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Kerala-Kashmir-Kabul and the Islamic State
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 06 Jun , 2017

Jihadi ideology route in India

Reports regarding emergence of a new terror group ‘Base Movement’ has been making rounds for some time. The ramifications, reach and consequences of this terror group, however has not been analyzed to any degree. Least to say, the ramifications are pernicious.

The Base Movement, which has been carrying out revenge blasts, came into existence in January 2015 at Madurai in Tamil Nadu. This group is affiliated to the Al-Qaeda.

It is pertinent to mention here that the Al-Qaeda continues to be the umbrella organization of all jihadi groups rooted in the Wahabi / Salafi philosophy. It includes outfits like Haqqani group, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Jundulah, JMB, Al-Nusra, Boko-Haram etc. Hafiz Saeed was put in under preventive detention on 17 December 2008, this was a week before the US Security Council designated Jamat-ul-Dawa (JuD), the parent organization of LeT as an associate of Al-Qaeda.

The arrival of the Islamic State or the inroads by Al-Qaeda in India poses danger not only to the Hindu-Muslim fabric of the country but more grievously on the Shia-Sunni harmony.

Significantly, the Islamic State is also under the same umbrella. This is a loose conglomeration andmost jihadi groups do not necessarily take all the orders from the Al-Qaeda. To that extent they are autonomous.

The autonomy is imperative because respective groups have their respective catchment, and operational areas, given their local / regional expertise. For example, the catchment area of LeT is the Sialkot region and that of JeM is the Bhawalpur region. This architecture of global jihad cannot sustain without this arrangement. The Islamic State catchment area is the entire globe, wherein it attracts educated, English speaking, media and social network savvy youth, cutting across nationalities. Curiously a medical student from Hyderabad in Pakistan joined the Islamic State in Syria. She was in contact with a boy on social media for quite some-time, who transformed her mindset. Interestingly, two of Leghari’s friends were Hindus.

All jihadi groups in the world have some basic commonalities, i.e. opposition to the West, extremist narrative, designation of US and Israel as primary enemies, and the concept of Caliphate. The difference between the Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State on territorial issues is that the former has no immediate concern for ‘Caliphate’, while the latter has been insisting on its immediate establishment, and accordingly carved a territory for itself in Iraq and Syria. Also while the Al-Qaeda believes in large scale dramatic attacks to mobilize the Muslims of the world, the Islamic State seeks targets that are closer to home. The other major difference is that though both Al-Qaeda and Islamic State are anti-Shia, the Al-Qaeda believes in postponement of its anti-Shia agenda, but looks the other way when other affiliates like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi carries out terrorist attacks against Shias. On the other hand, the Islamic State believes in immediate and total annihilation of Shias.

The biggest beneficiaries of Hindu-Muslim clashes in India are the jihadi groups because it provides them a rich crop to harvest jihadis from.

It is instructive for Indians to know the mindset of the Islamic State. Significantly it was Jama’at al-Tawhidwal-Jihad (Al-Qaeda in Iraq), which had morphed into Islamic State. The leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (killed in 2006) and later Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi ignored the Al-Qaeda’s main leader Aymanal-Zawahiri’sadvise against killing of Shias. In a letter to Al-Zawahiri in 2004, Al-Zarqawi wrote that he would continue targeting the Shias to provoke them to retaliate against the Sunnis in order to compel the latter to gravitate to the fold of Islamic State. Till this day, the Islamic State follows the same strategy.

The arrival of the Islamic State or the inroads by Al-Qaeda in India poses danger not only to the Hindu-Muslim fabric of the country but more grievously on the Shia-Sunni harmony. The rise of the Islamic State has made the Shias in India restive to the extent that about 300 Shias had gathered in Lucknow clamoring for a special flight to Syria so that they could fight for the protection of Shia Shrines in West Asia.

Zakir Naik therefore not only posed the Wahabi menace in India, he was a serious threat to the sectarian balance amongst Muslims. Moreover, the Islamic State philosophy of provoking other sects / groups to draw Muslims to its brand of jihad may already have been tried in India manifesting in communal clashes. The biggest beneficiaries of Hindu-Muslim clashes in India are the jihadi groups because it provides them a rich crop to harvest jihadis from.

Coming back to ‘Base Movement’, this new terror group has carried out five blasts in different Court premises in southern part of India. These, as per the admission of its members were carried out in revenge against so-called victimization of Muslims in rest of India. The first bomb attack on 15-June-2016 was carried out in Kollam Court against the encounter killing of Ishrat Jahan. The second attack was carried on 01-August-2016 in the Mysore Court because of hanging of Yakub Menon and killing of eight terrorists of SIMI in Madhya Pradesh. The third attack was in Nellore Court on 12-September-2016 following the killing of Burhan Wani.

…this is the first time that the judiciary has been under threat as part of a comprehensive design. It adds a new dimension to India’s threat perception.

As per the NIA charge-sheet, the jihadis of the organization were asked to identify offices in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi and Mumbai. It indicates that the targets being explored by the Base Movement are not confined to South India but Mumbai and Delhi as well. In fact, the entire India for them is an arena of revenge. Also on their target is the French consulate in Bengaluru.

The NIA has very timely exposed this dangerous development of Base Movement. Earlier, the targets were parliament and legislative assemblies or security forces or infrastructure, but this is the first time that the judiciary has been under threat as part of a comprehensive design. It adds a new dimension to India’s threat perception. Also, on their hit-list are the Prime Minister, Home Minister, LK Advani and Gen VK Singh.

Significantly, it is not only the French Consulate in Bengaluru under threat, but the Embassies of US, Russia, France, Israel and Myanmar located in Delhi as well.

This jihadi threat to foreign embassies must be assessed in the backdrop of the massive bomb attack in the diplomatic area of Kabul on 31-May-2017 during Ramadan. More than 100 people lost their lives and more than 300 were wounded. Since the emergence of Islamic State, jihadi attacks during Ramadan has become an essential feature. An official Taliban spokesman said: “our fight is jihad and is an obligatory worship, reward for every obligatory act of worship is multiplied 70 times in Ramadan.” Islamic State has recently called for bloodshed during Ramadan exhorting its cadres ‘attack them in their homes’. The Islamic State emphasis on attacks abroad during Ramadan is to galvanize their followers and demonstrate their reach.  In 2015, the ISIS killed nearly 400 people across the globe during Ramadan.  In 2016, the figure ratcheted to nearly 480 and this year till today attacks attributed to the ISIS directly or indirectly include Britain (2 attacks), Kabul (2 attacks), Baghdad (2 attacks), Kashmir (4 suicide attacks), and Manila. 

The threat to consulates and embassies by the Base Movement must draw lessons from recent attack in Kabul. Being a diplomatic area it was heavily fortified. The bombing was only 100 meters away from the Indian Embassy in Kabul. The French, German and Japanese embassy suffered damages. The jihadi group responsible for this attack has not been identified but its philosophy is no different from Base Movement.

If setback to jihadis in Kashmir or in Madhya Pradesh, has reverberations in the judicial courts in South India or foreign embassies or consulates, surely then we are in throes of global jihad. It is not merely Kashmir and Kerala (euphemistically speaking for South India) connection or pan-Indian phenomenon but the alignment is Kerala, Kashmir and Kabul, and other co-laterals of global jihad extending to West Asia, Southeast Asia and even Maldives.

The impact of a jihadi attack or incident in Kashmir is not limited to J&K region, it triggers chain reactions throughout India and of course amongst jihadi outfits in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

To these three ‘K’si i.e. Kerela, Kashmir and Kabul can also be added another one, i.e. Kokrajhar. In may be remembered that in the year 2012, communal clashes in the Arakan region of Myanmar, wherein the Rohingyas suffered had its ugly reverberations in Kokrajhar in Assam, which in turn incited communal violence in Mumbai and then there was a chain of communal incidents in Pune, Hyderabad and Bengaluru. Boys and girls from Northeast had to flee the city of Bengaluru in fear, such is the pan-Indian and global dimension of jihad in the Indian context.

Therefore, it would be suicidal for India to treat jihadi terror in the perspective of ‘law and order’. It is a grave security problem, which has external and internal dimensions with the dividing line getting increasingly blurred. The impact of a jihadi attack or incident in Kashmir is not limited to J&K region, it triggers chain reactions throughout India and of course amongst jihadi outfits in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

It is thus, all the more pressing that Article-370 be removed.

If Indian Muslims from Kerala are travelling to Afghanistan to join the Islamic State and if Kashmir has reverberations on the Muslims of Kerala, then one is compelled to deduce that the global jihad in India has transcended all geographical, linguistic and cultural barriers.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

RSN Singh

is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research and Analysis Wing, or R&AW and author of books Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and The Military Factor in Pakistan. His latest book is The Unmaking of Nepal.

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3 thoughts on “Kerala-Kashmir-Kabul and the Islamic State

  1. First suspend and later revoke the passports not only of those who travel outside to join ISIS, but also of all the family members. Freeze the bank accounts and de-link Aadhar cards, withdraw all subsidies and entitlements of the dependents in India. No need to rescue anyone held captive.
    The scenario is alarming like metastasizing cancer which needs surgical treatment only.

  2. Keep it simple if someone is going outside of your country to fight with Daesh,, let them go, just cancel their citizenship,, they can stay there and die for whatever cause they want for. They can be taken care in foreign lands,, eliminate the threat over there. French SO doing so,, many french nationals those are working with daesh in syria,, has been detected and eliminated over there,, ofcourse its a covert but only way to deal with this cancer is just remove it. India need to do the same,, those who are outside dont let them comeback and if possible eliminate in foreign land. and for those who are involved inside,, internal security agnecies knows what to do.

    India need to fight this at 2 fronts.

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