Maharashtra ATS rolls out policy to tackle online radicalisation

Agency promises that no legal action will be taken against parents of youths who approach them voluntarily.

Faced with the challenges of both home-grown extremism and the global Islamic State (IS) threat, Maharashtra Anti- Terror Squad (ATS) has devised a strategy to deradicalise youth by gaining trust of parents.

The trigger to start such a policy was busting of Prabhani IS module where wife of main accused Nasir Chaus has informed the family that he is spending a lot of time on computer, but it was neglected.

Maharashtra has seen a spurt in number of people who have been arrested for involvement with IS and have left the country to join the banned organisation.

A senior officer speaking to India Today said, "Module busted by us in Parbhani was similar to Saifullah and gang. Parbhani youths had prepared an IED (Improvise Explosion Device) to carry out attack but they were arrested at the right time and IED was seized. We want more and more people to approach us if they see behavioural changes in their son or if he is spending a lot of time online. We will keep the case confidential and will bring the youth in the mainstream with help of community leaders."

As per police, they came across the different levels of radicalisation by interacting with youths and found that recruiting online is four times faster than physical meetings and still effective. The online process is 100 per cent safe for the handler as he never shows his face to the recruits. In the case of Parbhani youths their handler never revealed his face during the chat, but saw faces of these youths. Interrogation revealed that the handles pasted a black sticker on his front camera while doing the video chats.

A recruit is first added in a broadcast group on a instant messaging site where he will only receive literature which will take him in the radicalise foray. Then he is asked to prove his loyalty only after which the process of chat rooms and video calling starts.

YOUTHS DERADICALISED WITH HELP FROM COMMUNITY LEADERS

Under the new policy, many youths have been deradicalised with the help of community leaders and NGOs and brought to mainstream. India Today spoke to a youngster who was deradicalised by ATS after he was nabbed for being involved with an IS recruit.

"During our interrogation we were not beaten or tortured. No case was registered against us. We have been given a chance we don't want to miss it."

Talking about radicalisation the youth said, "All this while we thought we were not on the radar of the agencies, but they were monitoring our each step. I had downloaded file from a website called Trillion which had IS literature. A person who was already recruited tabbed us at the local mosque. We were concerned about the Muslims in Syria being killed by armed forces and wanted to help them. Now I have realised that if you have to do some good work you can do it in your locality."

The youth also said that he did not trust the police and thought that others are scared.

"We used to have discussions with responsible people in our area which sometimes turned into heated arguments. We asked proof from them about IS doing anti-Islam work. I assumed that others are scared of acting and hence took it on myself to help the IS. I have now slowly gained confidence in police and have started to spent life normally. The message I would want to give to other youths that if you want to do noble work you should do it in your locality and not get swayed in emotions."

Also read:

Maharashtra ATS takes help of IIT students to crack whip on ISIS cyber threat

NIA court frames charges against 5 ISIS accused who used matchsticks to make bombs

Confessions of ISIS' Indian lone wolf Mohammad Masiuddin