Amidst all the protests that have been taking place around the newly amended citizenship law, one of the key concerns raised by our intelligence agencies is the recruitment of Muslim youth into terror outfits such as the ISIS.

The ISIS which has been pushing for pan India outfit would use its radical recruiters to enter these protests and undertake a recruitment drive. The other big danger is with regard to unconventional Jihad that the ISIS has been propagating for some time. An unconventional act of Jihad is basically undertaking an act of terror, with the conventional use of an IED.

A ripple effect:

What we are witnessing today is textbook Rohingya type recruitment. When the Rohingya Muslims came into India, there were several persons espousing their cause. The government repeatedly warned about the dangers, but those espousing their cause did not pay heed.

At the same time, terror outfits such as the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen, Bangladesh (JMB) and the Lashkar-e-Tayiba set up dedicated modules to target the Rohingya Muslims. The JMB carried out two attacks at Bodhgaya to send across a message to the Rohingyas that they were very much on their side. This is a strategy that worked and the National Investigation Agency probing various cases has discovered the presence of Rohingya Muslims in these terror groups.

Similar attempts are being made by groups such as the ISIS today. Their recruiters would continue to enter protest venues and portray that the Muslims are being marginalised in India. This has been a key recruitment tool for terror groups. Intelligence Bureau sources tell MyNation that they have seen this pattern in Uttar Pradesh and Kerala, where recruiters have been on the prowl. They portrayed the Rohingyas as marginalised because India refused to take them and they are doing the same with the Muslim protesters as well, the officer also said.

Devious strategy:

It is not once or twice, but several times that the government has clarified that the new citizenship law will not affect the Indian Muslims. It is a law aimed at speeding up the citizenship process for the persecuted minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The pattern witnessed in the protests clearly indicate that the Indian Muslims are being provoked into believing that this law affects them directly. The likes of Pinarayi Vijayan have even gone that extra mile to pass a resolution in the Kerala Assembly against it. These are dangerous and deliberate moves to confuse the Indian Muslims.

On the other hand, we have also seen that there are a group of persons, especially the Left leaning activists who are refusing to let the protests die down. A peaceful protest is one thing, but these persons have refused to listen to the police and continue to provoke. Now this forms part of the devious strategy, where they are provoking the police to use force.

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Currently the protests are being viewed as a law and order issue by the Home Ministry. However, the protesters are pushing the police to use force and quell the protests. This would then become a talking point and the narrative shifts towards the marginalisation of the Muslim community, which recruiters would be glad to use. The big push is to ensure that the Muslim community turns hostile, security officials also say.

Jihad made easy:

While the ISIS would look to recruit, the other big worry at such large gatherings is the changing style of the Islamic State. The attacks at Paris, Nice and London showed how the ISIS had entered civilian space. The jihad today is an unconventional one and large gatherings are like fodder for the ISIS.

When the ISIS began to lose big in Iraq and Syria, it had advised its fighters to return to their homeland and carry out lone wolf attacks. It also devised a strategy to carry out an attack without being detected.

At Nice, an ISIS terrorist mowed down people using his truck. This was in fact a strategy originally devised by the Al-Qaeda. In a 2015 article in its magazine ‘Inspire’ it termed the truck as the ultimate mowing machine. The ISIS’ Abu Muhammad al-Adnani had said that if you cannot find an IED, then grab a car. Run them over, kill them and spit on their faces, he had also said.

What the Indian security agencies worry about is that similar tactics would be used at large gatherings. A top official explained that looking at the ISIS pattern, they would look to use cars, trucks, stones, rocks and even knives as weapons of Jihad. It is extremely difficult to gather information on lone wolves or surveil such unconventional weapons. We have advised police to be on their toes at all times and watch out for such elements, the Home Ministry official also explained.

On guard:

While the agencies have flagged concerns, officials however say that they are on very high alert. We are fighting a two-pronged problem here today. One is the false narrative that seeks to portray Muslims as marginalised and the other is the ISIS looking to strike, the Home Ministry official said.

On several occasions, the protests have threatened to go completely out of hand. However, the police have managed to salvage the situation on most occasions. Once the Bill was passed and the protests broke out, there were discussions in the Home Ministry on whether to term the protests as a national security concern. However, officials assured that they would ensure that the situation does not go out of hand and the same should be treated as a law and order problem.

During a top meeting comprising officials from the Intelligence Bureau as well, it was decided to keep a close watch on the people entering the venue. It was suggested that those recruiters entering the protests would need to be watched in particular. Further, those spreading a false narrative about Muslims being marginalised needed to be dealt with as well.

The officials cited above say that they are confident that those spreading the false narrative would not succeed, but also added that none can afford to let their guard down even for a single second.