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Fighting Radicalism in the Digital Age

By Newsd
Updated on :
Eraser deleting the word Radicalism

As prime time television debates heat up on the issue of radicalism in Kashmir, the venom of digital terrorism seems to be taking centre stage – from Kashmir to Kerala, the tentacles have spread far and wide. Burhan Wani is the new poster boy for the new age extremists. But let’s go back in time. When 26/11 happened, the terrorists were being instructed from Karachi by one Zabiuddin Ansari, also known as Abu Jundal. For those who don’t know, he isn’t a Pakistani; he is an Indian by birth. The more these terrorist organisations convince people that India isn’t their country and then turn them against their own people by using religion, it’s a point of failure for us. So let’s be honest, they are not failing. Not so soon.

The Intelligence Bureau has been preparing fresh lists of Islamic State or ISIS sympathisers within India and it seems the numbers are going up. India would be red-faced if something like the Dhaka attacks surfaces and the ones responsible are Indians. With Kashmir once again burning and tension brewing up, the vulnerabilities have been exposed yet again as far as our preparedness and call to action is concerned.

Last year there were media reports regarding the formation of a new Homeland security department/agency too, but what is needed is that we first plug the loopholes and shortcomings of the existing agencies responsible for national security. The efforts need to be lauded, no doubt, but it’s time to modernise the approach as well. From having more on-ground surveillance and gathering of intel, to using a mix of traditional trade craft as well as new-age methods of cyber intelligence is a must. Let’s get it straight, we are not dealing with a ragtag bunch of “jihadis”; the ISIS is reported to have used PS4/XBOX/SoMe (social media) and what not to communicate and spread their propaganda far and wide.

There are diverse reasons for radicalisation among Muslim youth, including a sense of alienation, lack of opportunities, illiteracy, lack of civic amenities in areas/regions inhabited by minorities etc. An event like the death and hero worship of someone like a Burhan Wani makes it even more important for agencies to collect secret information on a daily basis. Such sensitive issues often pave way for the radicalisation of youngsters by people or religious leaders with vested interests and a fanatic outlook.

Possible terror threats, riots and internal friction between communities pose a serious threat to national security and crushing the seeds of radicalisation is one way of dealing with such menaces. Having interacted with former officers of the defence services and security analysts, most of them suggest a soft approach to tackle the current scenario. A “hard” or violent approach to nab radicals or wannabe-terrorists might not be desirable and would backfire as well. What is needed is a strong surveillance base.

Once it is confirmed that the person/s in question is ready to take the hardline route, officials or law enforcement agencies must ensure de-radicalisation by engaging with community elders, counsellors and local level security and police officials. There must be steps to integrate them into the mainstream by providing equal opportunities and a broader outlook via education and counselling.

Organisations like the ISIS have made war “sexy” and the widespread use and scope of the internet as well as social media has helped them to penetrate regions which were never under the radar of spy agencies and internal security apparatus, like Kalyan in Maharashtra. By the time our agencies devise steps to thwart their evil design; terrorist organisations already have their next move in place. In order to fix this, it is vital that the quality of intelligence gathering is improved, not just on ground but also in the digital domain.

Though some reports suggest that India is not on the list of ISIS as a target in the immediate future but there are plans to strike. Our approach to control radicalisation and its various manifestations needs to be even more aggressive, yet calculated and soft to an extent. There are enemies within and we must leave no stone unturned to prevent any damage to our national security as well as social fabric. The race has begun and it is definitely a race against time.