Friday 27 May 2022
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ISIS Gaining Ground In India?

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Islamic State Of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) seems to be on ‘Mission India’. However far-fetched their dream may be, the dreaded Islamist movement, which is aiming for an Islamic Caliphate based on the Islamic brotherhood theology, is making a mark in this country, adopting a strategy to enter India through Assam via Bangladesh. The outfit has already taken responsibility of the killing of an Italian citizen and a Japanese citizen in Bangladesh and this is indeed a clear message to the state of India that they seriously mean business. Italian Cesare Tavella and Japanese Kunio Hoshi were killed in separate incidents, and the ISIS has taken responsibility of these killings.

It may be noted in this context that the Islamic scholars and clergy are almost in the same league as far as the ideology of the ISIS is concerned, and this according to scholars of reputed institutions and sleuths in intelligence agencies across the globe. The Guardian says the ISIS’s ideology is “generally viewed as identical to al-Qaida’s or the Saudi version of Salafism — adherence to fundamental Islamic tenets…” This is one among several reasons for the increasing attraction towards the ISIS in the Muslim world; once they were attracted to al Qaidah globally and the LeT in Pakistan for the same theological reason, never mind that Islamic scholars condemn the terror outfit publicly.

In cases like apostasy (Muslims leaving Islam) and blasphemy (criticism of the historical role of Prophet Mohammed), Islamic scholars across the world have the same viewpoints as that put forward by the ISIS or its leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, who is styling himself as the Caliph of the Caliphate that his organisation is nursing to turn into a reality.

After the killing of four bloggers, Hindu Niloy Chatterjee, Ananta Bijoy Das, Avijit Roy and Muslim Oyasiqur Rahman Babu, Ahmed Rajib Haider, Asif Mohiuddin, AKM Shafiul Islam, which the Ansarullah Bangla Team (ATB) claimed credit for, it was found that it was an offshoot of the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, which later transformed or evolved into ATB entering into a relationship with al Qaidah. The blogs written by the victims, which led to the Shahbag protests demanding capital punishment for Jamaat–e-Islami leaders, who were responsible for the war crimes of 1971, has resulted in the Islamists running for cover. Seeing this as an opportunity, the ISIS has marked its entry into Bangladesh by announcing to the world the killing of the Italian aid worker and the Japanese agriculturist.

A large number of Assamese Muslim youths are getting attracted to the ideology of ISIS; the intelligence establishment has tracked the posts from these young people as well as Muslim youth of other States in social networking sites, lauding the existence of the ISIS and the ideology it stands for. Independent studies conducted by several intelligence agencies have revealed that youths from India are getting interested in the ISIS ideology and people from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir are getting lured to the ideology.

A photo that went viral on Twitter showing Tamil Nadu men who support ISIS
A photo that went viral on Twitter showing Tamil Nadu men who support ISIS

Four youngsters were detained at Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram airports in a single day after they were deported from Abu Dhabi, the UAE, for suspected ISIS links. A former journalist from Kerala is supposed to be in Syria fighting for the ISIS and, according to information available, he has had his training in an institution in Manjeri near Kozhikode in Kerala run by an organisation subscribing to the Wahhabi ideology.

It may be recalled that Anees Ansari, an Indian, is wanted for the lone suicide attack on an International American school in Bandra where children of British and American diplomats study. The former Chief of Maharashtra police Sanjeev Dayal had stated this. According to information with the intelligence agencies, there are around 7 Indians in Syria fighting for ISIS and Ansari is one of them. The figure could vary as there is no information on several people from Kerala who have gone missing in the after they landed there for or on the pretext of visiting these countries on a visit visa, which many from the Indian State do in of jobs in these petroleum-rich countries.

Pakistan, its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and its jihadist terror groups Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-E –Toiba are one of the major proponents of the Islamist terror threat to India. The ISIS is not controlled by the ISI, but the Pakistani agency is networking with the Haqqani network in the Afghan plateau and several old Islamist ideologues of al Qaidah are switching to the ISIS as they feel that al Qaidah after Osama bin Laden is not the old, formidable organisation it used to be. While the ISIS is busy preparing its networking in Afghanistan using its Qaidah contacts, the Pakistani ISI is trying to get these ISIS operatives into its fold to inflict maximum damage on India, my sources in the intelligence agencies revealed.

Another major factor is the LeT’s subsidiary group Jamaat–ud–Dawaa led by Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, as they have made a 2-pronged strategy of using charity work as a front end and planning and executing Mumbai model attacks on the other hand [Pakistan has conceded in some manner that the JuD is a front of the LeT]. A report prepared by the United Nations on terrorism state that Abdul Rauf Khadim (alias Abdul Rauf Aliza alias Hajji Mullah Maulvi Abdul Rauf Khadim), who has worked with the former Taliban leader Mullah Umar, established his own network in Afghanistan before being killed in a US drone attack. Reports suggest that the ISIS has established its network in 25 of 34 Afghan provinces, which India should not overlook.

ISIS commanders like Hafiz Saeed Khan of its Khorasan branch and Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost, who was a former detainee at Guantanamo Bay, are the major operational commanders of the ISIS in Afghanistan. As per the UN report, around 70 ISIS operatives have arrived from Syria and Iraq to set up base in Afghanistan.

With Maldivian islands also emerging as a fountainhead of the jihadist ideology, with the Pakistan’s ISI playing a prominent part in its politics and social life, India cannot afford to look the other way. Islamist terror is now a hydra-headed monster that is rearing some of its heads in our country as well.

It is, however, assuring to note that the Indian intelligence apparatus under National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, known for his no-nonsense approach to terror and jihadist ideology, is developing a network involving several groups and intelligence agencies across the globe to neutralise the ISIS that is working its way into India. Let’s hope we win this war on terror.

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Arun Lakshman
Arun Lakshman
Senior journalist based in Thiruvananthapuram

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