The issue of the radicalisation of Indian Muslims is one that has been gaining momentum for a while now. While some continue to swim in the 'this only happens in other country' sea of denial, others are beginning to grasp the gravity of the situation and suggesting ways to counter it. In an exclusive four-part series on radicalisation in India, Tufail Ahmad examines a variety of conditions and scenarios that have made it possible to radicalise youths in Maharashtra, Hyderabad, Kerala and indeed, India as a whole. You can read the first part of the series titled 'Radicalisation of Muslim youths in India' and the second part titled 'Radicalisation of Muslim youths in Maharashtra' here. The third part follows:
Along with Maharashtra state, India's Hyderabad region has attracted international news headlines for radicalisation of Muslim youths over the past three years. One of the reasons why Maharashtra has witnessed radicalisation is the fact that it is on a transit route linking it to Hyderabad, a Muslim city that has been ideologically connected to the global idea of Caliphate since the Ottoman era to the present times dominated by the Islamic State, or the IS. Dozens of youths from Hyderabad have been arrested or prevented from leaving India for joining the IS in recent years.
The Islamist Nizam of Hyderabad had supported the idea of Pakistan as Madina-e-Saani, the second Islamic state after Medina, where Prophet Muhammad established the first Islamic state. Also, the Nizam had earlier financially bank-rolled Sultan Abdul Majeed II, the fallen caliph of the Ottoman caliphate. Women from the Sultan family were married into the Nizam family. In the early 1920s, more than 18,000 Indian Muslims, including those from Hyderabad, migrated to Turkey to defend the Ottoman caliphate. Writing in the Pakistani Urdu daily Roznama Express of 20 July this year, Pakistani writer Abdul Qader Hassan noted that during the Khilafat Movement Muslim women of India sent jewellery as gifts for Turks to wage jihad.
Hyderabad is the vortex of Islamist politics practiced by the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Asaduddin Owaisi and his brother Akbaruddin Owaisi. It is not surprising that Asaduddin offered legal aid to IS suspects detained by Hyderabad police. Elsewhere, this writer has argued that Asaduddin Owaisiis the MA Jinnah of modern India. Like Jinnah demanded a separate territory for Indian Muslims, the Owaisi brothers demand separate quota for Muslims. While the lower castes among Indian Muslims already benefit from the quota policy, Owaisi politics demand that believers of Islam, not just the poor but all of them, should get these welfare benefits. Not people, Islam is the criterion for Owaisi, as it was for Jinnah in the run-up to the Partition.
There are also Islamic clerics who cultivate Islamism among Hyderabad's youths. For example, after the attack on the office of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, Islamic cleric Maulana Naseeruddin led a funeral prayer in Hyderabad on 13 January, 2015 for the two brothers, Said Kouachi and Cherif Kouachi, who had shot dead the editors of the French magazine. The cleric told the people at the funeral prayer: "May Allah forgive Said and Cherif, the two boys who were martyred while taking revenge on the enemies of the Prophet Muhammad." The word "forgive" in this context does not mean forgive the attack but sins, if any, the attackers might have committed earlier in life.
It's unsurprising then that Hyderabad has witnessed major pro-IS radicalisation of Muslims, which has not ceased since it first emerged in 2014. On 29 June, five suspects were arrested in raids at 10 places in Hyderabad. They include: Abdullah Bin Ahmed Al-Amoodi, Habeeb Mohammed, Mohammed Ibrahim Yazdani alias Ibbu, Mohammed Ilyas Yazdani and Muzaffar Hussain Rizwan. They were in a plot to attack malls and religious places in Hyderabad on behalf of the IS. Two persons also detained on 29 June were arrested on 12 July: Naimathullah Hussaini alias Abu Darda, the emir of IS's Hyderabad chapter; Mohammed Ataullah Rehman, who administered the baiy'a (oath of allegiance) for Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. Security officials carried out raids at three locations in Hyderabad on 5 July.
The 29 June arrests revealed a major terror plot since the countrywide raids on the eve of the Republic Day this year. At least 14 individuals were arrested in the Republic Day raids. They were part of Junood-ul-Khalifa-e-Hind (Army of the Caliph of India), billed as the Indian arm of IS. Among them, and of the four detained in Hyderabad, two were formally arrested: Nafeez Khan (an unemployed youth) and Mohammed Shareef Moinuddin Khan. While most terror suspects arrested in India in recent years are below 35 years of age, radicalisation is not limited to any age group. For example, Moinuddin Khan, an electrician, is 54 years old. Arrests across India, as also elsewhere, reveal that jihadis use kuniyat (aliases), making it difficult for police to catch and prosecute them.
Jihadi groups play on the existing sensibilities of Muslims. During the 20th Century, an offshoot of the Khilafat Movement emerged and was called the Hijrat Movement. A number of Islamic leaders like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Maulana Abdul Bari, Maulana Muhammad Ali and Maulana Abdul Majeed Sindhihad issued a fatwa declaring India as Dar-ul-Harb (House of War), urging Muslims to move to the Dar-ul-Islam (House of Islam), the nearest of which was Afghanistan. For the same theological reason, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi proclaimed the Islamic State, thereby urging Muslims from across the world to migrate to Syria. Between July and September of 2014, at least 15 youths including a girl from the region of Hyderabad and nearby Karimnagar were stopped in Kolkata as they attempted to leave India to go to Syria.
Several cases of radicalisation were reported during 2015. In January 2015, Salman Mohiuddin was arrested as he attempted to board a flight to Dubai on way to join the IS in Syria. Mohiuddin, an engineering graduate, was radicalised through social media by Afsha Jabeen aka Nicky Joseph, originally from Hyderabad but based in the UAE. Jabeen, a mother of three children and wife of a Hindu convert to Islam, was extradited to India and arrested upon arrival at the Hyderabad airport in September 2015. A youth from Hyderabad who had joined the IS was killed in March 2015 by the Syrian army. A former Google employee was arrested while more than a dozen youths were stopped at Hyderabad airport from leaving India to join the IS.
Three youths from Hyderabad — Abdulla Basith, Maaz Hasan Farooq and Syed Omer Farooq Hussaini — were arrested on 27 December, 2015 for planning to join the IS. They were stopped in Nagpur from where they were headed to Srinagar. As per a report, Hyderabad's senior police officer T Prabhakar Rao said: "They claim that their ultimate aim is to see Dar-ul-Islam and believe that either Asiya Andrabi or (Pakistan-based Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed) Salahuddin can help them reach Afghanistan and from there onwards to Iraq. They believe that Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi is their supreme leader under whom they could achieve Dar-ul-Islam."
A key point about the trio is this: They were among the 15 youths who were stopped in Kolkata in 2014 and freed after counselling. Speaking in the context of the three arrests, Telangana director-general of police Anurag Sharma, on 30 December last year said: A total of 20 youths who were attracted to anti-national activities were counselled during the year. The figure is in addition to those who were stopped in Kolkata. With regard to Hyderabad, one must also mention that there is a feeling of grievance among Muslims for the fact that dozens of innocent Muslims were arrested by the police after the 2007 Mecca masjid blasts which was carried out by Hindus. But radicalisation emerges essentially from religious scholars, the Urdu press and grievances nurtured by politicians.
Stay tuned for the other parts of the series:
Former BBC journalist Tufail Ahmad is a contributing editor at Firstpost, and executive director of the Open Source Institute, New Delhi. He tweets @tufailelif