One child grew up to fight for the country. The other might have joined a terror group in West Asia. The irony is not lost on a devastated Bindu Kumar, whose daughter is among the 20-odd people who mysteriously disappeared from two Kerala districts and are feared to have joined outfits such as the Islamic State. “My tears have dried up. I can only pray now. I hope God will help me in tracing my daughter who will turn 24 next month," says the Thiruvananthapuram resident.
She begs the media to keep her son -- an army man on deputation to the National Security Guard (NSG) -- out of the news. She says he always wanted to join the army. But she doesn't know how her daughter Nimisha, who used to be just another teenager who loved television programmes, could have been radicalised. “I was shocked to see my daughter, who loved to wear casual dresses, in full purdah (veil)," she told Media.
Security officials say the 20-odd people have been off the radar for over a month. Two messages sent by them to some relatives have been tracked to Afghanistan and Egypt. “My children were religious and patriotic. My son wanted to be a military officer and daughter chose the medical profession. We were happy when both got the careers of their choice," says Bindu.
Her husband runs a small restaurant in the city. “Mom's sweet daughter going to bed, sweet kisses," was the last message Nimisha sent to her parents on June 3. When the mother called her back the next day, Nimisha's phone was switched off. There has been no contact since.
Nimisha's parents first realised something was wrong last November, when she stopped taking their calls. Bindu rushed to the dental college Nimisha was studying in north Kerala's Kasargode district, only to be told that she had converted to Islam for marriage. “She used to share all her experiences in college with me. But this was a terrible shock for me," says Bindu.
Nimisha took the name Fathima and married 30-year-old Bexin Vincent, a Christian MBA graduate who took the name Eza after converting to Islam. Bindu dragged the couple to court but was told that Nimisha was an adult and could marry whoever she chose. “Once she asked whether I would accept her if she came in a burqa. I told her she was welcome," Bindu said. The last time Nimisha visited home was on May 16.
During Nimisha's last two visits, Bindu noticed her daughter developed an aversion towards TV programmes. “Once when I said being pregnant she should be consulting doctors regularly, she said she had once and did not believe in modern medicines any longer," Bindu says, adding the baby is expected in September. The couple told their in-laws that they were going to Sri Lanka for pilgrimage.