into custody from Mumbai airport yesterday in connection with the development.
The government was viewing the matter very seriously, he said, adding it would take necessary steps with the support of the central agencies, to tackle the issue.
"The state government is committed to take stern action against any kind of terror activities," he said, adding the government, at the same time, would not allow any vested interest to exploit the situation.
There was a move to trigger anti-Muslim sentiments in society using the present situation and this would not be allowed.
"There is also an attempt to put the entire Muslim community under the shadow of doubt. But it is well-known that majority of people in Kerala are against any kind of terrorism and extremism. Only a very few people are showing tendencies to become part of this," he said, adding, that this was also a serious matter.
Noting that only the government steps were not enough to overcome the problem, Vijayan said a joint effort was necessary to bring all sections of people together and line up to isolate these elements.
Taking up the issue, Chennithala said Kerala is in the grip of fear in the wake of the media reports about the ISIS link with some state youths.
However, he said no official confirmation had been received so far in this regard. So, it is the responsibility of the state government to make clarifications on the reality and alley the apprehensions of the people.
The opposition also wanted the Chief Minister to share with the people whatever information he could on the development.
BJP MLA O Rajagopal brought to the notice of the House that a final year woman dental student from his constituency in the city was missing.
There were reports that she had converted to Islam and moved to Palakkad after her marriage. She was one among the women missing from Palakkad.
However, every citizen has the right to choose any religion he or she likes or marry anybody but stern steps should be taken to prevent the people joining outfits like ISIS, he siad.
CPI(M) MLA M Rajagopal, who along with Kasaragod MP P Karunakaran brought the matter to the notice of the Chief Minister two days ago, said majority of the persons missing from his constituency were well-educated and technocrats.
He said their family members were ready to pass on any information they have to the state and central investigation agencies.
The MLA also wanted a comprehensive probe into the matter and said any move to create communal tension over the issue should be checked by the state government effectively.