Radicalization refers to the phenomenon by which individuals or group of individuals exhibit radical political, social or religious ideology and aspirations that oppose and reject contemporary ideas of mainstream society of the nation. Radicalization can be both violent and non-violent, however, in general discussion radicalization is more focused on violent extremist ideologies and activities; ideologies and activities that are adopted by individuals or group in order to fulfill their material and spiritual needs.
Radicalization has spread across the world with majority of radicals opting for aggressive and extremists’ approach to achieve their goals. In case of India number of states have been the victims of radicalization and the state of Jammu and Kashmir has been more in focus due to various reasons. Since its creation, Pakistan has played out a diabolic plan to radicalise Kashmiri youths, as a result Kashmir has been in the grip of violent separatist movement since decades. The youth of Kashmir have been constantly living in an uncertain and stressful atmosphere and the culture and tradition of Kashmir has suffered due to the upheaval in the valley. Added to this, false religious indoctrination of foreign extremist groups in the name of Jihad and increasing religious fanaticism have been the misleading factors that have guided the Kashmiri society towards radicalization. A narrow literal interpretation of jihad and Islamic scriptures supported by Pakistan’s method of fomenting insurgency in Kashmir have been striving to convert the multi-cultural Sufi character of the valley into a hardcore Islamic one.
Jihadism can be traced back to early twentieth century and is considered as a militant offshoot of radical ideology of political Islam that emerged from the Salafi Wahabi movement in the Arab world. As a counter to vicious crackdown on the movement, Jihadism got modified into more extreme re-interpretation of religious concepts of Islam and gave birth to the current modern phase of Jihadism. In the Kashmir valley this ideology along with disrupted social, economic and political atmosphere has pushed it towards radicalization.
However, it would be wrong to attach the phenomenon with any single community or religion or region. The 2019 mosque attacks in New Zealand and large number of mob lynching incidents are examples that radicalization has other factors too at play. Radicalization has been initiated due to other factors like economic crisis, identity crisis, alienation, suppression of freedom of expression, curbs on civil liberties, etc.
Global Scenario of Radicalization
Radicalization is a global phenomenon. Radicals, mainly those linked to Islamic State (IS) became the biggest security challenge and the number of youths joining terror groups in IS controlled territories increased at a fast pace. The attacks by radicals have affected Muslim majority as well as non-Muslim majority nations on a global scale. Attacks have affected numerous countries like India, USA, France, Germany, Iraq, Syria, United Kingdom, Spain, Australia, Israel and many more.
Radicalization has been moving up on the growth curve and has registered number of devastating attacks on its name like September 11, 2001 attack by Al-Qaeda group on USA’s World Trade Centre causing thousands of casualties, 2019-Easter Bombings in Sri-Lanka killing hundreds of people, 2008-Mumbai attacks, 2001-attack on Indian Parliament, 2005-London Bombings, 2015-Paris attack, etc. As discussed earlier, Jihadist radicalization emerged during late twentieth century and has established itself as highly intractable and Sui genris phenomenon over the years. At the behest of USA in order to oust soviet forces, modern Jihadism established its roots in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region and has spread globally thereafter. The ideology of Salafi Jihadism is to protect Islam not only as a religion but also as a complete political, legal, socio-cultural, and economic system in itself has become the guiding idea of global jihadist radicalization. Salafi Jihadists have created sets of radicalising literature to radicalise the youth. These books have fuelled lone wolf attacks by providing details on the ways to conduct the attacks. The drawing down of the US troops from Afghanistan-Pakistan region in 2001 leading to emergence of Al-Qaeda in the sub-continent (AQIS) in 2014 including terror groups like Afghan-Taliban, Harkat-Ul-Jihad-Al-Islami, Harkat-Ul-Mujahiden, LeT, JeM, etc. has increased incidences of radicalization in the open. Young people inspired by these groups have been turning into lone wolf attackers and the numbers have been increasing since 2000.
Far rightists and extremists have adopted a leaderless resistance model of violence relying on acting alone as lone wolf attackers in order to avoid risks and chances of failure associated with group-based terrorism.
Causes and Catalysts of Radicalization
Radicalization and related terror activities are caused due to different factors affecting the individuals or society as a whole.
Firstly, at the individual level, psychological factors have a role in radicalization. Issues of identity, failed integration with society, deprivation, low self-esteem, alienation, humiliation, and sociopathic tendency instigate people to move towards revenge and their thinking becomes extremistic and radicalized. Similarly, confusion related to choose between communal loyalty and patriotism, choice between liberal versus conservative values also is responsible for radicalization. Second in some cases the social surroundings and its related issues also foster radicalization of individuals or groups.
At societal level, heightened sense of religious ethnocentricity, xenophobia, desperation along with breakdown of law and order, decline of scientific temper, divisive nature of society where different factions support different ideologies and holding others at fault also result in increased radicalization in the society.
Lastly, at the national and international level, politics and governance related issues, lack of socio-economic opportunities for some communities, ideological conflicts, influence of transnational terrorists result in radicalization. Hunger, poverty, illiteracy, spread of diseases, prejudices are also factors which give rise to radicalized behavior in Individuals.
Beside these factors in Kashmir, there has been a rise in protests in the valley due to certain factors. Kashmiri society has been living in a constant state of violence, protests due to policies of government, struggle for independent Kashmiri identity and role of terrorist groups like LeT, JeM, IM etc. This sense of disaffection in Kashmir valley has reached to a peak due to recent decision of the government of India that led to abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and converted it into a union territory.
Added to this the detention of political representatives and other curbs affecting normal life of people has set the ground for revival of separatism and radicalism. Majority of Kashmir’s population took birth after beginning of separatist insurgencies of late 1980s as a result these people have been living and have grown up in a violent and war-torn society.
This along with the rising Hindu right wing hardliners in rest of India has increased the communal divide in the society. These all factors and above it the government’s elimination of special status of Kashmir is seen as an encroachment upon the intrinsic rights, identity and expression of the people therefore serving as a catalyst for radicalization.
Similarly states under fifth schedule and primarily states under sixth schedule like Nagaland, Tripura, Assam, etc. are also covered under different special status. The accession by use of force as in case of Nagaland, breakdown of trust and above all the dilution of special status or their non-implementation along with curbs on civil liberties have increased insurgencies and radicalization in these states.
Role of Social Media
Social media has played a key role in rise of rightwing extremism and radicalization. With spontaneous exchange of information and easy connectivity, social media has provided a strong network for terror groups to spread their radicalistic ideology. Jihadist groups use internet for spreading propaganda, indoctrination and radicalization, carrying out cyberattacks, terror financing and coordinating the attacks. Be it global groups like ISIS or regional groups like IM, JeM, LeT, almost all use different social media platforms like Facebook, twitter, WhatsApp, etc. Applications like WhatsApp provide fast communication and also a network for radicals to accomplish case of mass protests or attacks.
Releasing videos on YouTube, downloadable contents on social media platform, e-newsletters, etc. have proven to be a boon for radicalists to spread their ideas. Terrorists groups maintain blogs, forums online to spread their agenda further the difficulty to trace twitter accounts has made it a general choice for the extremists. Globally as well as in India, there have been reports of use of social media for radicalization like Afsha Jabeen of India was deported back due to her evangelization efforts, some of the youth of Kerala were also sent back from UAE for spreading radical posts on social media, in USA Cesar Sayoc-accused bomber posted links on Facebook and twitter to conspiracy theories about illegal immigration, etc.
The ease with which social media allows flow of information at global level has been used to their advantage by terrorist groups and radicalists. Social media gives easy access to contents of political, social or religious matters available at hand which influences many to develop radicalistic views. Social networks also allow young people to participate in radical conversation. Erroneous interpretation of Islamic literature, motivational messages and videos to radicalise and similar contents shared on social media platform leaves deep impact on masses and mainly the youth.
Steps needed to counter radicalization
Radicalization has become a menace across the world. Protests, terrorists attacks etc. done by radicalists disrupt progression of a society and adversely affects generations of people. Recently, India’s Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat suggested that “youth should be isolated from radicalization in a gradual way and to be taken out separately and possibly taken into some de-radicalization camps”. However, such an approach of segregating individuals from the community will aggravate the situation of alienation and with little information about such camps, the entire process becomes shrouded and doubts arise regarding its legality. Further de-radicalization needs involvement of civilian state rather than security forces for its success on the other hand government’s approach of establishing a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) based on Singapore model of counter radicalization to deal with radical individuals by means of an efficient counseling system involving family, clergy and professionals and prompting inter-community harmony along with national integration will prove to be a combination of hard security measures, stringent laws and community involvement and hence will deliver better results in de-radicalization.
There are several steps that need to be adopted to deal with the issue of radicalization. First, involvement of civil societies and all communities will help to deliver the message of de-radicalization to a wider mass and will enhance trust and transparency. Second important approach is providing proper educational values in schools and educational institutes focusing on values of non-violence, tolerance and peaceful co-existence. Third, involving alliance of civilizations and influential representatives of different religious faiths in prompting the message of de-radicalization will be fruitful. Fourth, government should strive hard to eliminate economic and social inequalities which have been seen to fuel radicalization. Fifth, governments need to secure the internet so that terrorist groups are unable to mis-utilise the features of ease of access, vast audience, fast communication, etc that had been developed for benefit of the society. Sixth, countries need to introduce legislative reforms prohibiting spread of extremist literature, delivery of hate speeches, incitement of racism and violence, etc. Lastly, governments need to put in place well trained and qualified officials and workers so as to develop a cooperative framework to counter radicalization.
Even well-planned rehabilitation programs involving help of family, friends and teachers will prove to be beneficial in tackling radicalization. Countries must be prepared with armed forces to deal with radicalization but only as a counter radicalization by means of love, affection, importing sense of equality and inclusion, proper and patient counseling and training.
Radicalization has become a concern for the society. Mainly affecting the youth, radicalization has the potential of destroying the present as well as the future of nations. For countries like India with a diverse population and sharing border with a state that sponsors terrorism, countering radicalization becomes important at all levels. Proper value based education, equal opportunities to all communities, eliminating any form of oppression and encroachment on freedom of expression, providing a conducive and peaceful environment by respecting rights of all individuals irrespective of caste, religion, community, etc. promoting proper interpretation of religious literature in order to counter any manipulative and extremist interpretation etc. will be needed to effectively counter radicalization. Education, social media and community involvement will form the pillars of framework to counter radicalization well planned and cooperative action at all levels be it at state level, national level or international level is the need of the hour to deal the menace of radicalization.