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Islamic State threat in India is more real than ever

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By JK Verma

New Delhi. 23 November 2017. A voice message purported to be sent from Syria by an Islamic State (IS) operative to IS worker in Kerala advised Muslims to come and join IS. The WhatsApp message further mentioned that those who cannot reach Syria should render financial assistance to other Jihadists.  The message contains venomous statements against other religions especially Hindus and also denounce moderate Muslims and sensible organizations.

According to security agencies the tape contains the voice of Abdul Rashid Abdullah who was resident of Kasaragod in Kerala and escaped to Syria along with 20 other persons. Abdul Rashid is an engineer and inspired other Muslim youths to escape to Syria and join the terrorist outfit.  He also took his wife and small child to Syria.

The security agencies claim that IS is regularly sending voice messages through WhatsApp to different IS operatives in Kerala and they have already sent about 50 such messages in diverse parts of Kerala.

Islamic State which was controlling about 78000 square kilometres in January 2016 has lost more or less all the territory. US and Russian forces bombarded the areas controlled by IS and according to unconfirmed reports Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the chief of IS is running for life. Nonetheless as IS lost Iraq and Syria now it is in search of   new place where it can make its headquarters. The influence of IS has increased manifold in Afghanistan and Pakistan as both these countries are considerably radicalized. US does not want that the influence of IS enhances in Afghanistan therefore it dropped the largest bomb in Achin district of Afghanistan in April 2017, in which about 100 IS terrorists were killed. According to an estimate US bombarded more than 400 hideouts of IS in Afghanistan in which large number of IS terrorists were exterminated.

Baghdadi made a master stroke by announcing formation of Sunni Caliphate by the name of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) but afterwards he changed its name to Islamic State (IS) and became its Caliph. Once formation of Islamic State was announced, several terrorist outfits of different countries joined IS. Besides terrorist groups and organisations several fanatic and disenchanted Muslims from all over the world also rushed to Iraq and Syria to join the IS which enhanced its strength manifold.

IS which is a Salafi organisation wants to establish Islamic Caliphate similar to the time of Prophet Muhammad and claims that all non-Muslims, Shias and Muslims who oppose IS ideology should be exterminated. IS killed its rivals pitilessly and mass graves were found when IS was forced to vacate the areas.

IS which uses internet quite vigorously have uploaded its literature, concocted stories about persecution of Muslims and the benefits of establishment of Islamic State. The analysts mention that IS has able to establish its foothold in more than 20 countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Somalia, Egypt, Jordon, Russia, Turkey,  Bosnia, Austria, Indonesia, Mali,  and Philippines. IS watchers further reported that more than 40000 foreigners of about 90 countries escaped to Iraq and Syria and joined IS. Several Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Afghanis and Indians working in Middle Eastern countries also joined IS directly from these countries while their family members thought that they were working in gulf countries.

IS has successfully created lone wolf in several countries of the world especially in developed states. Several young Muslims who were frustrated with the society for any reason became self-radicalized and killed innocent citizens. It is very difficult to check or control the lone wolf as he operates alone. Several times they use fire-arms and numerous times they just rent a truck and plough them in the crowded areas and kill large number of innocent persons. Most of the time these lone wolf do not take any assistance from IS or they may not be associated with the terror outfit but IS immediately take the responsibility of the killings and euologise the lone wolf. Sometimes lone wolf also takes name of IS or show its flag but most of the time he had no association with IS and they perform the heinous act just to take revenge from the society. The danger of lone wolf is increasing rapidly hence Muslim scholars should impress upon the futility of such terrorist attacks. Muslims should include science and technology in the syllabus of Madrassas and should make its education more job-oriented so that the students when pass out from these religious institutions get a respectable job so that they merge in the society instead of joining terrorist organisation.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh issued several statements in which he mentioned that although India has the second largest Muslim population in the world but the IS was not able to establish itself in India. He also stated that ISIS is banned in India.

However the security agencies must be careful as India has approximately 172 million Muslims which are about 14.2 percent of India’s population. The idea of Islamic Caliphate propounded by IS may allure disillusioned and disenchanted Muslims and they may carryout few terrorist acts in India to establish Islamic State. Khorasan Province of Islamic State consists of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Bangladesh and some parts of India.

Pakistan which has launched a low intensity war against India is also infiltrating terrorists especially in Jammu & Kashmir who carryout terrorist activities and on their instigation misguided Kashmiri youths shout pro-Pakistan slogans and show flags of Islamic State. Indian security forces are exterminating terrorists in encounters and holding cordon and search operations which are giving desired results. However as radicalization is enhancing in J&K the influence of IS is also increasing.

In view of large Muslim population security agencies must adopt a multi-pronged strategy and a well-coordinated strategy so that Indian Muslims do not join IS. As IS is using internet to spread hatred among different religions and sects as well as for recruitment of cadres for IS, security agencies must create a separate cell to deal terrorist organisations especially IS. The officers and staff of the special cell must possess through knowledge of internet so that they can counter the vicious propaganda of IS through internet, whatsApp and other facilities. The special cell should also put the lectures and speeches of good intentioned preachers who denounce terrorism so that disillusioned Muslim youths do not join the terrorist outfits.

The influence of IS is increasing as in April 2017 security forces exposed IS cells in six states including Delhi, U.P., Punjab, Bihar, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. There are confirmed reports that young Muslims of Kerala had gone and joined IS. There are also few cases where IS was involved in derailment of trains. Few Indians had also gone from Middle Eastern countries. These are ample proof that the influence of IS is escalating in India.

IS is using mosques and Madrassas for hiding and recruiting cadres for the terrorist outfits. Hence intelligence agencies should deploy their agents who inform if anti-national activities are conducted in the religious institutions. The well intentioned political leaders should convince the masses about the futility of extremism and terrorism which are the main enemies of progress and development.

Security forces should also plan as Indians who had gone to Syria and Iraq to join IS would return to India and will spread extremism and would try to recruit agents for IS.

Indian security forces must be cautious so that IS is not able to establish its headquarters in India or even in neighbouring country as the outfit will certainly try to misguide Indian Muslims.

Indian government must initiate a full-fledged programme to stop radicalization and de-radicalization programme for those who are already radicalised. The security agencies should also take stringent preachers who are involved in spreading hatred in the country. The danger of IS is real and whole world should be united against this monster.

(Jai Kumar Verma is a Delhi-based strategic analyst and a retired senior intelligence officer. The views in the article are solely the author’s. He can be contacted at editor.adu@gmail.com)

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