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India’s war with ISIS: The staggering numbers that no one seems to be talking about

Much is often written about the Insurgency issue in Kashmir. Seldom, people talk about the radical Islamist problem that has gripped the state and it only seems to be getting worse. However, there seems to be a concerted silence about ISIS taking root in the country, and the silent battle India is fighting on that front.

The data on the subject is pretty clear. In 2014, 6 people were arrested by Indian security agencies for pro-ISIS sentiments and engaging in behaviour supportive of the Jihadist terror group. In 2015, that number rose to 19. Again in 2016, the numbers saw a rise and 54 people were arrested for pro-ISIS sentiments. In 2017, however, the number came down to 34.

These are just numbers of those arrested, those suspected to have actually joined ISIS is much higher. 88 people from around the country are believed to have joined ISIS, the majority of them from Kerala, a state which has increasingly come under the grip of Jihadist influence with political parties hesitant to effectively deal with extremist groups. If these numbers were not worrying enough, 25 Indians are believed to have been killed as well fighting for ISIS.

It has been open knowledge for quite a while that ISIS has been trying hard to gain a foothold in India. A terror organization that morphed into existence during the chaos in the Middle East has metastasized into a malignant tumour that is proving to be a critical global threat.

Reports had emerged that ISIS has prepared a blueprint for the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate in the Kashmir Valley. In recent times, ISIS flags have started appearing in the valley as well, in addition to the Pakistani flags which are sighted quite often enough. Reports had also suggested that ISIS supporters and sympathizers have also started a group in Kashmir, Ansarul Khilafah, to further the agenda of the terrorist organization.

To make matters worse, it’s not just isolated areas in the country which are affected by the ISIS threat. ISIS flags have been hoisted even in the northeastern state of Assam, a state that is undergoing a tectonic demographic shift as a consequence of illegal immigration from Bangladesh. ISIS sympathizers and terrorists have been arrested from Karnataka, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh as well. It’s fast turning out to be a pan-Indian phenomenon.

It could not have escaped ISIS’ notice that they have vast recruitment opportunities in India. Some might be inclined to scream ‘bigot’ whenever a person makes the suggestion that a significant chunk of the Muslim community, a small minority, yes, but significant, is very susceptible towards joining the ranks of the terror outfit.

For instance, offices of an Indian newspaper were attacked for merely using a cartoon pig to depict the funding sources of ISIS. Then there are the conflicts during Hindu festivals where Hindu processions are attacked by members of a community who are extremists by all means. One doesn’t have to be as intelligent as Einstein to realize that people with such tendencies are ripe for joining the ranks of ISIS if they manage to gain access to them. And we do know that ISIS is a tech-savvy terror organization and they could in the future target these sections of the community for recruitment.

The greatest threat of ISIS is their ability to influence young minds through the effective use of the internet. As we have seen in the West, terrorists who were radicalized online took it upon themselves to kill, main and slaughter in the name of their religion. And as the data shows, ISIS has been gaining ground in India lately.

They haven’t been able to mount any manner of attack but that is certainly not for lack of trying. One should credit the current government and the security agencies for thwarting attempts by terrorists on several occasions in recent times. The unique circumstance in India that make it more susceptible to the ISIS threat is the fact that many political parties are quite willing to sacrifice national interests for electoral benefits.

Some might even be willing to ignore the threat that ISIS poses or even put up with if it allows them to secure their hold in power.

All of these factors combined make India a fertile ground for ISIS to take hold. Thus far, things have been kept relatively in check by Indian security agencies. However, as circumstances in Europe have shown, it does not take too for things to go from bad to worse.


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K Bhattacharjee
Black Coffee Enthusiast. Post Graduate in Psychology. Bengali.

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