With ISIS threat looming large, we need a policy to fight radicalisation

Delhi, IndiaWritten By: K P RaghuvanshiUpdated: Dec 25, 2018, 11:18 AM IST

Representative image. Photograph:(PTI)

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The new generation of terrorists are willing to take extreme risks and make the attacks look simple - and deadly. 

India has been the target of terrorist groups for decades. The issue of Maoist and North East extremist groups are local. But bigger threats have emanated from Pakistan-sponsored attacks. And our neighbouring country remains the biggest source of trouble.

Pakistan had fought four wars against India, without winning a single one.  After former military dictator General Zia ul Haq came to power, the policy was changed and Pakistan’s army and ISI resorted to proxy war to “bleed India by a thousand cuts”. A low-cost but potentially expensive war to inflict on an enemy, without openly challenging him in a battle field because Pakistan has seen many failures there.    

The first major terrorist attack was in 1993, commonly known as the Mumbai blasts in which ISI used the smugglers’ network and Dawood Ibrahim’s gang to deadly effect.  

In subsequent years, various terrorist attacks were organised on Indian soil and no major city in the hinterland was left untouched. Investigating agencies found out that the ISI used Indian youth and motivated workers of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) to execute these attacks. The young men, who went for Haj were scouted; vulnerable youth were targeted and lured, were taken to Pakistan and radicalised. They became easy meat for Pakistani handlers. 

From time to time, their handlers from Pakistan provided them with explosives, improved explosive devices (IED) and other logistic support to carry out bomb blasts in Mumbai, Delhi Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Benares, Bangalore, Surat, and Pune. They were trained extensively in the use of fire arms. 

The biggest advantage in these attacks was that the perpetrator could place the bomb at identified places and escape. He could continue to live his normal lifestyle without arousing the suspicion of his neighbours and sometimes even family members. 

But the disadvantage was that it left a long trail of evidence and with the arrest of one culprit, the whole chain of events could be unearthed. 

The 26/11 attacks in Mumbai were of a different magnitude and it was like a full-fledged foreign attack on Indian soil as the perpetrators came heavily armed from Pakistan.

Post 26/11, a new threat is looming large: ISIS and Syria. From India, several youths (according to some estimates, about 100) had left the country and joined the ISIS. Such has been the impact of ISIS that it was able to penetrate the radicalised minds through the Internet. Without any physical contact, there was enough vile propaganda on the net to impress gullible minds. Sitting thousands of miles away, ISIS theorists could cause a big impression on young men, sitting in several Indian cities, completely unaware of the place where their propagandists were operating in. 

In such a situation, proxies are not too difficult to find. Many cases came to light where ISIS had recruiters sitting in Jaipur, Bangalore, and Hyderabad and many other Indian cities and everything, from recruiting to indoctrination, was happening online.  

Though about a hundred eventually left the country to fight the war, we have no way of knowing how many got radicalised and are planning to go to Syria and other terror-hit areas of the world, presumably to meet their handlers. 

Now that the ISIS is losing ground, can we believe that these radicalised minds will now return to a normal life? It is difficult to say and it calls for deep scrutiny and a close watch on such elements. 

ISIS has discovered the cheapest way of carrying out terrorist attacks, which do not require big money or sophisticated weapons or explosives. 

The terror attacks at Nice in France and other European cities are prime examples. The modus operandi is very simple. The perpetrator knows he is likely to lose his life during the attack. This is a very big deviation from earlier attacks in which the attackers would conduct recce of any targeted place and plan an escape. The new generation of terrorists are willing to take extreme risks and make the attacks look simple - and deadly. 

When it comes to a lone wolf attacker, not much information is available. Israel has conducted some studies and some traits have been identified: such people are loners, feel victimised, frustrated, disillusioned and imbued with radical ideology, coupled with perceived injustice towards people of certain communities. 

India is the third most terrorism-hit country in the world. But we lack any counter-terrorism policy. And it’s totally left to intelligence and security forces to deal with such threats. It is not a very sound policy.

Terrorism is also fast evolving and new and sophisticated attacks, as well as old tried and tested methods, are being adopted. Security forces prepare a response based on past attacks, but terrorists adopt and discover newer methods of carrying out destruction. 

Therefore, there is a need to “think out of the box”. For this, we need to have a policy to fight radicalisation and terrorism. Fighting terrorism cannot be left to security forces alone; not, at least in our country. We must involve various sections of society. We also need to assign active roles to some ministries like social welfare and minority affairs to make all-out efforts to address the issue of perceived religious persecution. For potential recruiters, grouse, real or imagined, is the perfect mindset to tap young recruits.     

To counter the false propaganda of terrorist groups, the involvement of religious leaders can be very effective. 

(This article was originally published on DNA. Read the original article)

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)