By Tishara Garg
Another young engineer, planning to go to Syria via Turkey to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), detained in Hyderabad.
This news comes amidst a slew of cases of such young Indian graduates leaving home to join the Terror group which has become a big source of concern for the Indian Security agencies.
What is the Islamic State?
ISIS (now proclaiming themselves as the Islamic State) is a radical Islamist group that has seized large swathes of territory in Eastern Syria and across northern and western Iraq. The group aims to establish the caliphate of early Islam – a single state ruled by a religious and political leader (Caliph) according to Fundamentalist Islam, or Sharia. It is notorious for mass killings and beheadings of religious minorities, journalists, and soldiers, which has sparked outrage worldwide, and elicited intervention from the US Military.
The Islamic State is driven by the ‘Wahhabist’ ideology which follows an extremist version of Islam, waving off all the innovations and developments in the religion as corrupting its original spirit.
Driven by the historical nostalgia to the return to the caliphate of early Islam, they aim to institute strict Sharia, free from any outside (western) influence.
Their version of Islam prohibits alcohol, adultery, music and all modes of entertainment and institutes a strict dress code for all with punishments like stoning, crucifications, beheadings and the like for the non-followers. They justify sexual control, slavery, religious violence, and macabre killings by citing the puritanical interpretations of the Koran
Regarding those who don’t agree with this version as infidels (Kafir), they believe that the true interpretation of Islam means waging a war (Jihad) against these non-believers.
IS in India
The Islamic State, till a few months back, had no known operations in the subcontinent. But now the group is trying to lure Muslims in India, who make up the world’s third-biggest Islamic population, but have largely stayed away from foreign battlefields, despite repeated calls from the Al-Qaida.
This was evident from the statement ofArif Majeed (a youth from Maharashtra who was arrested after he returned from Iraq where he underwent some kind of training under the Arab group) that the IS is looking eastward and has special plans for India. The dramatic arrest of Bangalore based Mehdi Biswas, author of the highly influential pro-ISIS twitter account @ShamiWitness, has bumped the fears up all the more. And now comes another arrest on the same grounds!
Challenges for the Indian Intelligence Agencies
Unlike outfits like the Al-Qaeda, the Indian Mujahedeen etc., a close track of which the Indian intelligence agencies have been keeping for a long time, IS is a relatively new concept in India whose networks the Intelligence agencies are completely oblivious of. With the IS catering to the youth via the internet, it’s hard for the Indian agencies to keep a track of youth getting radicalized on Facebook, Twitter or in Chat rooms.
“The problem is we know so little about this network or who is acting on their behalf here. We know roughly where the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Indian Mujahedeen (organizations backed by Pakistan) support groups are, where they make contacts. But this is a different challenge.” said a top official from the Intelligence Bureau.
Ban on IS in India
Rattled after the siege at a café in Sydney by a person claiming to have affiliations with the IS, the Centre has banned the Islamic State in India. As the agencies were faced with difficulties while booking Majeed and Biswas under a law, the ban was inevitable. But the decision came with its own apprehensions. Many fear that it can drive sympathies for the group in India’s underground, if any have taken hold. It can also put the lives of the 40 Indian hostages held by the group in danger.
In the wake of recent global terrorist events, America has called on the world to join it in the war against terrorism in general, and against the Islamic State in particular. On the face of it, it would seem reasonable for India to join Obama in the fight for the good cause. But India should be cautious of Obama’s intentions, as it has its own geopolitical stakes in the region. Any decision it takes should be in light of its own interests rather than America’s immediate interests.
As far as domestic precautions are concerned, one way to check the activities of the group in the country is to have better cyber-monitoring and efficient cyber-policing at all levels. Taking heed of each and every such case with a probable association with the IS, no matter how minute, can go a long way in addressing the threat successfully.
Tishara Garg is a freelance writer pursuing her bachelors in Economics from Shri Ram College of Commerce. She’s been writing for Yamuna and Renaissance for past one year on subjects like Indian history, politics and culture. Currently, she is the Chief Coordinator of The History and Political Science Society. An avid quizzer and a civil services aspirant, she also heads the quizzing wing and UPSC Cell of her college. She loves to travel and has a knack for ending things on a funny note but fails.
Edited by Madhavi Roy, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist