After the recent attacks in Paris, the Ministry of Home Affairs at the Centre issued an advisory to states and union territories warning that the Islamic State’s “success in radicalising some youth and attracting certain sections of the local population or Indian diaspora to physically participate in its activities, or the possibility of piggy-backing on terror groups operating in India, have opened up the possibility of ISIS-sponsored terrorist action on Indian territory”. Until now, four Indian nationals have been arrested for joining the IS so far. Further adding to the government’s woes is that the IS has already posted its first recruitment video in Bengali. Besides the grave security concerns surrounding the possibility of another Mumbai-like scenario or similar lone-wolf attacks, the Centre will have to negotiate a difficult terrain. With India’s history of communalism, and a growing discourse surrounding intolerance against religious minorities, governments across the board will have to tread very carefully. Although the waving of the IS flag in Kashmir has been seen by some in the liberal community as a symbol of defiance against New Delhi rather than an ideological affinity to the terror group; security agencies can take no chances. In the cauldron of communal politics in the Kashmir Valley, both the State and Centre must act with responsibility, irrespective of elections elsewhere. In the North East, which is home to large numbers of Bengali Muslims, political parties in the past have often played on the hostility against people branded as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. Moreover, governments must understand that the ideology propagated by the IS revolves around pitting the Sunnis against the Shias. India is home to both sects of Islam. In fact, last year, the Centre took a wise decision not to get involved in the Syrian conflict, arguing that it could lead to sectarian conflicts in India.
Another area of concern for the Indian establishment is the alleged presence of the IS in Bangladesh. However, the Sheikh Hasina-led government has denied any presence of the multi-national terror group on its soil. Last month, the Bangladesh government dismissed the Islamic State group’s claim that it was behind a bomb attack on thousands of Shia Muslims in the nation’s capital and said there was no evidence that the Sunni extremist group had any following in the South Asian country. It was the third time the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for an attack in Bangladesh after it said it was behind the recent killing of two foreigners — an Italian aid worker and a Japanese agricultural worker. The blame, in fact, was redirected towards local banned Islamist groups and the Bangladesh National Party, the main Islamist political party, accusing them of staging these attacks to destabilise the Hasina government. Nonetheless, intelligence agencies in India must keep a lookout for possible spillovers and coordinate with their counterparts in Bangladesh. The threat is real. India must be wary.