Radicalization, Terrorism and Community Engagement in India – I


The arrest of the suspects of terror activities in Bangalore, Nanded, Hyderabad, and the low intensity bomb explosions in Pune on 1 August 2012 are pointing fingers at the involvement of some Indian Muslims. Earlier also, many of the terrorist attacks against cities in India have been conceptualized and planed by Indian Muslims who sought to attack their own country. Despite these events, India has not taken any comprehensive community engagement programme (CEP) to engage the Muslim community to check radicalization, which is a strong tool to control home grown terrorism.

It is indisputably exposed from the Administrative Reforms Commission’s (ARC) Fifth Report on “Public Order” in June2007, Seventh Report on “Capacity Building for Conflict Resolution” in February 2008 and Eighth report entitled “Combating Terrorism: Protecting through Righteousness”, in October 2008. These reports have not talked about any initiative or proposal to craft a CEP to engage Muslim comunity.

Indian state may be undoubtedly confident of the long established norms of peaceful co-existence and multiple respects, which are still intact and unbroken. The Hindu and Muslim generations of India had found its own balance, and paved their social compact. This compact has been respected and continued to work well over a long period of time. Indian society has absorbed Muslims into its mainstream. The roots of communal concord and secularism are extremely rich. Many famous film stars like Saharuk Khan, Salman Khan, and Amir Khan etc. are Muslims. Many Muslims have held office as Presidents, Cabinet Ministers, Ambassadors, Chief Justice of India, and Chief of the Air Staff, and as well, held posts in Indian Administrative Services.

Even major conflicts like incidents of Gujarat and the demolition of Babri Masjid have not stopped majority of the Muslims which are still in the main stream of the nation. B. Raman observes, “The Indian Muslim community, despite feeling hurt because of the large-scale anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat, has remained fiercely loyal, law-abiding and forward-looking. It has kept its distance from Al Qaeda and the International Islamic Front (IIF) and repulsed the approaches of Pakistani jihadi organizations aligned with Al Qaeda.” Muslims in India are more resistant, but not immune to radical message. For example, the New Delhi bombings email portrays a photograph of a Muslim man caught in anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002. The email said, “Never assume that we have forgotten the demolition of Babri Masjid and, by Allah, we can never forget it.” The 2008 serial bomb blasts by terrorists of Indian Mujahedeen (IM) and Islamic Student Movement of India (SIMI) in alliance with Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and Abu Jundal’s alleged involvement in 11/26 terror attack notifies India to check the trends and tendencies of the home grown terrorists.

The primary interest of the Muslim population is the physical security for themselves and their families. When Indian government or particular state government fails to provide security of Muslims in communal conflicts or any terrorist operations in a particular area, they are much more likely to seek alternative security guarantees which can easily be anticipated by terror groups to lend their services. . When security forces provide physical security, Muslims are more likely to support the government against the terrorists. The provision of security must occur in conjunction with economic and social reforms in a way implementing recommendations of Sachar Committee Report (2006).

The Sachar Committee Report approves that 50% of the Indian Muslims’ are illiterate and living below the poverty line. There are 150 million Muslims in India, but there are only 4% are graduates, 5% having employment in government sector, and their reach of education is very much limited. Such severely restricted access to literacy raises anger and antipathy in Muslim youth and shows the way to extremism and terrorism. For instance IM had preferred North Bihar as good recruitment place for operatives chosen from unemployed youth from acute poor families. It found vast support from the unemployed Muslim youth.

Instead of aforementioned poverty and illiterate situation, there is another dimension for terrorism in India. Generally there is a notion that the underprivileged Muslims inculcated and influenced by radical discussion groups and supported by Pakistan are engrossed in terror activities. Virtually, many terrorists come from comfortable and contented families and have university-level education. Since the arrests of 2003 blasts in Mumbai, it has been demonstrated that poverty is not the primary breeding ground for terrorists. Of 23 arrested, there were one doctoral student, an MBA graduate, five engineers, three physicians, and two college graduates. Further an aeronautical engineer, two chemical engineers, and a computer technologist were arrested. Interestingly, all these terrorists are manifestations of radical consciousness among Muslim middle class in India. These educated Muslims were not despondent materially; they were dejected on both social and religious grounds. They are susceptible to the stimulating lexis from the inappropriate groups and judge that violence is acceptable when it has a raison d'être.

Therefore, a CEP concentrating on economic growth, eradicating unemployment, providing job oriented technical education and training courses, and improving social infrastructure through capacity building measures (CBMs) would play a vital role in such areas. Also, to stop this radicalization fostering terror threat, Indian government has to embark on a comprehensive CEP by utilizing the Muslim intelligentsia and proactive participation of Muslim community.

In view of such explicit situation Indian counterterrorism strategy should include a CEP, which has to aim at the primary, economic, social and religious security of Muslims, for gaining support and confidence of them. Muslims and their support to combat terrorism is the centre of gravity and that should be achieved by the Indian state by a well fabricated CEP activities seek to enlighten, educate, entertain and convince Muslims for the success of India’s war on terrorism. The support of Muslims depends on how the actions of government are reflecting an apprehensive commitment and accountability to Muslim citizens, and how effectively it is engaging the community.

Author Note
This is first section of a two part article series. Dr. R. Bhanu Krishna Kiran is an independent researcher on International Law & Strategic Affairs.