The latest chargesheet by the National Investigation Agency paints a very grim picture about the state of affairs in Southern India. The growth of the Islamic State, extreme levels of radicalisation coupled with the problems of the Rohingya Muslims are the major issues that stare at the southern states, particularly Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

The latest chargesheet is with regard to the Kerala ISIS case. The NIA states that one of the accused, Riyas Aboobacker was radicalised in 2017 through social media platforms. Further the NIA says that he had held conspiracy meetings in Kochi in which it was decided to carry out a series of suicide attacks in India.

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Since the past couple of years, ever since the NIA took up a plethora of cases that were ignored by successive governments in the past, not a single day has passed since some revelation or the other has been made. NIA officers explain to MyNation that it is just not the ISIS which is the problem. There is the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), the problem of Rohingyas and all these issues have contributed to a deadly cocktail of terror in South India, the officer explains.

The problem called radicalisation:

Following the recent meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said that both countries face a common challenge – radicalisation, which they must fight together. Interestingly the two leaders discussed the issue in Tamil Nadu, a state which has been hit the hardest by radicalisation.

The probes conducted by the National Investigation Agency speak in-depth about radicalisation. Adding to the already existing menace is the ever notorious and elusive Zakir Naik. The NIA says that a majority of the 127 ISIS suspects who have been arrested have said that they were inspired by the speeches and ideology of Zakir Naik.

If one traces the ISIS case closely, its roots can be found in Tamil Nadu. In fact, it all began at Cuddalore where one Haja Fakkruddin decided to join the ISIS. It was here that a large number of youths posed with t-shirts of the ISIS.

In fact, it was a Cuddalore based radical Islamic group that had radicalised Haja. He was constantly bombarded with the radical ideology and was told to repeatedly watch speeches of Abdul Raheem Green and Anwar Al Awlaki. Speeches of other radicals such as Abul Ala Maududi too had been used to brainwash the youth.

The rise of Wahhabism:

In India, there are currently 27 cases relating to the Islamic State that have been registered. Of the 27, 18 are from South India and this number itself suggests how deep the ideology of the outfit has penetrated into South India.

Counter-Intelligence officers say that the problem of the ISIS did not spring up one fine day. It all began with the influence of Wahhabism that spread rapidly in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Preachers from Saudi Arabia came, pumped in money and left and no government did anything about it. In this regard one must date back to an Intelligence Bureau report of 2013, which speaks about the funding by the Wahhabis in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The report says that there was an amount of over Rs 1,700 crore that was pumped in.

The IB had sounded a red alert in 2013 about the rise of Wahhabi Islam in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Firstly, it said that the number of Wahhabi followers stood at 18 lakhs, five years ago.

The larger plan by the Wahhabis which went on to be gradually implemented in the two states was to ensure that thinking of the Indian Muslim changed. Universities preaching Wahhabism were set up, over 50 mosques at a cost of nearly Rs 500 crore were established. Money was set aside to put up madrasas, which professed radical Islam. However more importantly, money was also allocated to take control of the existing mosques so that this violent form of Islam could be preached. With the help of this money, control was taken over of 75 mosques, the report further added.

To execute its plan, the Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith was set up. It continued to oversee operations in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Kashmir. This group would also distribute books and tell its followers to ensure that the rules of Wahhabism are strictly followed. Some of these rules include:

Muslim men should compulsorily grow beards

Every Muslim woman should sport a purdah

Men should wear trousers that end above their ankle

Men, women should not mingle together in public

No watching television or listening to music.

Follow the Shariat law

Women not to work

Shrines must be forbidden

The effects of Wahhabism and radicalisation:

The effects of such radical ideology have been seen taking effect in South India. When 21 from Kerala went missing only to land up in ISIS territory in Afghanistan, investigations showed that they were highly radicalised persons. The parents and family members of most of these persons questioned by the NIA said that they had started seeing a lot of behavioural changes in their children.

The parents said that their children had started questioning them as to why they were listening to music or watching television. They had questioned their sisters as to why they did not wear the purdah or spoke with boys at their respective colleges or schools. They also said that the only solution to all this is the Shariat law.

Now this is exactly the kind of thing that the Wahhabis preached all these years. Nearly 1,800 Wahhabi preachers came to South India between 2006 and 2012. They preached, they radicalised, and they left, and the government sat over it.

The ISIS case is not the only instance where the effects of radicalisation have been felt. Around six months ago, some students at a school in Mallapuram asked for a change of biology teacher stating that they did not wish to take lessons from a woman. In another incident, a 14-year-old boy said that he did not wish to mingle with students of other religions and hence did not want to go to school.

The various agencies have been carrying out programmes to understand and curb the spread of this hardcore Salafi influence. Officials say that most parents told them that they were asked by their children to stop watching television. At first the parents were slow to come forward and discuss this issue, fearing ostracism, but now, the central agencies say that they are more forthcoming.

During this programme, the agencies also learnt that it was not just the preachers who had radicalised the youth and children. There was in fact a blog called Muhajirun, which had for several years posted radical and pro-ISIS content. This was being run by a set of youth from the Middle East and during investigations, the agencies found that a large number of readers were from the southern states.

NIA fights back:

NIA officials explain that there are several challenges while dealing with these cases. Years and years of neglect when it came to radicalisation down south has only made the issue deeply infested.

The first step was to ensure that the online radicalisation stopped. For this, the agencies set up “Operation Chakravyuh.” Through this operation the officials would pose as recruiters and then set a trap on the one who was seeking information on how to travel abroad and join the ISIS.

In addition to this, the government has set up counselling centres to try and understand the problem. During these meetings, parents, elders and officials are involved where they explain the ill-effects of radicalisation.

NIA officials however say that they have to take different action when the case relates to the setting up of a module or the person has become extremely radical. Recently, Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kishan Reddy told the Parliament that the NIA has arrested 155 ISIS operatives in the country.

Recently the ISIS had announced its Indian outfit called the Wilayah of Hind. This group would specifically target India. On the other hand, the ISIS, the ISIL or the Daesh has been notified as a terrorist organisation and included in the first schedule of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, by the Central government.

Officials say that they are confident of beating down the outfit. They however add that there is a need for sustained action, lack of political interference as we have seen in the past five years to root out the main problem, that is radicalisation.