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Militant Groups Tapping Social Media

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Cover Page of the Book Militant Groups in South Asia
(image by IDSA, New Delhi)


Politics and politicians are everywhere from Kashmir to Kanyakumari in India thanks to the mother of all electoral battles. So are militants of all hues thanks to the proxy war mounted by Pakistan to make India pay for the sin of aiding and abutting the creation of Bangladesh in the December of 1971. It does not come as a surprise, therefore, that India has become a dangerous place, statistically speaking at least. If you think Kejriwal's theatrics are adding to the sense of your insecurity, you may have a point since AAP believes in the long forgotten adage that ends and not the means matter in love and hate. The party of aam aadmi has just showcased on the Twitter a profusely bleeding UP medical student as its worker --victim of BJP violence in Lucknow.

This is not the first time that the social media has been misused. Certainly, it will not be the last time either because social media outlets like Twitter and Face have become a tool in the terrorist campaign directed at India.  A video shot in Pakistan was used last year to incite communal passions in Muzaffarnagar, the UP town close to the Indian capital.   Likewise, sense of insecurity was stirred among the north-east youth living in Bengaluru and Hyderabad by uploading scary visuals and narrative.

Viewed against this backdrop, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee's call to monitor the social media for "incendiary messages" is timely. It does, however, bring up the question: Should government become the Big Brother of Internet too?  Well, there is no short answer. Because, censorship is not the proverbial blue pencil in the hands of a sub-editor or copy taster in a news organisation.  And we have seen the havoc the censors had caused during Emergency.  

Having said this let me hasten to add that India's recent brush with "incendiary messages" is a cause for alarm. The absence of early warning systems that can alert the nation to potentially troublesome situations is a cause for concern as well.  More so because, as Surinder Kumar Sharma, an expert with ringside view of militancy phenomenon, says "during the last more than twelve years of prolonged efforts since 9/11 to root out terror in the region, the international community has clearly developed  a sense of fatigue, while the terror outfits have proliferated and grown from strength to strength".   There are more than 200 militant groups in the South Asian region alone today, according to him

Sharma has profiled 39 of these groups in his latest book, "Militant Groups in South Asia", he has co-authored with Ansuhman Behera (Pentagon Press, New Delhi, Price Rs. 995/-). The usual suspects like Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen (JuM) and Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), the Haqqani Network, Al Qaeda and the Maoists find a detailed mention. So do outfits like Jundullah, Indian Mujahideen, and Al Ummah while tracing out their roots to Pakistan's garrison town of Rawalpindi, where Inter Services Intelligence, (ISI), which creates and handles terrorist groups in furtherance of Pakistan's foreign policy, has its headquarters. 

Sharma and Behera make an interesting argument while analyzing with clinical precision the ISI factor without wearing patriotic blinkers. It is that while the phenomenon of terror has come to stay in the region, the legitimate coercive power of the State has suffered a setback and that even when the State machinery has managed to eliminate the top leadership of different outfits they have recovered quite remarkably and reasserted their strength. They donot go into the reasons though.


From what I have seen from Assam to Andhra Pradesh on the anti-insurgency/militancy theatre, motivation and commitment are what differentiate the armed gangs from the Police, whose work is tailored to meet the political exigencies of the day.  More over "Pass The Buck" culture dominates the functioning of our Police since our political executive, whatever be its hues, believes not in single unified command but multiplicity of authority.

The situation, we are confronting, as a result, is quite alarming, indeed. There has been a decisive shift in terrorist targets, both in terms of location and character and modus operandi.   The targets today range from political leaders to mass transit systems to nuclear stations, with the clear objective of instigating communal violence in India and inflicting heavy damage to its economy, Sharma argues as he insists with some justification that Kashmir is "no longer the operational ground nor the sole target".

The terrorist groups operating in India today have a pan-India, and at times a pan-global agenda of establishing the caliphate. One such radical Islamic group is Indian Mujahideen. Another is the Popular Front of India (PFI), whose roots are traced to the Islamic Sevak Sangh and the National Development Front (NDF). Kerala Police claim that Pakistan and Iran had funded the NDF which was active from 1993 till PFI emerged in Nov 2006.

The PFI rejects the police theory. Neither PFI nor its fronts rule out the supremacy of Indian constitution but at the same time aim to establish Islamic supremacy.

This is where PFI appears different from IM about which Sharma writes thus: "Inspired by radical Islamic groups in the neighbourhood and encouraged by ISI, a new radical Islamist group called Indian Mujahideen (IM) has made its presence felt in India with a resolve to take up arms against what it calls injustice done to the Muslims in India and against the domination of the Hindus over the Muslims. In this process this group also has an objective to establish Islamic rule in India".

Significantly, lslamist armed groups like Jammat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and   Harkat --ul-Jihad-al-Islami- Bangladesh (HuJI-B) aim at establishing Islamic rule in Bangladesh.  So do groups in Pakistan like Tahreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, (TTP) and Jammat-ud-Dawa (JuD) with their call to enforce Sharia.

What is wrong in such a wish?  Nothing except that their means have become entwined with the foreign policy goals of teaching a lesson to India pursued by the permanent establishment in Rawalpindi.

 

Rama Rao Malladi is New Delhi based senior journalist and distinguished commentator on South Asian and Central Asian issues. He is a regular contributor to several publications in and outside India. His articles are featured in News Blaze.Rama is (more...)
 

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