Rising trend of 'lone wolf' terrorism: Why India should be worried about the Paris attacks

It was an unfortunate coincidence that a few hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasized inclusiveness of Sufi Islam in London, terrorists struck in a big way in France, killing over 150 persons. After the murders and mayhem at Charlie Hebdo headquarters, this is the second attack in Paris that put under tremendous pressure on the advocacy of multiculturalism in a society where fault lines are deepening.

Those who study the trend of terrorism across the world define the Paris attacks as distinctly different from the attacks on World Trade Centre in New York and Mumbai. "It seems like an attack perpetrated by the second or third generation of French nationals who abhor the idea of multiculturalism," they point out. Unlike in New York or Mumbai, where the complicity of external forces was evident, these attacks seemed to have come from within by those indoctrinated and motivated to undertake suicidal missions over the internet.

There is indeed a grim foreboding for the internal security scenario in India where multiculturalism is the essence of the society. As technology penetrates and becomes an effective mode of communication among people, the possibility of a new variant of terrorism called "lone wolf syndrome" has been haunting Indian security and intelligence apparatus.

Intelligence agencies and security personnel across the country are grappling with a situation where parents have been approaching them about the radicalisation of their wards through the internet. Not long ago, a convent educated Muslim girl in Jamshedpur was found to be accessing persuasive incendiary preaching of a Yemini imam Anwar-al-Awlaki , a Jihadi ideologue who was killed in a US drone attack on 30 September, 2011.

 Rising trend of lone wolf terrorism: Why India should be worried about the Paris attacks

French police helps an injured after multiple attacks in Paris. Reuters

Strangely enough, the Indian security agencies have often been alerted by the US intelligence sleuths about increasing downloads of videos of Awlaki, a US citizen and educated in prestigious US institutions, whose seditious sermons have radicalised a section of English-speaking youngsters.

In the Jamshedpur case, Indian intelligence agencies reached the doorstep of the girl but only to beat a hasty retreat. "Yes I like his speech and there is no crime in hearing what I like," she is learnt to have non-challantly told the police officers who approached her.

Since then, several cases have come up in which youngsters are found to be motivated by internet jihadis to join what they perceive as a religious war to establish the “Islamic state”. In some cases, the Indian intelligence agencies have been trying to reverse the trend by setting up centres to “de-radicalise such youths”.

But in a huge country like India where society is pre-dominantly young, the state apparatus would be hugely inadequate to check the trend of radicalisation and the emergence of a “lone wolf” explosion. However, what is extremely heartening in such a grim scenario in India is the outright rejection of militant political Islam by Indian Muslims. Although Deobandi Islami is recognised all over the world as the fountainhead of fundamentalist Islam like Wahabism, the Dar-ul-Uloom (Islamic university) at Deoband, only 100 km from Delhi, is considered to be a source of “unadulterated nationalism” in the Indian context.

The pro-nationalism discourse in Islamic seminaries or universities is not only confined to Deoband’s Dar-ul-Uloom. In Lucknow, where yet another powerful school of Islamic thought known as Nadwa Islamic university exists, one of the foremost Islamic scholars, Ali Mian, once described nationalism as essential ingredient of the university’s curriculum. Ali Mian was quite perturbed in 1994 when his university premises were raided by intelligence agencies following a tip off that some terrorists were hiding in the student’s hostel. Ali Mian opened the institute for wide scrutiny and held forth his views on patriotism and nationalism.

India can take solace that the social intermingling over the years has generated immense amount of trust and confidence to ensure a peaceful co-existence. A senior intelligence officer once pointed out that the unique feature of Indian society is that deviant behaviour by anyone gets noticed by the neighbours immediately and gets the attention of law enforcers. But with internet and virtual life gradually undermining and weakening this social strength, the situation is tailor-made for ‘lone wolves’.

The stress of multiculturalism in France would invariably have a fallout in India. The threat is real, here and now.

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Updated Date: Nov 15, 2015 09:01:49 IST