May 17, 2005
Kerala’s Home Department has initiated a probe into the activities of the National Democratic Front (NDF), a shadowy extremist outfit headquartered in Kozhikode. Police and intelligence agencies now officially allege that the group has links with Pakistan’s ISI.
In a deposition before the Special Judicial Commission appointed by the state government to probe the Marad communal carnage last week, former Kozhikode city police commissioner Neera Rawat said that the police Special Branch had specific intelligence pointing to NDF’s links with the ISI, during her tenure six years ago.
But no action was ever taken. Speaking to The Indian Express, state Home Secretary K.K. Vijayakumar said this would be looked into. ‘‘We’ll be looking closely at who all had the information through proper channels in that intelligence situation and what followed,’’ he said.
After Rawat’s deposition, National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan was quoted as saying that the NDF’s ISI links need to be probed, during a visit to Kerala yesterday.
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Speaking to Express, NDF spokesman Naseeruddeen Elamaram claimed that the story of ISI links was engineered by top cops with RSS connections. ‘‘If they had the intelligence even six years ago, how come they never used it?’’ he said, adding that it could not be a coincidence that the intelligence report Rawat referred to in her deposition was the same that Kummanom Rajasekharan, chief of the Hindu Aikya Vedi, used in his deposition before the same Commission last year. ‘‘How come he was made privy to an official intelligence dossier?’’ asked Naseeruddeen.
The NDF is the prime suspect in the communal carnage at Marad three years ago, where eight Hindu fishermen were hacked to death, as well as in the murder of an RSS leader in Kannur last month.
Intelligence sources told Express they have identified 11 areas in the state where the NDF has been organising martial and arms training.
Home Department sources, however, said the probe will focus on the outfit’s penetration in various political parties and its role in creating communal schisms. ‘‘Forget the stray murders, the way they are going about fomenting extremism is far more dangerous,’’ said a top official.
Both police and Home Department sources admit that tracking the 13-year-old NDF is not easy. ‘‘They own property worth many crores, but it is mostly benami. They source their money largely through some Gulf countries and have several front outfits to receive it. Their members have got into most of Kerala’s political outfits and use that cover effectively,’’ they said.
Traditionally, the Muslim League has been the political totem pole and a safety valve against extremism in many Muslim pockets in the state. But the NDF, which has infiltrated the League at all levels, has been quick to capitalise on the increasing number of disenchanted League cadre.
A few years ago, the League’s state committee declared it would expel all NDF elements. That never happened. Instead, top League leaders like P.K. Kunhalikutty, who quit the state Cabinet a few months ago following a sex scandal, have been building bridges with the NDF.
The NDF has a well-oiled chain of command. At the top is an all-powerful 11-member supreme council, which decides ideology and execution. The group’s ‘‘soft’’ face is this council, which comprises professors, lawyers, religious scholars and others. The NDF also has a women’s wing, headed by a doctor in Malappuram.
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