The fundamentalists of Ramanathapuram have been supporting ISIS and Kashmiri separatist movements. The coastal area has fallen under the control of jihadis. Secret camps are conducted for giving weapons training. Rampant smuggling of gold, arms and narcotics has been happening with ease. … The Ramanathapuram coast is a security threat for India. – Thamizhchelvan
In its documentary on Jihad in Tamil Nadu released in February 2016, Hindu Munnani had earmarked a considerable portion to show how the district of Ramanathapuram has come under the spell of Islamic fundamentalism over the years.
Vaethalai, a small town in the district occupied an infamous spot in our history when the Muslims of the town protested against the celebrations of India’s independence in 1947. Vadivelu, a shopkeeper from Vaethalai says, “A few years ago, some Islamic fundamentalists unfurled the national flag upside down. They deliberately dump garbage around our Vinayakar temple and threaten us not to use loudspeakers during our bhajans in temples in the auspicious Tamil month of Markazhi”.
Politicians from the district have always been encouraging and supporting Islamic fundamentalists. In 2004, during the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations, the fundamentalists indulged in stone pelting and instigated riots under the supervision of a member of the State Assembly, who is now a Member of Parliament.
Chinnathambi, a local person from Pudhumadam area says, “On 16th of August 2006, the then Panchayat Chairman, along with his supporters, brought down the national flag and tied up footwears up above the flag pole”. He adds that Hindus in that village are discriminated in many ways.
Devi Pattinam is another coastal hamlet dominated by the minority community. When one Zakir Hussain became panchayat president, local fundamentalists prevented Hindus from celebrating the traditional Dharma Muneeswarar temple festival in May 2013. A challenge was thrown at Hindus to celebrate the festival. Earlier, construction of a new mosque was facilitated strategically on the procession route. Local Hindus say that fundamentalists from outside areas were brought in to beat them.
Based on the complaint lodged by Hindus, the police formally apprehended just two juvenile boys and sent them to “reformation” school. Local Hindu women say they fear even going to bazaars as they are threatened quite often. They say that the local police are faithful to the fundamentalists.
Segu Naina held the post of panchayat chairman of a place called Thondi, which was a historically significant port. On his instructions, government authorities demolished a temple without the knowledge of Hindus, in order to construct a coastal police station. Although 120 acres of poromboke land is available near the temple, they unnecessarily demolished the temple which was located on just 3 cent land. The local villagers allege that Segu Naina had vowed to demolish all Hindu temples in Muslim-dominated Thondi. The police filed cases against the Hindus who questioned the demolition of the temple.
Fundamentalist activities increased manifold when Jawahirullah of Manithaneya Makkal Katchi (political face of the Tamilnadu Muslim Munnetra Kazahagam, TMMK) was elected to the state assembly in 2011.
Another fishing hamlet, Periyapattinam, seems to be under the control of the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI). A local, named Pazhani, got converted as Mohammed Basheer and is now forcing Hindus of his locality, Mutharaiyar Nagar, to convert to Islam.
Fundamentalist elements from various states like Assam, Bihar, Karnataka and Kerala were receiving weapons training in Periyapattinam. When the police caught them on 25 June 2012, all fundamentalist organizations indulged in a concerted agitation; the government yielded to their pressure and all extremists were released. The Arab-style mosque built in this nondescript hamlet is a classic example of Wahhabism getting entrenched in the state.
Thirupullani is a famous Hindu shrine located on the shores. It is a Ramayana heritage temple signifying the episode of Rama resting on grass (Dharba Sayana) contemplating ways and means of reaching Lanka. Ramachandran, a local person says, “The name board of the temple was smashed by fundamentalists on 20 February 2013 and the police didn’t take any action even after a complaint was registered”.
Another person, Durai says, “Fundamentalists from SDPI indulged in violence during Swami Vivekananda’s 150th year anniversary celebrations in a government school at Vannangadu near Thirupullani on 9 March 2013”.
Many coastal hamlets are under the spell of fundamentalism. The state government’s plan to form a separate taluk bringing all these villages under the same administration was not welcomed by the Hindus. Muslim jamaths have displayed “warning boards” banning outsiders—read Hindus—from entering their villages. These boards were removed by the police only after the issue got national attention after it was reported by the Delhi-based Daily Pioneer on 16 February 2013.
The fundamentalist youth of Thondi displayed their association with the international terrorist organization ISIS by wearing T-shirts with ISIS logo. The photograph was posted on a Facebook page named Mukanool Muslim Media (Muslim Facebook Media), run by a foreign-based extremist named Sangai Ridwan.
This man, operating from the shadows, never reveals his identity even to his own brethren whom he tries to recruit for extremist activities. When the issue caught nationwide attention due to media reports, the state police filed an ordinary case and even justified it by saying that ISIS was not a banned organization. Meanwhile, fundamentalist organizations such as SDPI protested the police action and warned that the youth should not be arrested. The state police didn’t bother to investigate further.
SP Pattinam is a place near Thondi. On 10th October 2014, when a rowdy by name Syed Mohammed stabbed Sub Inspector Kalidas while trying to escape from jail, Kalidas fired in self-defense and the rowdy died. Muslim organizations took to streets and started attacking Hindus in the name of bandh. Their leaders demanded that the government take action against police officer Kalidas. The State Government yielded to the pressure, suspended Sub Inspector Kalidas, ordered his arrest and sanctioned a solatium of Rs 5 lakhs to his family. Kalidas had to fight for more than a year to come out on bail.
Fundamentalists attacking temples seems to be a regular phenomenon in Ramanathapuram district. The documentary shows locals describing the attacks and bombings on temples such as Vallaba Vinayak temple at Sandhakadai (19.09.2012), Veerabhadra and Kannan temples (31.10.2012), Om Sakthi Vinayagar temple (21.09.2013), to name a few.
Swami Vivekananda landed on the shores of Ramanathapuram after delivering his historical speech at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago. To commemorate the event, a lamp post was erected and it stands as a lasting memorial for the saint. Jihadis desecrate this lamp post regularly. Durai of Gnana Deepam Seva Sangam, which maintains the lamp-post, says, “Every year, during the occasion of Vivekananda Jayanthi, we would renovate it and the jihadis who visit the nearby mosque for prayers, desecrate it. Even if we identify the culprits and inform the police, they do not initiate any action”.
Apart from attacking temples, jihadis also indulge in encroaching temple lands. Armed with the documents obtained by RTI, advocate Ramamurthi of Hindu Munnani says, “Salim Mullah Khan the former district secretary of Tamilnadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam, has encroached upon the land belonging to Agni Veerabadreshwarar Temple situated near Ramanathapuram bus stand and has constructed houses and shops upon it. Even after getting the required documents through Right to Information Act and after petitioning the Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments Department and the collector about the loot, no action is forthcoming”.
Disrupting temple processions, threatening temples not to use loud speakers, hiring spaces near temples on rent and conducting namaz there, are some of the activities being indulged in by jihadis to threaten or provoke Hindus. Unfortunately the police seem to support them as averred by local Hindus in the documentary.
Councillor Nagarajan says that government officers belonging to the community connive with the jihadis and help them encroach highways and poramboke lands. He says, “Municipal Commissioners Mujibur Rehman and Sirajudheen have helped a Muslim business house by name Maharaja Textiles, by allotting the government hospital complex as the parking space for the vehicles visiting their shops, apart from making the entire stretch as a ‘one-way’ stretch.”
The jihadis do not spare even the police, despite their being faithful to them. Kenikkarai police station located just outside the collectorate was attacked by jihadis on 2nd February 2014 for arresting a criminal, and a sub inspector grievously injured. Even while the officer was trying to control the mob, his jeep was torched. In spite of all this, the police recorded the incident as ‘accident’.
Government officers, taking cue from the Government, go to any extent for appeasing these groups. On 14 June 2014, the district police stormed into an RSS camp and arrested the cadres who were doing physical exercises and drill. The collector issued a show-cause notice to the concerned school for allotting its premises for an RSS camp. But the very same collector participated in iftar parties and other functions organized by extremist organizations like TMMK. Following the footsteps of their seniors, the junior staff of Keezhakarai government hospital turned their premises into a virtual fortress for Ramzan festivities and iftar parties.
Local holiday has been in vogue for the annual festivities of the famous Uttarakosa Mangai temple in Ramanathapuram, since the British era. The very same district collector cancelled that holiday in 2015. In 2014, he ordered removal of raksha threads worn by school students and audaciously justified his order by saying that it was done to put an end to the skirmishes happening between the students! When asked the reason for allowing minority students to wear their religious symbols, he reportedly said he would do as he pleased and challenged the Hindus to go to court against him.
The documentary says that the political parties have given the district on a platter to the fundamentalists. They have always placed Muslims as their candidates in elections and those candidates have invariably won. In 1996, it was Rehman Khan from DMK, in 2001 it was Anwar Raja from AIADMK, and in 2006 it was Hasan Ali from Congress-DMK combine, and in 2011 Jayalalithaa gave the seat to her ally MMK; its state president Jawahirullah contested and won. It may be recalled that Jawahirullah was formerly with SIMI and was one of the founder members of Al Ummah, which perpetrated the Coimbatore blasts in 1998. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Mohammed Jaleel contested for DMK and Anwar Raja contested for AIADMK; Anwar Raja won.
The fundamentalists of Ramanathapuram have been vociferously supporting ISIS and Kashmiri separatist movements. Almost the entire coastal area has fallen under the control of jihadis. Secret camps are conducted for giving weapons training. Rampant smuggling of gold, arms and narcotics has been happening with ease. Palm groves and thorny bushes serve as excellent hideouts. Mosques with tall minars are being built at regular intervals along the coast.
These mosques serve as hideouts for militants who infiltrate from Sri Lanka. Pakistan’s ISI allegedly sends militants from Sri Lanka to India through this coastal belt. As Mannar province of Sri Lanka is Muslim-dominated, the ISI creates militant cells and they infiltrate through Ramanathapuram. The Tamilnadu-Kerala connection of jihadis is already thriving. And for the ISI, Ramanathapuram in the Bay of Bengal is like Malappuram of the Arabian Sea. The documentary asserts that the Ramanathapuram coast is a security threat for India.
(To be continued)
The above incidents and more on Jihadi activities in Ramanathapuram district can be seen in the following YouTube link: Ramanathapuram in Danger