By Sandhya Jain
21 October 2014
Since Daesh's sudden eminence with the capture of Mosul, the black flags have been spotted from time to time in Srinagar, most recently after Friday prayers on October 12 outside the Jamia Masjid in Nowhatta
The presence of the grim black flags of the Islamic State or Daulat al-Islamiyah f’al-Iraq w Belaad al-Sham (Daesh) in Jammu & Kashmir and other Indian States where jihadi cells nestle, is testimony to Pakistan’s perseverance in undoing the civilisational framework and unity of India. New Delhi must realise that although Gen Zia ul-Haq spoke of desiring ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan from the time of the Soviet misadventure there, it is India that has been in Islamabad’s crosshairs since the first invasion in 1947.
Hence, it is no surprise that even as the Daesh/IS suffers a humiliating rout in Kobane city on the Syria-Turkey border due to valiant resistance from the Syrian Kurds (October 18) with some air support from the US-led coalition, the group’s ‘prestige’ remains intact in Pakistan and some sections of the Indian society.
Since Daesh’s sudden eminence with the capture of Mosul (Iraq) in June, the black flags have been spotted intermittently in Srinagar, most recently after Friday prayers on October 12 outside the Jamia Masjid in Nowhatta. Although Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has tried to play down these episodes, the General Officer Commanding of Srinagar-based15 Corps, Lt Gen Subrata Saha, has warned, “This is something which merits the highest concern of all security agencies …”
Daesh in India (and elsewhere) represents the merger of old (often outlawed) terrorist groups, in an uglier incarnation. Thus, the Ansar ut Tawheed, an offshoot of the banned Indian Mujahideen, pledged allegiance to Daesh and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (‘caliph’ Ibrahim) earlier this month, and threatened major attacks in India. AuT rose under the Tehreek-e-Taliban, Pakistan, with the objective of waging jihad in India.
Al-Baghdadi is a protégé of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, slain chief of Al Qaeda in Iraq, with whom he trained in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. Others that have pledged allegiance to him include the Abu Sayyaf group of the Philippines, Jemaah Islamiyah of Indonesia, Al-Tawheed Battalion of Afghanistan-Pakistan, and the Pakistani Taliban.
AuT leader, Abdul Rehman Nadvi al-Hindi, has urged Muslims to defend the ‘caliphate’ against the US-led coalition in Iraq and Syria. He has named India as part of the “axis of evil”, viz, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Australia, France, Canada and others. Nadvi fled to Pakistan with several IM leaders from Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh, after the Batla House encounter in Delhi.
The Daesh, which took 40 Indians hostage when it captured Mosul, has grand ambitions of establishing an Islamic empire spanning North Africa, mainland Spain, the Gulf, and the Muslim nations of Central and South Asia. India figures in its dreams as a part of ‘Khorasan province’ spanning Afghanistan and Pakistan. A legend says Prophet Muhammad prophesied that jihadis would rise from Khorasan and join the forces of Jesus who will be reborn in present-day Israel to proclaim global Islamic rule. This is accepted by the faithful and possibly explains the sporadic attempts by Pakistan to position itself as leader of Muslim West Asia.
Essentially, the caliphate spans regions under, or once under, Muslim rule. According to this mindset, if territories once ruled by Muslims fall under non-Muslim rule (like India), they are deemed to be unjustly occupied territories and Muslims are obliged to struggle to regain them. In four months, the Daesh has made greater inroads in India than Osama Bin Laden / Al Qaeda in 26 years. Though Bin Laden aspired to restore the caliphate, Daesh proclaimed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as ‘caliph’ Ibrahim. This has caused a rift with the parent Al Qaeda which is in turmoil as younger Mujahidin are not enthused by the aged Ayman al-Zawahiri. The Daesh inspires the younger generation as it already controls territory the size of Jordan.
Until the setback in Kobane, the Daesh seemed invincible. The sheer cruelty of its methods — mass executions, gruesome beheadings, public crucifixions — gleefully publicised over the social media, horrified the world but attracted new recruits like bees to honey. Besides thousands of Sunni Muslims, there were Western converts (700 French, 400 Britons, 250 Australians, and several thousand Turks).
The number of Indian Muslim volunteers is uncertain. Early reports mention four young men going to Iraq, of whom Arif Majeed, a 22-year-old engineering student from Mumbai, died in an American airstrike. In a letter to his family, Majeed explained his surreptitious departure: “It is a blessed journey for me, because I don’t want to live in this sinful (non-Muslim) country”. Other reports say an unknown number of youth from Tamil Nadu went to Syria via Singapore.
Parents of Muslim youth who went missing after the emergence of the Daesh were the first to raise the alarm over this dangerous radicalisation, for which they had no explanation. Some hint may be found in Tamil Nadu, where police some months ago arrested a cleric after a group photo of young men posing outside a mosque in IS
T-shirts was circulated on social media. Security analysts say the Daesh see India as a fertile recruiting ground; their recruitment video, “The Chosen Few of Different Lands”, is subtitled in at least three Indian languages: Urdu, Hindi and Tamil!
Maulana Salman al-Husaini Nadwi of the Lucknow-based Nadwatul Ulema wrote an enthusiastic letter to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi after he overran Iraqi cities, massacring hundreds, razing shrines of Shias and Sunnis (for idolatry), and forcing Christians out of Mosul. This provoked the Delhi-based Anjuman-e-Haideri (a Shia body) to advertise in Urdu dailies for volunteers to visit Iraq, ostensibly as nurses, doctors and engineers to help Iraqi Shias, but in reality to defend shrines such as Karbala. Around one Lakh registered, and 6000 applied for Iraq visas. A startling 25 per cent of the volunteers were women.
The Pakistani Taliban extended whole-hearted support for the Daesh on Eid, soon after the beheading of another Western aid worker; but stopped short of accepting al-Baghdadi as Caliph. Indeed, within days a spokesperson clarified that no allegiance was offered to the IS. However, the Pakistani Taliban claims to have sent 1,000 to 1,500 jihadis to Iraq and Syria and promised to continue help to the Daesh.
Zawahiri, meanwhile, has sought to regain the regional initiative by announcing a new South Asian branch of Al Qaeda, headed by Indian national Asim Umar. For India, which has been battling variants of Islamic fundamentalism (mostly mentored by Pakistan) long before the world acknowledged the phenomenon; this is a new thorn in the flesh. What is undeniable is that India is now in the crosshairs of global jihad; it urgently needs effective laws to tackle the unseen but massive radicalisation of youth for jihad.