Vikram Singh| Ex-DGP, Uttar Pradesh | timesnownews.com | Jun 1, 2019
There are vital lessons for India and the world to learn from the terrorist attacks of 25th April 2019, which resulted in the death of 257 civilians, including forty-two foreigners in Sri Lanka.
New Delhi: The recent disturbing developments in Sri Lanka, the terrorist attacks of 25th April 2019, which resulted in the death of 257 civilians, including 42 foreigners, not to mention the more than 500 injured - are cause for serious concern. This was a devastating blow to the fragile economy and almost crippled the flourishing tourism industry of the island nation. Nevertheless, there are vital lessons for India and the world to learn from this tragedy.
Primarily, terrorism has never been circumscribed by districts, province or national boundaries and the stark reality today is that any incident, anywhere on the globe, can have dire repercussions and fallouts elsewhere, even though there may or may be no geographical or social link. Social media has emerged as the prime instrument of radicalisation and indoctrination. Physical proximity was a minor issue in the past and it has become all the more irrelevant today. With the advent of data mining, experienced online handlers have access to voluminous information: sensitive or otherwise. Their encryption and coding capability can match up to the best IT experts. The impact and handling of social media platforms, as well as the effects of fake news, will require much greater attention than what is being given today.
In Sri Lanka’s case, the National Investigation Agency had shared vital information with the Sri Lankan authorities through diplomatic channels, much before the blast, about the nefarious activities of National Thowheeth Jama’ath and its links with the IS. It is heartening to know that NIA plans to have close cooperation and a structured intelligence-sharing mechanism with Sri Lankans.
Significantly, NIA, during the course of a sensitive ISIS related investigation in Coimbatore, came across vital clues about NTJ and its leader Zahran Hashim. The investigations revealed the sinister plot that the six accused radicals were planning to attack leaders of the majority community, who are vociferous opponents of religious terrorism. Also, Zahran Hashim’s proclaimed agenda was to spread their wings in India’s Kerala and Tamil Nadu and also in Sri Lanka and increase their influence through vitriolic propaganda and indoctrination. It is now alleged by the Sri Lankan Army Chief that the Sri Lankan bombers visited Kashmir, Bengaluru and Kerala for training.
The Christchurch (New Zealand) mosque attack happened on 15th March 2019. And there were terrorists in Sri Lanka with Indian connections, who struck on 25th April 2019. Is it possible to replicate this horror story? If yes, where and how? These are the questions that the entire world, especially those perceived as “enemies of Islam”, must address immediately.
It is heartening to know that the Government of India has dedicated bureaus in the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Prime Minister’s office to study and counter this malaise of radicalisation.
However, the most capable experts and the best practices of the world must develop a structured and institutionalised action plan, not only at the national and state levels but at every village, school, college, factory, office and madrassa should be covered by this scheme of things, without any delay.
After the Sri Lankan tragedy, the authorities there banned the burqa and asked the imams of all mosques to give the text of the “khutbah”(sermon), to be delivered after the Friday Namaz prayers. Of course, the authorities there would have their own reasons to impose these regulations, but strategically speaking, it is decidedly a good policy to understand what is going on in the minds of the people rather than what is on the surface. The khutbah can always be recast shrewdly and the burqa, like any other attire, can be misused. For this, the intelligence apparatus, community policing efforts, and technology can go a long way in giving viable solutions.
It is alleged that in Xinjiang (a province in China), there is the ultimate draconian surveillance, done by a system known as the Integrated Joint Operations Platform that collects information from multiple extreme obtrusive devices. The question now is what are the long term consequences of such intrusive measures. Obviously, the end result becomes counterproductive and therefore India cannot even think of implementing such measures.
In this fight against radicalisation and ISIS, the nation cannot afford to alienate a community. To the contrary, it will be in the national interest that the youth, community leaders, religious heads, and by and large, the population stands behind a resolute nation to fight this menace. The Singapore experiment is a resounding success story where community outreach programmes have yielded excellent results. By focusing on key areas that have large numbers like the construction sites, labour colonies etc. The community policing efforts are yet another effective measure that has been used very effectively. The British used this concept in India, in the form of mohalla (locality) defence societies and village defence societies, ostensibly to interact with the public at large. Yet, there was a functional purpose of these structured, periodic and regular interactions, which was to know and understand the ground situation and reality, or identify the key players and prime movers! The” old-timers swear by the infallible efficacy of these time tested measures like systematic beat patrolling, coordinated field intelligence collection and dedicated personal involvement in community matters.
Singapore has also come out with a path-breaking statute: ”Protection from Online Falsehood and Manipulation Act (POFMA), 2019. Singapore has displayed its commitment to tackling the menace of fake news and orchestrated disinformation propaganda. According to this law, those found to be malicious actors can be fined $37,000 or five years in jail. If posts incorporate unverified sources, the fine can go up to $74,000 or a jail sentence of ten years. Social media giants like Facebook and Twitter are liable for fines up to $74,000, for defined lapses.
Technology also provides workable solutions to combat malicious material circulating on the Internet. It is understood that artificial intelligence can fight fake news with the help of human intervention, and IBM already has a solution. A new Indian startup, Metafact, is also working on providing an artificial intelligence based fact-checking tool.
Yes, we have had our share of actors such as Zakir Naik, but we are blessed to have intellectual and moral giants like Maulana Wahiduddin Khan Saheb, Maulana Mahmood Madani Saheb and a vast army of their mature followers who are fully capable of negating the poison of radicalisation. They have it in them to convince the youth that indeed, India is the most favourable country in the world for all castes, creeds, and religions. including Muslims of all denominations: Sunnis, Shias, Barelvis, Deobandis, Ahmadias and so on. The Government may consider reinforcing their voice of reason but must do so with deliberate haste.