By P.K.Balachandran/Daily Mirror
Two recent news reports, one from Kerala in the deep South, and the other from the North Eastern region, have raised concerns about the possible emergence of violent Islamic radicalism in India, particularly in the East and in the South.
On May 26, the Press Trust of India reported that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had sounded an alert about plans of the terrorist outfit Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) establishing permanent bases within ten kilometers of the India-Bangladesh border in the eastern states of Tripura, Assam and West Bengal.
A gazette notification, issued by the MHA on May 23, said the JMB has plans to “spread its network in South India with an overarching motive to establish a Caliphate in the Indian sub-continent.”
The notification further said the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh or Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen India or Jamaat-ul- Mujahideen Hindustan, are in the list of 41 terror organizations, banned under the UAPA (the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967).
In January 2019, the MHA had added the Al-Qaida in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP), ISIS Wilayat Khorasan, Islamic State of Iraq, Sham- Khorasan (ISIS-K) and the Khalistan Liberation Force among the list of terrorist organizations banned under the UAPA.
The Jamaat ul Mujahidee (JMB) was involved in recruitment and raising funds for terrorist activities, procurement of explosives, chemicals and assembling of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), the ministry said.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had earlier confirmed involvement of JMB in the bomb blast on October 2, 2014 in Burdwan (West Bengal) and Bodh Gaya (Bihar) on January 19, 2018. The Assam police had also found involvement of the JMB in five cases and arrested 565 JMB suspects.
A recent report from Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, said that the authorities were on the lookout for 15 Sri Lankan terrorists who had reportedly left the island nation in a white boat for the Muslim-majority groups of Indian islands called Lakshadweep off the Kerala coast. A Lankan daily reported they could be National Tawheed Jamaath (NTJ) cadres on the run from Sri Lanka as the island’s police and security forces are pursuing the NTJ relentlessly.
Kerala and the states in the Indian North East became major centers of JMB activity after the Sheikh Hasina government in Bangladesh went after the terrorists in an unbridled manner from 2014. The JMB had become notorious in Bangladesh for killing Christians and exploding bombs in 500 places in the country.
Among the JMB terrorists who escaped from police custody and made their way into India were two key leaders, Salahuddin Ahmad alias Salehin and Jahidul Islam alias “Boma Mizan”, an expert in bomb making. Both of them had been sentenced to death in Bangladesh. But they had escaped from custody.
In India, the duo formed the Jamaat ul Mijahideen India (JMI) with Salahuddin Ahmad as the leader and Boma Mizan as his deputy. Together they recruited local cadres in several districts in West Bengal which have a significant Muslim population, and carried out attacks in Burdwan and Bodh Gaya.
The JMB/JMI in India specialized in targeting Buddhist institutions because of the influence of the Rohingya Islamic militants from Myanmar. The Rohingya Muslims had been subjected atrocities by the Myanmar government forces and Buddhist radicals led by a monk called Wirathu. A section of the Rohingyas took to arms and when military pressure on them increased, fled to Bangladesh where lakhs of Rohingyas had taken shelter.
On January 19, 2018, the JMB made an attempt on the life of the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, at Bodh Gaya in Bihar. But the plot failed as the Dalai Lama had left before the bomb could be triggered.
With the Indian intelligence agencies after them, Salahuddin went underground and Boma Mizan took shelter in far away Bengaluru. While in Bengaluru, Mizan would frequently visit Malappuram district in Kerala, which has a very large Muslim population, to recruit Muslim youths. But in August 2018, he was arrested in Ramanagara near Bengaluru.
JMI continues to be active. It was probably involved in the multiple suicide bombings in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa on April 21 this year.The Sri Lankan State Minister of Defense, Ruwan Wijewardene, said so on April 23.
Adding to the minister’s statement, Sri Lankan Army Commander, Lt.Gen.Mahesh Senanayake , told the media that Zahran, the leader of the NTJ and the pack of suicide bombers who hit targets on April 21, had journeyed to Bengaluru, Kerala and Kashmir “either to get training or establish links with other terror groups.”
Zahran’s Tamil Nadu Links
Zahran’s Tamil Nadu link was seen by Hilmy Ahamad of Muslim Council of Sri Lanka. He told Nikkei Asian Review that the videos of Zahran’s radical speeches were uploaded in Tamil Nadu. Other radical speeches were also from Tamil Nadu going by the Tamil accent of the speakers, which was India.
After the demolition of the Babar mosque in Uttar Pradesh by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) activists in 1992, a section of Tamil Nadu Muslims led by M.H.Jawahirullah and P.Jainul Abedin formed Tamil Nadu Muslim Munntra Kazhgam (TMMK). Later in 2004, Jainul Abedin broke away from TMMK and floated the Tamil Nadu Tawheed Jamaat (TNTJ) to preach fundamentalist Islam but not terrorism. After the Sri Lankan blasts, the TNTJ issued a statement distancing itself from the event.
However, the rise of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in North India and the Tamil Nadu parties’ alliance with it, further alienated Muslims from the mainstream parties. This resulted in the serial blasts in Coimbatore on February 14, 1998 which left 58 dead and over 200 injured.
However, a mellowing is now perceptible, though some Muslim preachers spew venom on non-believers in Youtube videos.
Indian Islamic Radicalism Has Long History
Defense expert Ajai Sahni says that India has a long tradition of radical Islam. Indian Islamic radicalism is the source of some of the most influential ideologies that dominate both regional terrorism in South Asia and global jihad, he says in an article in the journal of the Middle East Institute in 2015.
Darul Uloom Deoband, a religious seminary in Uttar Pradesh in India founded in 1867, has been the ideological fountainhead of the Taliban in Afghanistan, as well as Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami, and Jaish-e-Muhammad―Pakistan-based terrorist formations operating against India, Sahni says.
“Perhaps the most influential Islamist revivalist ideological stream in South Asia is represented by the Jamaat-e-Islami and its founder, Abu Ala Mawdudi, who, with Sayyid Qutb of Egypt, is regarded by many as the ideological precursor of the contemporary movement of global jihad,” he added.
The Jamaat-e- Islami was founded in the early 1940s in undivided India.
Within India, the Jamaat ideology has influenced the terrorist Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), and Indian Mujahideen, Sahni says.
Indian Islamic radicalism secured international support when on September 3, 2014, A-Qaeda Amir Ayman al-Zawahri released a video declaring the creation of al-Qa‘ida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). Zawahri declared that Kashmir, Gujarat, and Assam would be immediate targets of recruitment.
In 2006, Osama bin Laden articulated the theory of the global “Crusader-Zionist-Hindu conspiracy” against Muslims and said that “it is the duty for the Ummah with all its categories, men, women, and youths, to give away themselves, their money, experiences and all types of material support, enough to establish jihad, particularly in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, Sudan, Kashmir, and Chechnya,” Sahni points out.
Islamic State’s Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had also declared that India is a target destination of ISIS jihad. Now the IS has declared India as a province of its Caliphate (Wilayat-e- Hind).
(The featured image at the top shows the Boma Mizan leader of the JMB and JMI held by NIA in Ramanagara Bengaluru)