Question – In the context of extremism, it is widely believed that the poor and the dissatisfied are most easily admitted to militant organizations. Today, however, a growing number of young professionals are engaging in extremism. Is this true for India? If such a pattern actually exists, then what is the danger to India from this? – 31 July 2021
Answer – Context of extremism
Youth’s vulnerability to terrorist recruitment may be influenced by a number of factors, including their geographic proximity to a terrorist group, economic vulnerability, perceptions of social or political marginalization, exposure to permissive social networks, and exposure to extremist propaganda. However, the relative importance of these factors varies by individual and local context. Youth, both male and female, are often employed in support, recruiting and combat roles in terrorist groups, although the proportion of young fighters is much higher.
Extremist is actually a person having religious, political and any ideological principle; who blindly follows his religion, ideology and political ideology by rejecting other ideas, religions and political ideologies. And if any idea is against his own ideas, then the extremist person considers them as social evil and he uses force to deal with these evils rising against his idea, due to which an atmosphere of violence is created and in the society and instability arises. This is the reason why the extremist person is not liked by the society.
- There is a belief that extremist movements in different parts of the world recruit their followers only from among the poor and uneducated. More recently, however, anecdotal evidence offers a contrary view. There are an increasing number of young professionals joining or pledging allegiance to extremist and jihadist movements.
- The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), one of the major jihadist groups fighting government forces in Syria and Iraq, has many members, young professionals managing the group’s refineries, banking, communications and other infrastructure needs. ISIS was formed in April 2013 with the merger of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s forces in Iraq and Syria; it was previously named Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
- Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda chief and one of the masterminds of the 9/11 US terror attacks along with Osama bin Laden, may be the best example yet of how a highly educated person—who is, possibly, a prosperous professional , can choose the path of terror. Al-Zawahiri is a trained surgeon. In fact, it is estimated that an increasing number of al-Qaeda recruits are either college educated or were engaged in skilled occupations prior to recruitment. Lashkar-e-Taiba, a global terrorist group based in Pakistan, has engineers, doctors and technicians on its rolls. Most of them are either alumni of colleges and institutions run by the group or are working in hospitals and engineering colleges run by their associates.
- In India, Indian Mujahideen (IM) recruits from urban and educated backgrounds. Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), is another organization linked by terrorist activities in the country.
- Even educated youth, driven by religious fanaticism, political exuberance and the impulse to consider their ideology as the best, do not escape the effects of extremism.
- In the last few years, cow-slaughter, love-jihad, religious slogans etc. have clearly indicated that it is not necessary to be poor or uneducated for radicalization / extremism.
Radicalisation: The Threat to India
- The Internet is emerging as a highly powerful tool for recruitment and training. An increasing number of youths are motivated through propaganda that is freely circulated on the Internet. The number of internet and smart-phone users in India is increasing rapidly. It is the second largest smart-phone market in the world and the number of smart-phone-users is expected to exceed 650 million by 2019. It has the third largest number of internet users in the world.
- Second is the recent trend in India’s domestic politics where radical groups and ideologies are being propagated, leading to greater polarization among communities and marginalization of the Muslim community in particular. It can act as a catalyst for radicalization.
Overall, there is still not enough evidence to suggest whether young professionals are increasingly turning to extremism. It is not said, however, that the possibility of a trend should be ruled out completely.