Published On: Tue, Dec 29th, 2015

India cannot simply wish away the threat of the Islamic State

India’s prime minister Narendra Modi suffers embarrassing defeat in Bihar Elections

It is a remarkably complacent remark coming as it does from Union home minister Rajnath Singh. He has said that India has no threat from the terror organisation Islamic State (IS) and that Indian values will prevent people, particularly young Muslims, from drifting towards it. This is in direct variance with the National Intelligence Agency chief’s statement that the IS is a major threat and the youth are being radicalised, especially in the south.

Mr Singh should take a look at the profiles and geographical locations of young people who have either joined or tried to join the IS. In the West, young men and women from seemingly secure backgrounds have proved easy pickings for the terror outfit, which has aggressively used social media to attract jihadists. In recent times, the IS spokesmen have talked about how India is a target and how they hope to incorporate it into the caliphate.

The threat of radicalisation needs to be taken seriously. Recently a top police officer spoke of how Muslim youth have been targeted unfairly by security and law enforcement agencies. This has led to alienation and in some cases radicalisation.

Recently, three young people were apprehended, two of them for the second time, while trying to go to join the IS. With a large young and poor population, India is a fertile recruiting ground for terror groups like the IS. Many youth may not even subscribe to the IS ideology but will see this in purely mercenary terms in a situation where jobs are hard to come by at home. The first thing that must be done is to accept that this is a threat and one that will grow.

The State must intervene and address grievances, especially that of jobs and education, instead of burying its head in the sand. Mr Singh does not take into account the power of social media and the propaganda machine of the IS. For someone with no hope for the future, both the prospect of easy money and that of rewards in the hereafter are attractive.

Concerted efforts should be made to identify vulnerable sections of the population and ensure that they are made to realise the perils of joining such organisations. For most young people who have joined the IS from across the world, there have been no happy endings. Some have been killed either in air strikes or by the IS itself, others have simply disappeared.

The home minister must lead the way in the battle against the IS and for the hearts and minds of young Muslims and others who may be misled by the pernicious IS propaganda.

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