From Goondaism to Terrorism

Whenever the bomb blasts, terrorist attacks and religious riots have made their way to the news headlines, Malayalees believed that nothing as such would happen in their part of the world. We always thought that such things happen because of the lack of education and since we have 100% literacy in Keralam, nothing will happen here. But this comfort zone has been busted with the news of two terrorists from Keralam killed in Kashmir.

This news and the investigation followed have brought out some terrible truth. That the state has become a major recruitment center for terrorists of the border. The newly recruited terrorists were taken for training in Pakistan and then later get ‘appointed‘ in Kashmir to fight the Indian Army. What is more interesting is the reason that attracted the Malayali youth to terrorism. One of the dead terrorists was a goonda prior to joining the terrorist group. Varghese Joseph, a born Christian who later converted to Islam, was a member of the notorious gang of Thammanam Shaji, a notorious gang leader. The investigative agencies say that Shaji has helped recruiting many youngsters to the terrorist groups. These goondas do not have any religious motive other than the financial gains. So they join the terrorist groups and they get benefits – motor vehicles and a monthly allowance. This money comes from the terrorist groups like Lashkar-E-Toiba.

So goondas turn to terrorism, but what leads the youngsters to goondaism? It is their penchant for easy-money. I can quote an example here. I remember the time when my neighbor was building his house. There was this young boy, not more than 18 years old, who came to do the masonry. You could hear him use the swear words aloud and that little fellow used to scold the older women in the team. Everybody had noticed him back then. By the time I saw him next, he had turned out to be the infamous pick-pocketer and small-time ganja dealer of the area. After a couple of years, I saw his photo in the newspaper. By this time he had become one of the most notorious goondas in the town. He and his gang mates were arrested for killing someone from the opposite group and their photo was in the news paper.

If any terrorist group wanted, they could easily get this fellow to become a team member and kill anybody for money. As for these goondas, terrorism is a better way for easy money. Pick-pocketing, ganja business or goondaism have it’s prices to pay. They have to get into the police stations quite often, get beaten and for those goondas who are involved in the murder cases need money for the legal proceedings. Most of the times, this money would come from the businessmen, politicans etc (who use goondas for their ‘business‘) but the ordinary members of a gang wouldn’t get too much. This is where the terrorist groups come. They secure the new recruit’s family with loads of money. They provide him with everything. What he has to give in return is his life. But for those goondas who know that their life will be ended soon by another goonda, this is not a matter of worry.

What can be done at this time? The intelligence agencies have nailed down one of the king-pins of terrorist recruitment cell, but nobody knows how many such people are there still recruiting youngsters. And goondas are not the only bankable section of the youth. There are numerous extremist groups spreading hate propaganda among Muslim youth like what RSS/VHP does among Hindu youth. Strengthening the anti-goonda squad is one option but the anti-goonda squad which was established by the Kerala Police is almost inactive now. It needs to be renewed and be more active. The politicians also need to act more responsibly because it is mostly them who give support to the goonda gangs for their own good. If these are not done, Keralam will see goondas-turned-terrorists fighting in Kashmir at first and then establishing their Dawood Ibrahim kind of Kingdom in Keralam later.