Centre unlikely to allow four Kerala women, who joined IS, back in India

Centre unlikely to allow four Kerala women, who joined IS, back in India
Nimisha alias Fatima Issa , Sonia Sebastian alias Ayesha, Rafeela and Merin Jacob alias Mariam. Image: NIA

New Delhi/Thiruvananthapuram: India is not likely to allow the return of four women from Kerala, who had accompanied their husbands to join the Islamic State (IS).

The women, Sonia Sebastian, Merin Jacob, Nimisha alias Fatima and Rafeela had gone to Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province along with their husbands between 2016 and 2018. After the men were killed in combined Afghan-US assaults on the IS, the women, along with their children, surrendered to the Afghanistan police in 2019.

The women and children have been lodged in a prison in Kabul. Afghanistan has asked India to take them back.

Though yet to receive an official communication from the government, the mother of one of the women termed the Indian stand on the young women “shocking” and “violation of human rights.”

Ahmad Zia Saraj, head of Afghanistan’s counter-intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security, had said in April in that 408 IS members from 13 countries were lodged in different prisons in his country.

Among the prisoners, four have been identified as Indians, 16 Chinese, 299 Pakistanis, and two each from Bangladesh and the Maldives. Saraj had also said discussions were on with the governments of their respective countries to repatriate them.

Afghanistan Embassy officials in India have been tight-lipped on the issue, and refused to comment. Officials in Kabul, however, said they were awaiting India’s response.

Centre unlikely to allow four Kerala women, who joined IS, back in India
Nimisha alias Fatima, her mother Bindu

Meanwhile, official sources hinted that Indian agencies were split over the issue, and the women were unlikely to be granted permission to return.

The Indian officials had interviewed the women after their surrender, but they were found to be harbouring extreme ideology.

An official said India would most likely follow the French model of not allowing IS sympathisers back into the country. Instead, Afghanistan's permission would be sought to put the women into trial in that country itself.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA), in 2017, submitted a chargesheet, saying a 21-member group, including women, had left Kerala for Afghanistan. The NIA report said Kasaragod resident Sonia Sebastian had left the country via the Mumbai airport along with her husband Abdul Rasheed Abdullah.

Merin Jacob had married Bestin Jacob alias Yahya of Palakkad, and Nimisha became the wife of Bestin’s brother Bexon alias Isa, before leaving the country. Rafeela left India with Dr Ijas Kallukattiya Purayil of Kasaragod.

Expressing shock over the Indian government’s reported reluctance to allow the young women to return, Nimisha’s mother Bindu said her daughter’s life was in danger since the US would be withdrawing its troops soon.

She asked why the children of the surrendered women were not allowed back, and what offence the kids had committed. She termed the reported Indian stand “a violation of human rights.”

Speaking to Manorama Online, Bindu said she had not yet received any official communication. “If my daughter had committed any crime, legal steps should be initiated after bringing her back. She was not arrested for committing any crime, and Afghanistan government is willing to send her back. In this case, what is the issue with the Indian government,” she asked.

Bindu said she would take the legal route after consulting the Government of Kerala and people’s representatives.

“The girls are facing this ordeal since the governments did not act on times,” the mother said, adding that no initiatives were made even after she had contacted several BJP leaders and Union ministers.

Contrary to Afghanistan officials, the Indian investigation agencies did not respond to her mails, Bindu said. The woman said she was not trusting the Indian officials’ claim that Nimisha has been unwilling to return. Bindu said she would support the Indian government if it decides to put Nimisha to trial.

Nimisha had undergone a religious conversion while studying in Kasaragod. Later she married her friend Bexon of Yakkara in Palakkad. Later, Nimisha’s family was informed that the couple had left for Sri Lanka. The couple used to contact their relatives over WhatsApp till November 2018.

Later, the relatives received the news that they had joined the IS, and were caught while crossing over to Afghanistan.  

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