The threat of ISIS has spread from Syria and Iraq, to Egypt, and even to Europe and the United States. Islamic militants are using both ground operations and digital campaigns to infiltrate new territory, and recent reports show that now India’s government is alarmed at the recent inroads made by ISIS, especially in the country’s northern regions.
India is home to the world’s second largest Muslim population. Numbering roughly 180 million, Muslims make up for about 14 percent of the country’s population, and ISIS is taking full advantage of the opportunity to seize control of new ground. Not only have young Indian Muslims joined the ranks of ISIS combatants in Syria and Iraq, they are also acting as influential jihadi propagandists online. In December 2014, Britain’s Channel 4 uncovered the identity of a Bangalore-based man allegedly operating ISIS’ most influential Twitter account.
ISIS’ influence in India is not limited to just talk anymore. Supporters of the terror outfit in Muslim-dominated regions are feeling emboldened to show their support outside the realm of cyberspace—and it shows.
Nowhere is the support for ISIS stronger than in the northern Indian State of (Jammu-) Kashmir. In early 1990s, widespread anti-Hindu pogroms in Kashmir drove about half a million people from their ancestral homes. Having cleansed large parts of Kashmir from the native Hindu population, the Islamists are now fighting to carve out a separate, Islamic country.
On Saturday, the Islamic festival of Eid in Muslim-majority Kashmir province was marked by anti-India demonstrations that ended in widespread vandalism and stone pelting. Masked protesters waved Pakistani and Palestinian flags alongside ISIS flags.
Raw video of the protests here:
Times of India reports:
Clashes broke out on Saturday between stone-pelting youths and security forces in several areas in Srinagar and Anantnag district soon after Eid prayers even as Pakistani and ISIS flags were hoisted in an interior locality of the city, police said.
Islamist insurgents, aided by neighbouring Pakistan, are fighting a longterm battle with India over the control of Kashmir. India has lost more than 30,000 civilians and security personnel to terrorism in last two decades alone.
ISIS is carrying out an effective propaganda war, and has now replaced Al-Qaeda as the favourite choice for aspiring terrorists in India. There are serious doubts, though, as to whether or not Indian authorities have fully grasped the nature of the threat taking root within the country’s Muslim population. Talking to media over the weekend, a senior Indian army commander in Kashmir cited “alienation and lack of opportunities” as main reasons behind Islamist radicalization amongst Muslim youth.
Judging from the footage coming out of Kashmir, ISIS is more than happy to provide an opportunity to belong.
Vijeta Uniyal is an Indian journalist based in Europe and Senior Distinguished Fellow at the Gatestone Institute.
(WAJ note: We are looking forward to more posts about India, the Indian diaspora, and the Israeli-Indian relationship from Vijeta.)DONATE
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.