By Yogita Limaye
In India, there have been reports of a
handful of young Muslim men and women travelling to Syria to join the Islamic
Earlier in August, the so-called Islamic State
was driven out of Manbij, a city in northern Syria. Scenes of jubilation
followed on the streets. Men began to cut off beards they had been forced to
grow, and some women burnt Niqabs. People were keen to get rid of every symbol
of the two year-long IS rule. A US backed coalition led by Kurdish fighters
along with some Arab forces, took over Manbij after a two-month long offensive.
For Islamic State it was a big loss. The
city is on a road that links the Turkish border to the group’s stronghold in
Syria, Raqqa, which the US has said will be its next target. Less than two
weeks later, Syrian rebels backed by Turkish forces liberated Jarablus, a town
north of Manbij, from IS.
In neighbouring Iraq, we have been
reporting on BBC World News how Prime Minister Haider al-Abadihas promised to
retake Mosul by the end of the year. Preparations are underway to launch a
major offensive. Iraq’s second largest city Mosul has been occupied by IS since
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that
Islamic State is facing more pressure than ever before to keep a hold on its
home ground, with a host of foreign and regional powers pounding it. But the
group also shows off its might by claiming to have carried out attacks all over
the world. IS has said it was behind several deadly incidents in other
countries of the Middle East, Europe and the US. In recent months South Asia
too is seeing a growing number of attacks that the group has claimed
Islamic State drew first blood in Pakistan
in April last year when it said its fighters had shot dead three soldiers in
the country. It was seen as an unimpressive attack by a group whose public
image was one of a powerful, deadly force.
But IS reinforced that perception this year
when it claimed responsibility for the Quetta hospital suicide bombing on
August 8, in which more than 80 people were killed. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a faction
of the Pakistani Taliban has also said it was behind the attack, and while
Pakistan is still investigating who is actually responsible, Islamic State’s
claim shows its aspirations in the country.
In Afghanistan, the presence of IS began to
be noticed in 2014, when its propaganda material was found in several parts of
the country, including the capital Kabul.
From April 2015, a bloody battle began
between Islamic State and the Taliban in the country, each group launching
several attacks against the other. Early this year, Afghan president Ashraf
Ghani promised to bury Islamic State. In March, he said his forces had defeated
IS in the east of the country.
Just a few months later Islamic State
struck Kabul, or at least it claimed to have done so. Two explosions during
protests by the Hazara minority left at least 80 dead.
In the same month, IS said it was behind an
attack on a café in Bangladesh. 20 people were killed, including foreign
nationals. Bangladesh insists that Islamic State does not exist in the country,
blaming domestic militants instead. But in a video released shortly after the
incident, the group warned of more attacks in the country. There is also
evidence to suggest that young Muslims in Bangladesh are being radicalised,
which could make them easy targets for IS recruiters.
In the middle of the South Asian region
lies Hindu majority India, home to more Muslims than any other country in the
world except Indonesia.
In my time of covering India for BBC World
News, it has never been a recruiting ground for foreign jihadist organisations.
Al Qaeda has struggled to gain supporters in the country, even after it
launched its so called South Asia branch in 2014, seen as an attempt to counter
growing IS influence in the region.
In India, there have been reports of a
handful of young Muslim men and women travelling to Syria to join ARE Indian
police arrested just over two dozen people last year on suspicion of
pro-Islamic State activities, and more have been taken into custody this year.
But the numbers are still quite small. It’s estimated that less than a hundred
cases are being examined for links to IS, which could be termed almost negligible
in comparison to India’s Muslim population of more than 170 million.
But both Al Qaeda and Islamic State have
now been calling for ‘lone wolf’ attacks. Between the two, Islamic State’s use
of social media and modern technology has made it the more powerful influencer.
Sophisticated videos that have high production quality and catchy music, with
messages composed specifically for the people they’re looking to target, are
regularly shared online and on messaging services. People no longer have to be
taken to training camps to be indoctrinated or equipped.
India has more than a billion mobile phone
subscribers. 3G and now even 4G cellular services are spreading fast. Reaching
out to potential recruits is not a hard task.
India is governed by a right wing party
with Hindu nationalist associations. In the past two years, fringe elements
have been drumming up religious tensions, although there has not been a major
incident of communal violence. It is a situation however, that could lead to
insecurity among Muslims who feel victimised or marginalised.
Islamic State does seem to be aiming at
them. In May it released a rare video promising to avenge Indian Muslims who
were killed during the 2002 Gujarat riots, and in Kashmir.
On August 20, India’s deputy foreign affairs
minister MJ Akbar met President Bashar Assad in Syria. It was the first visit
by a high profile Indian government official to the country since the civil war
began. India has never formally backed President Assad but has always said a
political solution should be found in Syria without foreign interference. With
Russia’s strong support for President Assad and the US and Russia now saying
they’re close to an agreement on Syria, India perhaps now feels it needs to
step up engagement with the Syrian president. It is certainly an interesting
time to be in Beirut.
On the agenda, of course, is exchange of
security information. India is hoping to get leads on Indian nationals who have
joined IS in Syria. This might give the government a starting point in its attempt
to prevent Islamic State linked violence. But in a country like India with
densely populated cities and inadequate security systems, even one person
radicalised through their mobile phone could do a lot of damage.
Yogita Limaye is a journalist with the BBC World News, Beirut
probe over a series of terror incidents during the past few years points to the
bloody future of India. The blasts Indian Mujahideen claimed they were
responsible for include 2007 Uttar Pradesh bombings, 2008 Jaipur bombings, 2008
Bangalore serial blasts, 2008 Ahmedabad serial blasts, 2008 Delhi bombings,
2010 Pune bombing, 2010 Jama Masjid attack, 2010 Varanasi bombing, 2011 Mumbai
serial blasts, 2013 Hyderabad blasts, 2013 Bodh Gaya blasts etc.
the circumstances in India are not yet as turbulent as in several Islamic
countries. Despite a list of blasts and attacks in India, it is still known to
be a country of peace and tranquillity. But, within the next few years the
Wahhabi agenda of conquering every non-Wahhabi state may haul India to the
worst phase ever. This is a danger we can no longer ignore.
we Muslims and non-Muslims unite to ascertain what actually Wahhabism is and
eliminate its ideological roots, India runs the risk of fatal conspiracies,
bloody blasts, deadly suicide attacks, and wanton killing of innocent civilians
endangering the peaceful environment in