Radicalization in India- An Exploration
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Bharat has been at the receiving end of radicalisation and Islamic terrorism for over three decades. In the study of terrorism/counter-terrorism, the terms radicalisation, religious extremism, and terrorism are frequently used interchangeably. To explore and understand the new trends of radicalisation in Bharat, on 21 November 2022, the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) organised a discussion on the book— “Radicalization in India: An Exploration”, authored by Abhinav Pandya (hereafter “author”). Dr Arvind Gupta coordinated the discussion, Director, VIF and Anurag Sharma, Senior Research Associate, VIF, presented his remarks as the discussant.

In his opening remarks, Dr Arvind Gupta thanked the author and other participants of the discussion; he said that “among other factors, a radicalised mind is the key motivation of terrorism” and highlighted the three important international counter-terrorism (CT) conferences that Bharat hosted in late 2022. Radicalisation has been emphasised as a potent threat in all three conferences. For the last many years, countries in West Asia, South-East Asia, and Europe have structured counter-radicalisation programmes, including youth awareness; however, these programmes are failed to address the problem effectively.

Describing the core elements of the book chapter-wise, the author highlighted the definitions perceived by academicians, intelligence fraternity, and policymakers, followed by the historical perspective of radicalisation in Bharat— background of Barelwis, Wahhabis, and Deobandis, including the Harkat network of terror. Unlike the misinterpretation of Islam by terror groups, Islam in Bharat has its local flavour of Sufism; for example, in Rajasthan, several deities are worshipped by both Hindus and Muslims, inspired by the concept of Sufism. Through case studies of Kerala, Udaipur (in Chapter3), and Kashmir (in Chapter4), the author briefly explained Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) and various sects of Islam (Barelwi/Etaqadis) and policy recommendations to crackdown on the JeI, which was the crux of the book, according to the author.

The author explained the ‘ecosystem of radicalisation’ in which some peripheral institutions, such as Islamic charity groups, separatist media, and mainstream government institutions, including the banking system. In the following chapters, the author highlights Turkey's role in Kashmir’s separatist movement, which reaches the local Imams and Islamic community in Bharat, projecting a different narrative of a global caliphate. In his concluding remarks, the author emphasised that the rooted problem cannot be confined to two words— terrorism and radicalisation- but must be addressed at a much deeper level. Because of the dearth of research and discourse on the subject, Bharat’s discourse on it is borrowed mainly from the American experience, which is very narrow and military-centric in strategy and operations, based on the latter’s political and economic needs. As Bharat’s civilisation trajectory is different, we must have a different and thorough understanding of radicalisation, keeping the predatory and totalitarian ideologies under the radar and not allowing them to flourish.

As a discussant, Anurag Sharma presented his remarks by commending the author’s field experience, observations and efforts to address the issue of radicalisation in the form of a book. Anurag highlighted the lack of consensus definition of terrorism hindering the collaborative approach to counter-radicalisation. For readers, the book provides a simplified overview of complex topics such as religious-extremist ideologies such as Wahhabism, Deobandi, Salafism, and the radicalisation process. He highlighted that the descriptive role of social media in radicalisation and international efforts, including the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) proposed by Bharat in 1996, were some of the gaps in the literature. In conclusion of his remarks, he applauded the author’s efforts in explaining the radicalisation phenomenon and suggestions to deal with the issue.

Event Date 
November 21, 2022

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