Recently, terror organization ISIS released a video showing Indian fighters appealing to Muslims in India to avenge Babri Masjid as well as the events in Muzaffarnagar, Gujarat and Kashmir. Although it is unclear how old this video is, what is significant is that it uses Indians to specifically address Indians, urging them to join the jihad of ISIS. The message is loud and clear. ISIS wants us to believe that there are radicalized Indian Muslims in Syria fighting in its ranks, while also attempting to draw in vulnerable youth in the country, some of whom may be waiting in the wings for an opportune moment to join the bandwagon of Indian fighters in the Middle East. In sum, the video implies that ISIS is very much in the reckoning in India and attempts to dispel the idea that Indian fighters in Syria have run out of steam.
The video implies that ISIS is very much in the reckoning in India and attempts to dispel the idea that Indian fighters in Syria have run out of steam.
One person identified in the video is Fahad Tanveer Sheikh, who hails from Thane in Maharashtra. He is believed to be ensconced in Syria since 2014. He also uses an assumed name of Abu Amir Al Hindi. What's interesting in the video is how history is invoked. The arrival of one of the first Muslim invaders in India, Bin Qasim, in the 8th century AD is a highlight of the address. This indicates that some research went into adding a historical perspective in order to make the content more convincing and appealing. In addition, Hindu religious practices and rituals were categorically derided, supported by visuals. This further proves the concerted efforts made by ISIS to make the video relevant to an Indian audience.
Some security experts may dismiss the video as a veiled threat with only propaganda value. But I believe it has to be taken very seriously.
Among the dramatis personae in the video address is Shafi Armar who is suspected to be the principal force behind the propaganda. There have been reports of his death, but Armar, who goes by the online handle of Yousuf Al Hindi, is believed to be in active touch with radical elements in India through social media, including the messenger Trillian. So the publicity blitz goes on and on. Armar, incidentally, had also worked on a blueprint to form modules in India for widespread recruitment into ISIS. Bada Sajid alias Abu Toseb, a resident of Azamgarh, is seen in the video making derogatory remarks against Hindu deities. In a different vein, Abu Omar Farooq alias Abu Rashid criticizes the Batla House encounter. Abu Talha, Fahad Sheikh, Aman Tandel and Abu Salman also surface in the video, each exuding belligerence. Nafees Khan from Bihar, Najmul Huda from Mangalore, Rizwan Ali from eastern UP, Syed Mujahid from Tumkur are other active characters. From this short video, it is clear to see that ISIS has recruited members from different parts of the country and that their determination to further their "cause" is undiminished.
Meanwhile, Abdul Wahid alias Siddibappa, a resident of Bhatkal in Karnataka was arrested by the NIA on 20 May. He is a known IM activist and closely related to the organization's mastermind Riyaz Bhatkal. His interrogation by the NIA may shed further light on the recent video release and may also reveal more substantial facts about Indians jihadis inducted in the rank and file of ISIS in Syria.
Such media campaigns by ISIS must be neutralized with brute publicity in equal measure in order to discourage targeted youth from believing everything they hear from ISIS.
Some security experts may dismiss the video as a veiled threat with only propaganda value. But I believe it has to be taken very seriously. The government should launch an offensive media drive through print and electronic platforms to effectively counter such propaganda. Such media campaigns by ISIS must be neutralized with brute publicity in equal measure in order to discourage targeted youth from believing everything they hear from ISIS.
Additionally, prominent Muslim faces from politics, Bollywood and sport that are icons for the younger generation can be roped into communicating powerful anti-ISIS messages. The parents of those seen in the video can be contacted and asked to issue messages imploring their children to relinquish the terror group.
Prime Minister Modi at the last annual conference of DGPs held at the Rann of Kutch had called for community policing. A few states had also made a presentation as to how community policing can curb youngsters from joining ISIS. Such actions by the police should be visible to have substantial impact.
Such measures need to commence without delay. The security forces can't handle this daunting task alone. The community has to be on board. The holy month of Ramzan is approaching, so why not make the formal beginning to contain this IS propaganda then? It would be a timely and symbolic move against those giving a bad name to Islam.
The writer is a retired IPS officer, a security analyst and till recently was the National Security Advisor to the Republic of Mauritius. Views are personal
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