It’s a matter of tremendous satisfaction that in a counter-intelligence operation the NIA succeeded in apprehending 10 activists of an ISIS-inspired outfit by the name 'Harkat ul Harb e Islam'. Some experts would like to believe that the agencies involved got lucky. I would, however, insist that apart from luck there was absolute, focused, and professional hard work behind this success. Pro-active exercises undertaken by the NIA and UP Anti Terror Squad resulted in the apprehension of these accused.
Understanding the NIA Crackdown
Now look at the specifics of this crackdown. The mastermind of this module was Suhail, a maulvi from Amroha, working as an imam in a local madarasa. He, as the leader of the group, tasked other members to procure hardware and software to fabricate IEDs. Two brothers Zubair and Zaid were also arrested from Amroha. Zubair is a BA student in Delhi University and Zaid runs a mobile phone shop. The latter was responsible for procuring 125 sim cards on fake documents and also for generating funds for making bombs.
Anas, a resident of Delhi, is an engineering student at a private university. He was responsible for procuring alarm clocks, electric appliances, to fabricate the bombs. Rashid has a tailoring business. Saeed has a welding shop. Raees is also the owner of a welding shop. Saqib belongs to Hapur and is an Imam in the Jama Masjid. Md Irshad is an auto-rickshaw driver and was primarily tasked to carry out transport the equipment and hardware from one place to another. Azam is a resident in Delhi and has a chemist shop. He was also a masterminding the fabrication of the weapons.
Ominous Alarm Bells
NIA registered a formal case on 20th December under various sections of the IPC. The recoveries made are equally sensational. The recovered items include a country-made contraption resembling a rocket-launcher. Incidentally, it is the first time that such an equipment has been arrested from an Islamic group. Earlier, such country-made rocket launchers’ were recovered from left-wing extremists.
Their plan was to orchestrate fidayeen type attacks. They were also on the verge of fabricating a bullet-proof vest as well. Their targets were high-profile areas in Delhi, high-security zones, crowded areas, and national monuments.
The amount of cash recovered was not very large but it also tells a story. The money was, to a large extent, raised by these members by stealing jewelry from their homes and then selling the same clandestinely.
These are ominous signs. The NIA spokesperson stated that these accused belong to average middle-class families but are highly radicalised.
How did the radicalisation happen? What reversible and irreversible changes in the wiring of their minds were effected that made them do what they did? Jessica Sterne and J M Berger in their masterpiece, ‘ISIS: The State of Terror’ write that most information described as derived from the ‘jihadi online sources’ is basically derived from ephemeral sources–social media accounts that have already been and are in constant danger of being deleted by the internet service providers. How does one monitor that? They also write further, that early Salafism and Wahabism are typically thought of as religious movements, neither was ever a political one. These are profound words and we need to take lessons from this expertise.
Under these circumstances it is imperative not only for the NIA, UP ATS, and others agencies, who are part of and privy to the operations to pursue this very, very vigorously.
It is not for just one police agency or one organisation to do the needful. A collective effort is the only answer because there are innumerable sleeper cells.
And then there are those in hibernation, just getting ready at one instruction from the foreign handler whose name and identity was not disclosed by the NIA spokesperson. The fact remains that this is a tinder box that needs to be neutralised and entranced.
The Follow Up Plan
The follow-up action required immediately is thorough interrogation and putting the accused through lie-detector test, polygraph tests, narco-analysis, and if need be, psychiatric intervention. It is vital to get behind the eyeballs of these operatives to understand what has happened during the course of radicalisation.
There has to be focus, clear charter, and a road-map so that we are never caught on the wrong foot. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. We still do not have a very dedicated action plan for checking radicalisation. We need to study the success story of Singapore and Malaysia where de-radicalisation has been, indeed, handled very well and professionally. This is one task that we need to undertake on priority.
We also need to monitor Instagram, Telegram, Whatsapp and other chat rooms that are acting as the breeding ground for misguided youth.
I’m sure this success story of the NIA will indeed be elemental in charting a road-map for future successes.
Yes, a major catastrophe has been prevented but it needs to be seen whether we draw the right lessons. The government must come out with a white paper on what it proposes to do in the next five years. The topmost priority of the nation should be to identify, isolate, de-radicalise , sensitise and bring back such misguided youth to the mainstream. Our pluralism is our strength. Till the time we are not able to do it, let us not live in an illusion that every such derailed individual is an unidentified ticking time-bomb.
(Dr Vikram Singh is an Indian educationist and retired Indian Police Service officer. He joined the IPS in 1974, and held the post of Director General of Police in the state of Uttar Pradesh during the period June 2007 – September 2009. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for them.)
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