Home IS : Enemy at the Gates ?

IS : Enemy at the Gates ?

14 Jul 2016, France yet again suffered the dastardly terrorist attack carried out by a lone wolf in the truest sense. The French were enjoying the Firework celebrations at Nice commemorating the storming of the Bastille, in Jul 1789. In the following August feudalism was abolished, with the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen”. Ironically the same citizen two centuries later look more vulnerable than ever before. In fact humanity today stands at the cusp of a violent organized disorder. A plotting of terror activities around the globe in the last two months give a decisive geographical orientation and leaves one wondering if India is in the sniffing distance of mindless pogrom based on misplaced sense of ideology no religion preaches. As the hapless world watches the carnage perpetuated by restless, misdirected, self styled saviors of Islam, India needs to stand up and take note, lest it becomes a case of too little too late. From Medina to Spain, Turkey ,Iraq, Afghanistan and right at the backyard in Bangladesh, the world is caught in the cauldron of sinister terrorist quagmire, many of these activities attributed to the IS and few though handiwork of locals, IS is quick to take credit.

The IS, scrounging for real estate have set their eyes on Afghanistan and Pakistan and are resorting to the outsourcing of local talent in expanding their area of influence. Many experts have reiterated that Indian Muslims, given the fabric of our society are unlikely to join the rag tag band wagon. The data of numbers in terms of IS Recruits from the foreign countries is a testimony to this fact. Ashley Kirk in his report published in the Telegraph in March this year put the number of foreign fighters anything between 27000 to 31000 with 20 to 30 per cent having gone back home as IS cedes ground to the Syrian Forces, Kurds, Russians, Belgium and volunteers from around the world. The main contributors are Tunisia (over 6000), Saudi Arabia (approx 2500), Russia, Jordan, Turkey, France, Morocco Lebanon, Egypt, Germany (sub 1000). The Indian footprint stands at meager 23 to 30 which is almost negligible considering Muslims stand at 180 million and are only second to Indonesia in terms of population. Some think tanks and policy makers who worry about possible indoctrination of some section of the Muslim populace look at migration of Jehadis from Europe to the IS frontier which, roughly put together stand at over 6000. If well educated youth who are well brought up and are free of any oppression could be drawn towards the extreme ideology then why not Indian Muslims who one may say have had grievances against the state on plethora of subjects. The greatest negation of such a possibility is the plural nature of the Indian Social Fabric. First, unlike European nation states who shaped their geography based on religious leanings and linguistic orientation or some of the autocratic rules in Asia and elsewhere, the founding fathers of India consciously let several mini India grow within the national boundary and kept evolving and reshaping its structure to create a strong heterogeneous India with homogenous states based on cultural identities. Thus a kannadiga essentially draws his/her roots from the region much before the religion. So is a UPite, a Bihari, a Punjabi, a Malyali or an Assamese. The first question any stranger in India is likely to ask is ,” Aap Kahan ke rahne wale ho”? (which place you belong to?) and thankfully not  “which religion do you follow?”. Second a very strong family value system where hardly anyone is left alone and the support system takes care of any digression form the natural urge of continuous improvement in all facets of life from standard of living to academic pursuit to social status to material being- all so deeply engrained in the collective Indian Psychology. Third, a strong developing intelligence network keeping its eyes and ears on the ground. Fourth, by now the established democratic right to dissent, the window to channelize the anger and dissipate the negative energy. A stifled voice many a times veers down the path of maximizing friction with the established authority.  Dr Man Mohan Singh once recalled the way U.S. President George Bush introduced him to wife Laura Bush: "Laura, do you know of any other country of one billion people trying to seek its salvation in the framework of a democratic polity?" The country had 150 million Muslims, but not one of them joined the ranks of the Al-Qaeda. "So, it is a deep sense of pride that I have,'' he said adding that the country had to practice tolerance and respect diversity, which is its heritage. India's message to the world was that diversity and pluralism were the ways of the future.

So, as a nation, are we confident that we shall remain insulated from continuous efforts of our adversary to foment terror or the events around us will take a toll on us as well. Chances are remote but there is no room for complacency. We cannot allow IS to establish even a toe hold lest it is able to indoctrinate even a small fraction of population which would be bad enough. The Nice carnage needed just one man….so statistic and numbers may not matter in future. First and foremost believe in the old adage that nations don’t have permanent friends, they only have permanent interest. A century down the line even Americans won’t believe that they had a great friendship with Pakistan through the Millennium. We as a nation need to work on attaining Self Sufficiency in “countering terrorism” and “security independence”. Towards that goal, all laterals and verticals of security, intelligence and other agencies have to work absolutely in synch to stay ahead of subversive elements even as we work with other nations on this issue. Second we need national emergency on Education and Rule of Law. Even sixty nine years after independence, India is yet to provide level field in education. It’s not the numbers, it’s the quality. Its not Right to Education but Right to Quality Education that the nation has to work on. While it is true that in the west it is the educated youth which is getting drawn towards the extreme ideology, uneducated or not so well educated will fall prey to subversive indoctrination much more easily. The dismemberment of the Police Force from Politics is long over- due and India will do well not to ignore the Police reforms. Rule of Law has to be established by the local Police. Application of Central Forces in disturbed areas often is seen as interference of Central Government in the federal structure of the nation. The Police Force, under the state governments have to attain equal competence in structure, training and leadership. The timely Judicial deliverance is essential for people to develop faith and prevent them heading for Bush as so common in the areas afflicted with Left Wing Extremism. Third, the role of civil society and religious leaders in stemming any kind of radicalization across all religions need to be harnessed and strengthened further. Fourth, for long the political class in the states fighting Terrorism/Insurgency/LWE have put the security forces up front not only as an instrument of problem solving, but also as a cushion to absolve itself from the moral responsibility and abrogate its principled duty.  Security is just one of the problems so it will provide only one of the solutions-of bringing down the level of conflict. There after other instruments of governance have to lead the way in taking the conflict to a logical conclusion. In this era of very vocal and antagonistic political divide, everyone has to put nation first. Fifth, the media today around the world is seminal as far as shaping of environment is concerned and their role today is equally important if India has to succeed in countering the threat from the IS.

Last but not least, as events in Bangladesh clearly show that its stability has been compromised whenever the religion has tried to dominate its Bengali culture, India has to remain stead fast and committed to its multi dimensional, multi plural, multi religious and multi cultural fabric and has to ensure all inclusive growth which is crucial to the nation’s stability. Prime Minister Narendra Modi as precursor to his visit to Russia last year, reiterated that India has an ancient tradition of “openness, respect for diversity of beliefs and cultures. India is one of the oldest civilizations in the world, which believes that the world is one family; and, that humanity is an integral part of Nature, not superior or distinct from it”.

The Author is Senior Fellow at CLAWS. Views expressed are personal.

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Sameer Sharan Kartikeya
Senior Fellow, CLAWS
Contact at: [email protected]
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