Ken Booth and Tim Dunne in their book Worlds in Collision defined terrorism as a political method that uses violence against the public and public infrastructure to influence behaviour, inflict punishment or exact revenge. Its instruments are assassination, mass killing, hijacking, bombing, kidnaping and intimidation. They also defined terrorism as an act and not an ideology that can be perpetrated by certain militant groups, individuals and even governments. In short, the book describes it to be an act of instilling fear in the minds and atmosphere forever to gain power or to prove a point.
Norman Lowe in his book Modern World History, described how contentious the definition of terrorism is. He argued in the book: “For people engaged in a legitimate struggle for independence, are the Mau Mau in Kenya and the African National Congress in South Africa terrorists or revolutionaries and freedom fighters?” Theory of constructivism tell us that the definition of terrorism depends on the one defining terrorism. However, any act of violence that poses a threat to human life and property is a violation of human rights.
The Al-Qaeda (the Base), an Arab organisation headed by Osama bin Laden, in its early years was formed at the backdrop of the Cold War towards the end of 1980s. Norman Lowe in his book wrote that it was actually financed and trained by the USA to expel the Soviet forces from Afghanistan. After their withdrawal, the (terrorist) organisation dreamt of extending their tentacles towards creating an Islamic regime and power. Unsatisfied with the interventionist foreign policy of the USA and its support for Israel, Al-Qaeda began their violent atrocities. As a counterterrorism strategy began its infamous war on terror. Now, the organisation has extended its branches to Southern India, posing a threat to human life and property.
The 26th report on the Analytical Support and the Sanction Monitoring Team of the UN reported that the Al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent operates under the Taliban. The whole operation is conducted from Nimruz, Helmand and Kandahar provinces in Afghanistan. The report mentioned a significant proliferation in the number of terrorists operating in southern states of India, especially in Kerala and Karnataka.
The current leader of Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) is Osama Mahmood, who succeeded Asim Umar. Last year in May 2019, the Islamic State Terror Group also claimed to establish a “province” in India and claimed it to be unique. There are certain reasons behind such a move towards India — first is the oppressive policies of the Indian government towards Kashmiri Muslims; second is its support for the secular ideologies in Bangladesh; third is its alliance with the US, Russia and Israel, all these countries that are considered by them to be responsible for suppressing the Jihadist movement in the region; fourth is India withholding water from Bangladesh, a move to assert dominance over Muslims of West Bengal; and finally, it is India’s selective reading of history, which points to the presence of Muslim rulers in India for almost a millennium, giving the organisation confidence to repossess it again.
However, India’s involvement with Afghanistan not being a reason for their encroachment in the territory shows reluctance to encroach the Taliban territory. The NIA, earlier in July 2020, also filed a charge sheet against the 17 accused of the Bengaluru ISIS module case. The NIA report said that the accused were part of an organisation named ‘Al Hind’, which was planning to execute a terror strike in South India. Al Hind was founded in 2019 in the house-cum-office of one of the accused named Mehboob Pasha with the objective of establishing an Islamic Khilafat in India.
India ranked seventh in the Global Terrorism Index of 2019. There are various scenarios in which the security of the subcontinent can be threatened by terrorist activities. In the first instance, the ISIS might launch a frontal attack targeted towards the Indian State in the same way it has done against Syria and Iraq. However, minimum probability is often ascribed to this instance. This Arab group doesn’t consider Indian Islam to be nearer to the teachings of the Quran. It also considers it corrupt. If it attacks India, it will get minimum support on the ground that can stop it to achieve its goal. Commentators are also aware that the likelihood of such a full wage attack is less since the Pakistan Army would not allow other groups to gain hegemony.
In the second instance, greater internet connectivity, part and parcel of globalisation, can help radical groups such as the ISIS to recruit Indians to spread terror in India and in other places around the world. Cheap internet connectivity means that a greater number of people are joining digital citizenship. It is becoming more difficult to decipher who spreads hatred and recruits young minds that can easily succumb to such propaganda.
The third and most worrying instance is that terror groups such as the ISIS can act as a significant source of inspiration for any local terror groups that threaten the internal security of the country. These groups can also align their activities to that of the ISIS without even being aware of its ideology. The dismantling of the Indian Mujahideen left many radical groups stranded without the leadership of an organisation. The ISIS can very well fill this gap for these extremist’s leadership.
As a response, the Indian government must churn out policies to stop the discrimination faced by the Muslim community in the Indian society. Ongoing alienation can be a catalyst to push Muslim youth to take up arms against the Indian state which can jeopardise the entire internal security, concerning the loss of life and livelihood along with the destruction of property.
Building a pluralistic society based on representation, equity and power sharing can lessen the rise of potential threats. The biggest threat still comes from the assistance of Pakistani Armies to the local insurgents in the Kashmir Region, but the recent UN report that highlighted the proliferation in the number of terrorists is a cause of concern for India.