Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the state government would treat the disappearance of 21 persons from different parts of Kerala with utmost seriousness but prevent any attempt to cast a shadow over the entire Muslim community.
Replying to a submission by Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala in the Kerala Legislative Assembly regarding reports that the missing persons had joined the Islamic State terror outfit, Vijayan said terrorism had no religion and there were attempts to brand a religion.
"Vested interests are creating an anti-Muslim feeling," Vijayan cautioned. "This will not be allowed as a huge majority in our society is against such activities.
"It's a very small segment which does this. To blame one particular community alone is not fair," he said.
He said that anti-national elements would be isolated and the government would work with national investigation agencies.
Those who were reported missing had left home after citing different reasons. The government had not received any confirmation that they had joined the Islamic State as suggested. There were reports that the Mumbai Police have caught hold of a person named Firoz in connection with the case but there was no confirmation on that either, he said.
The chief minister said a collective effort was needed to correct those who are drawn towards extremist attitudes and the state government could not achieve it alone.
"There has to be an overall awareness against terrorism and extremism and we need to take everyone into confidence.
"The state government will do its job and will work in tandem with the Center to probe these reports," he said.
According to Vijayan, 21 people, including children, were missing and this included 17 from Kasaragod district, in the northern tip of Kerala, and four from Palakkad district.
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said: "Overall Kerala is known to be a peaceful state. Even though we have no confirmation (that people are missing), it is disturbing and the need of the hour is to strengthen internal security and all of us would like to know the truth."
He also said that the posts shared through social media including WhatsApp were fomenting religious hatred and they should be controlled.
Congress legislator P.T. Thomas pointed out a lady from his constituency was missing. She was working in Mumbai and had reportedly attended meetings in Andheri and was reported to be with the IS now, Thomas said.
"One way to bring an instant impact against these subversive forces is to see that this topic is introduced in schools in our state," he said.
The Kerala Police and central intelligence agencies are said to be probing the issue, taking down statements from families which have alleged that their family members have gone missing.