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Radical Islamism and Jihad ( 9 March 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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ISIS in India?

By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam

10 March 2017

The recent low intensity blast on a train in Madhya Pradesh and subsequent arrests made in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere have once again revived the debate of presence of ISIS in India. The contours of this debate are not simply limited to the logistics and infrastructure of terror but also on the root causes of such terror related activities. If the alleged incident was indeed carried out by the ISIS, then we have more than one reason to worry. We will have to rethink the whole ‘peaceful’ Indian Muslim thesis over again and try and understand how they are getting radicalised. But given the facts at hand, perhaps there is no need for such an alarm as yet. On the other hand, there is no need for complacency either, because we do not need the whole of Indian Muslims to perpetrate terror, only a handful can do the job and therefore as a society we need to be vigilant for such a possibility.

The facts at hand are not clear and precise to link the attack with ISIS as yet. Initial reports of the train blast suggested that it might have been caused by an electrical short circuit. Then of course, an alleged ISIS terrorist was neutralised in Lucknow and some were arrested across Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, but the police have not been able to link the blast with these arrests. There is nothing on record so far to suggest that those arrested were the ones who caused the blast on the train. Nor is the police able to say that Saifullah, the person who was killed in Lucknow was anyway related to the blast which happened in Madhya Pradesh. For all that we know, it might be that these are two separate incidents unrelated with each other. However this is not a trivial issue. Even if unrelated, both incidents are serious in nature and there is a lot which needs to be explained in terms of the huge cache of ammunition which was found from the hideout of the slain ‘terrorist’, Saifullah. Only a thorough inquiry can reveal how these arms were procured and for what purpose they were stored there.

But then, as we all saw, patience is not a virtue among some of our politicians and police officers. It was the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, who within a couple of hours, claimed that the attacks were the handiwork of ISIS module in India and that members of this module were directly taking instructions from handlers from Syria. Since the ISIS is already on the run in Syria, it appeared a bit far-fetched but then coming the CM of a state, one took it seriously. Some members of the police force seemed to reiterate the stance of Shivraj Singh Chouhan, only to be repudiated later by senior police officers themselves. The facts of the matter so far according to the UP police is that those arrested and killed were part of a network which were bent on carrying terrorist activities. But the police is categorical in denying that they were members of ISIS. Rather, they were more like a self-motivated group who might have been ‘inspired’ by ISIS through a process of self-radicalization online. In short, there is no evidence as yet to suggest that they were being instructed or financially supported by ISIS in Syria.

The media overreach which happened in this case actually helps no one. Going ballistic over the ‘ISIS in India’ and coming to conclusions even before the investigating agencies have started looking into the profile of alleged terrorists only helps stoke negative fears about a section of Indian population. More so when the same media houses have maintained a studied silence on the alleged links of some members of Madhya Pradesh unit of BJP with the ISI or the recent conviction of some members of the RSS in Ajmer blast case. This hypocrisy only lends credence to the perception that the media is biased and has an agenda which makes the Muslim community nervous.

There are some commentators who have argued that since there is no link with the ISIS, there is nothing to be worried about. Such complacency also needs to be questioned. The fact that the police have recovered a large cache of arms and the fact that those arrested had some design to cause mayhem and violence should concern us all, particularly the Muslims. If not ISIS, then they can be members of any other terror group. What difference does it make if they belong to any terror organization? The point is that such an ideology should not be permitted to grow within the Muslim community and it is incumbent on the community to do something about it rather than denying its possibility at all times. This is not the first time that fears have been raised about the presence of ISIS in India. Reports, some substantiated, have come from other parts of India, about how some Muslims have been radicalised online and some have even volunteered to go to Syria. The argument that it is only a handful of Muslims does not make sense. Because you actually need only a handful to launch terror attacks, the subsequent narrative takes care of the rest.

Arshad Alam is a columnist


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