To check Islamic State, focus is on counter-radicalisation

By Vijaita Singh, The Hindu
Dated: September 01, 2016
 
 
First it was Badla (revenge), after Batla House encounter it was Farz (duty) and now it is Deen (religion) — this is the opening line of a secret document prepared by the Telangana police to explain the influence of the dreaded militant outfit, the Islamic State (IS) in India.
 
Though Indian intelligence agencies were little late to wake up to the dangers posed by the IS, already six of 23 who joined the fight in Iraq and Syria are dead, the agencies and the government have finally put their act together. Nearly 150 people are under watch. There are five women also among the probable recruits who were weaned away through community outreach. The thrust is on counter-radicalisation.
 
From roping in heads of Muslim religious bodies to issue fatwas against the IS to that of keeping an eye on educational institutions, the agencies are acting behind the curtain to discourage young Muslim men and women from being attracted to the IS.
 
Though it has always denied there is any influence of the IS here, government has taken multiple steps to counter the outfit.
 
A senior Home Ministry official told The Hindu that a three-pronged approach was being followed by them. “We have categorised the potential recruits of the IS in three categories — those who have come back, those who are curious about the IS and the ones who want to go.”
 
“There is no blanket rule to arrest all of them. It is being dealt with on a case to case basis. The Islam propagated by the IS is alien to Muslims in India,” said the official.
 
Another official said: “The concern for India is purely arithmetic as the country has the second largest Muslim population in the world. There is a tiny percentage of Muslims who have joined the IS.”
 
Role of social media
 
IS members post religious messages on Facebook and other social media platforms. They then develop contacts with the persons who have shared the post or liked it. These men and women are motivated further by sharing radical videos and pictures. “If seriousness is evinced by the person, the routes and logistics are explained to reach the IS. Phone numbers and Skype IDs are exchanged. The recruit then meets the intermediary and they are encouraged to travel to Syria based on the person’s willingness and drive,” said the official.
 
The government says it has roped in NGOs to deal with the IS. “Along with those who promote violent extremism, it is important to target extremist ideologies as well. Universities should conduct internal risk assessments. Waging an ideological battle is important,” said the official.
 
An official said the government was trying to have a wide “overt and covert” presence on the Internet. “Agencies are creating positive Internet content and pushing it across social media. Efforts are on to reduce the appeal of the IS through wide dispersion of counter-radicalisation messages,” said the official. He said the agencies were taking steps to deter people who produce and circulate radical content by booking them under penal provisions. “Another important area is collaboration with online community to strengthen reporting mechanisms and complaint procedures.”
 
The foremost thing was to find credible interlocutors, who could act as a bridge among the community members, the official said. The government had already brought the Imams on board, who have issued fatwas against the IS. “The Minority Welfare departments should be strengthened through human and material resources. It should be treated on a par with SC/ST departments. It will partner with police and other departments in a creative manner to address the issues of alienation and shared victimhood.”
 
‘Account for missing youth’
 
The government has asked all States to step up the traditional beat-policing to generate ground-level intelligence. Special emphasis is being laid on “identifying and accounting for the missing youth in the locality.”
 
“Custodial violence and unlawful arrests should be done away with. Police should be seen as impartial and fair in their dealings. Bipartisan role during communal violence can hardly be overemphasised. Keep a watch on the activities of communal offenders and persons with radical leaning and maintaining systematic records. Vulnerable youths should be identified,” said the official.
 
The local police should build effective and unobtrusive intelligence network in educational institutions. Surveillance should be kept on the activities of organisations with radical ideology. A mechanism was put in place to follow discourses in religious congregations and places of worship.
 
“Many recruits joining the IS are second generation migrants from Muslims from Africa and Gulf countries. It is more attractive than the al-Qaeda as it also appeals to moderate Muslims. The ones joining the IS subscribe to the Salafi ideology, which is not practised much in South Asia. Indian maulanas are opposing this brand of Islam by organising protests,” said the official.
 
The government is keeping a close eye on places of worship, places of political ideas and learning, communities, places of work, education, prisons and social network.
 
“All these groups produce groups of like-minded individuals whose shared purpose and experiences build enduring trust and a sense of ‘us, together against the world’ among its members,” said a senior official.
 
Bridging trust deficit
 
The government has asked the States to post at least one policeman from the minority community in each police station. Designing a special educational curriculum to sensitise policemen to communally sensitive issues is also being discussed.
 
India is carefully studying the models being followed in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Indonesia and neighbouring Bangladesh in developing a strategy to deal with the IS.
 
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