The face of jihad in our neighbourhood: Syed Salahuddin, supreme commander of Pakistan's Hizbul Mujahideen.

The face of jihad in our neighbourhood: Syed Salahuddin, supreme commander of Pakistan's Hizbul Mujahideen.

Baghdadi effect: Why Indian boys want to join jihad in Iraq

4 missing boys from Kalyan in Maharashtra said to be in Iraq

Agency Report | New Delhi | 14 July, 2014 | 09:30 PM

Indian Muslims never responded to calls of jihad anywhere in the world despite our volatile and provocative neighbour. Is this likely to change with Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi’s new world disorder, which could threaten our own neighbourhood.

Hundreds of Indian Muslim boys, mostly from poor and vulnerable backgrounds, are lining up for visas at the embassies of some Gulf and Middle East nations with the aim of joining the ‘jihad’ in Iraq, according to diplomatic sources.

Iraq alone has had to deal with nearly 2,000 applications from highly charged Muslim youth from all over the country, particularly Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, sources said.

When consular officials of one of the embassies informed some of these youth that it was not possible to give them visas, many said that “we will go, visa or no visa,” said a source, who spoke on the condition that neither he nor his embassy was identified.

The volatile situation in Iraq and the Levant region is giving Indian security and intelligence officials plenty of sleepless nights because of the danger of a jihad spillover to India as the “contagion” has the potential to spread through the Islamist arc from the Middle East to China through Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

As a result India has stepped up security dialogues and intelligence exchanges with a range of countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Syria and South Africa, besides its regular strategic dialogue partners like the US, Britain, France and Germany.

The close security cooperation resulted in National Security Adviser Ajit Doval making an unannounced visit to Iraq some weeks ago to secure the release of the Indian nurses in the conflict-torn country.

Doval, a former chief of the Intelligence Bureau, who was brought out of retirement and a job with a think tank, the Vivekananda Foundation, to become Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s top security and strategic adviser, used his immense contacts in the region to get the nurses back at a time when their safety was hugely compromised.

According to knowledgeable sources, the operation unfolded like a racy thriller, with the nurses being smuggled out of their small town provincial hospital, bang in the middle of the Shia-Sunni conflict zone, dressed as Arabs.

One ambassador from the region said the Indian government was “deeply concerned” about the spreading conflict created by the Frankenstein’s monster-like emergence of the ISIS militia and their announcement of a “Caliphate.” The lure it held for many disaffected and indoctrinated Muslim youth all over the world, as seen by the presence in its ranks of scores of foreign fighters from Europe, Central Asia, Africa and Asia was a major cause for concern.

Many of the youth seeking to go from India were interestingly, not going to fight only for the Sunni fighters of the ISIS but against them as well, with sources indicating that they may have been mobilised by groups owing allegiance to Shia Iran and the Shia-dominated government in Iraq.

The ‘import’ of fighting manpower from India marks the first time Indian Muslim youth are being drawn into a global jihad with likely frightening repercussions for this country.

What they would repatriate back in terms of money, muscle and motivation for a whole range of disaffected groups warring against the Indian state for a range of causes, from Maoists to Northeast insurrectionists to Kashmir extremists, is a matter of grave concern for officials.

“This is a serious development but not unexpected,” C. Uday Bhaskar, a strategic analyst who is a Distinguished Fellow, Society for Policy Studies, said.

“Over the last year, there has been an active attempt by the right-wing radical groups in West Asia to ‘persuade’ young Muslim youth from all over the world to join in the ‘jihad’ against the oppressor. Now this oppressor can be the much reviled US and the generic West; Jewish-Israel, Hindu-India, or can take a sectarian dimension wherein the Shia or Sunni is targeted.

“Given the demographic texture of the sub-continent, the wide disaffection among the youth and the instant communication that cyber space now provides and the emotive appeal of a righteous war – such radicalisation was inevitable.

“The challenge for India is to effectively and empathetically quarantine it,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra government is in touch with the central government over the disappearance of four Muslim youth from Kalyan town suspected to have joined ISIS jihadis in Iraq, Home Minister R.R. Patil said on Monday.

The state police have already shared its information and available intelligence on the sensitive issue with the central agencies, he said.

“Yes, it’s true that the four youth are missing… there are missing complaints in Kalyan (Thane). There are also reports they may have been indoctrinated into the ISIS. We have shared our information with the central agencies,” Patil told media persons in Satara.

Kalyan police, in Thane district, said investigations are underway with reference to the four separate missing complaints filed by the parents of the youth, identified as Arif Fayyaz Majeed, Aman Naik Tandel, Shaheed Farooqui Tanki and Fahad Tanvir Sheikh.

Additional Commissioner of Police Sharad Shelar said the complaints were registered May 25, 26 and 27, and the probe is underway since.

However, despite all efforts, there has been no breakthrough so far, and it is not clear whether the four were known to each other, police said.

Now, nearly a month-and-a-half after the police complaints, mystery continues to shroud the sudden disappearance of the four youth amidst apprehensions that they may have joined ISIS.

All are educated, are in their mid-20s and cited various reasons, including employment options, for going to Iraq before their families lost all contact with them.

Sheikh and Tandel are engineering students; Majeed is the son of a medico while Tanki worked in a call centre.

At least one of them had given indications that he was headed to Iraq to join the ongoing war there along with proponents of the Islamic State of Iraq & Syria (ISIS).

After nothing emerged from the probe into the ‘missing person’ complaints, their distraught families are now planning to meet or contact higher authorities in the central government, including External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on the issue.

Police and state intelligence sources said that the four were reportedly part of a group of pilgrims, which left Mumbai for Baghdad May 23.

A couple of days later, they separated from the group and are believed to have gone to Fallujah city in a cab.

Though Majeed’s family got a couple of calls from him after he landed in Baghdad, when he claimed to have gone job hunting in Iraq, his phone later went dead in Mosul area.

A letter Majeed wrote to his family expressed anguish over various issues like “sinning, smoking, taking interest, watching TV, illegal sexual intercourse, intermingling of sexes, not praying or growing beards, lewdness, obscenity, disbelief, living luxurious lives” etc.

He warned his shocked family “these things will lead to you burning in hellfire”.

He added that he would meet his (unidentified) friend for “our greatest journey” which would be “a blessed journey for me because I don’t want to live in this sinful country”.

Police and intelligence agencies suspect that the youths may have been enticed online, through one of the Internet or some chat rooms where lot of propaganda material has been uploaded on the recent developments in Iraq. (IANS)