Though ISIS may have suffered serious reverses in battle field in the recent past, losing cities of Tikrit and Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria, the group seems to have lost none of its sting. Its geographical limits may be shrinking by the day but its ideological footprint has been growing. A recent video of the organization showing some Indian youth training for jihad only attests to this fact. In recent months, it has managed to find a toehold in the South Asian political and the security discourse. It has issued statements that show a deep understanding of the politics of the region. Kashmir has emerged as one of the organizations focus areas. The terror group wants to establish its caliphate in Kashmir and Pakistan. This has been revealed from extensive monitoring of web chats of IS members from different countries, including India, by India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA). The web chats are part of a chargesheet filed by the NIA against Indian Oil assistant manager Mohammad Sirajuddin, who was arrested for his links with the terror outfit.
Interestingly, ISIS sees two battlefronts in Kashmir: one, the ‘Indian Kuffar (apostate) Army’ and the ‘Pakistani Jehadi groups like Lashkare-Taiba, JeM and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen etc’ as these outfits will never accept a merger with IS as ‘their foundation is based on nationalism and patriotism'”.
Earlier, a video showed off a large group of Kalashnikov-wielding militants allegedly from India fighting against the Syrian forces in the Homs province. We will return, Aman Tandel, an engineering student from Mumbai vows, but with a sword in hand, to avenge the Babri Masjid, and the killings of Muslims in Kashmir, in Gujarat, and in Muzaffarnagar.
Are these the new troubling signs for India? ISIS signals a new age jihad that transcends the regional politics and the issues. It fits the violence into a reductive discourse of Islam versus the rest. And in this discourse Kashmir ceases to be a political problem between India and Pakistan that it is but between the caliphate and India. But for now, however, ISIS is primarily pitted against the west. While the west led by US has launched an all out assault on the Caliphate, and in the process securing some remarkable military successes, ISIS has carried out terrorist attacks in parts of Europe. Sundays attack in Americas Orlando which killed 50 people is a chilling reminder of the capacity for the devastation that the group continues to wield. At the same time, losing territory hasnt stopped the spin-off affiliates of the group from infiltrating Libya, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and elsewhere.
But while ISIS may have attacked Europe, it hasnt done so in India. That is despite its being apparently easier to do it, considering Indias vast Muslim population. Same has been the case with ISISs fore-runner, the now retreating Al Qaeda. India has not been actively a part of the campaign against the west-led invasions in Middle East, and significantly in Arab eyes, India is not seen as a global anti-Muslim symbol. But the latter image may be in for a change. Todays India isnt sending good signals to the world and especially to Mideast over safeguarding the rights of its largest minority. And though only a few members of this minority have joined ISIS so far, the number is apprehended to grow if the current sense of siege among the Muslims in the country persists. The point is India should not aspire for an image that the US acquired among Arab Muslims, setting up a clash of civilizations between the two. Under Obama, US has painstakingly tried to get rid of this image. But under Modi, reverse is happening in India.
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