As India tries to stem the flow of citizens joining the self-proclaimed Islamic State, the state of Kerala, on the southern coast, has emerged as an area of special concern. According to government statistics, more citizens have been arrested for Islamic State ties in Kerala than in any other state. In an email interview, Animesh Roul, executive director of the New Delhi-based Society for the Study of Peace and Conflict, describes what could be making Kerala—and India more generally—fertile ground for Islamic State recruiters, and how the government is trying to crack down on the problem.
WPR: How widespread is Islamic State recruitment in Kerala, what are the factors driving it, and how vulnerable is India more broadly?
Animesh Roul: There have been a number of high-profile cases of Kerala natives running off to join the Islamic State, fueling the narrative that India’s southernmost state is especially vulnerable. Subahani Haja, a native of Thodupuzha, Kerala, is suspected to have fought for the Islamic State in Mosul, Iraq, before his arrest in India in October 2016. He is suspected to have knowledge pertinent to the investigation of the November 2015 Paris attacks.