Why we need more overt and covert deradicalisation programs?

The Chief of Defence staff of India, Bipin Rawat, earned many tawdry retorts to his comments on deradicalisation programs during Raisina 2020 meeting, in which he said– now children as young as 10-11 years, are radicalized by terrorist organisations, and use as jihadi pawns. The chief’s statement is really not an exaggeration when you consider the fact that in just one year ISIS had used 89 children to carry out terrorist attacks. Infact, it has a battalion of child fighters, called cubs of caliphate.

Indian Chief of defence staff, Gen Bipin Rawat

Terrorist organisations function not just through the jihadi terrorists it trains, but also through the non-violent supporters of jihadi ideology. With the hydra headed monster of terrorism filling innocent children with abomination against a normal life and radicalizing them, it is becoming increasingly difficult for governments across the world to prune the vicious ideology of jihad, and to prevent it from claiming more victims.

Terrorist organizations have plethora of advantages in recruiting children to carry out jihadi attacks, which include short-term tactical gains and long-term strategic gains.

  • Child suicide bombers can approach their targets sans attracting any attention of the security forces.
  • Helps ISIS like terrorist organisations purvey the propaganda– that its jihadi ideology is deeply embedded in the territories it controls, and that it can raise next generation of jihadis.
  • Poor families usually sell small kids to terrorist organisations and end up being bound to them.
  • Child terrorist of today can turn into a highly-trained jihadi terrorist of tomorrow, increasing the shell-lives of adult terrorist. 

In democratic countries, if the noise on deradicalisation gets too loud, then the opposition parties use it as a tool to score brownie-point against the ruling party. But beyond politics the danger of innocent children being recruited and hastened to their brutal deaths by terrorist organisations like ISIS, is real. This is exactly the reason–overt and covert deradicalisation programs are now being used by countries as a counter-terrorism tool.

Overt de-radicalisation

According to a report, among the UN members, 6 Arab nations (Algeria, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, UAE and Yemen), and 10 European countries have deradicalisation programs being carried out on their soil. Interestingly, the initiative to help counter radical ideologies with such programs began in Arab nation of Egypt and Algeria, both victims of terrorism in the name of brotherhood.

Statistics show that out of all the terrorist attacks carried out in Europe, about 50% happen in France. The effect of this excruciatingly disturbing news quadrupled as it was accompanied by more shocking facts that– about 1300 people from France were found to be involved in jihadi networks, and intelligence reports confirmed that approximately 20,000 people living within the country were radicalized. The numbers are bound to surge. This is when France decided to arrest the toxic ideology from dropping its roots deeper into the country by establishing multiple deradicalisation programs. Though France took an action pronto, it was America that took longer for carrying out a course correction. Despite the first major terrorist attack, 9/11, having occurred in 2001, its first deradicalisation program was ordered in 2016.

Covert de-radicalisation

After social media and smart mobiles became popular, getting access to like-minded people is a cake-walk. Terrorist organizations were the first to realize and exploit this advantage of social media apps like Facebook and twitter. Infact, till very recently heads of some terrorist organizations had their own IDs on social media. But with governments cracking their whip on social media, such Ids were banned and their followers were prevented from accessing jihadi content. Tech-giant Google has also joined hands with governments in identifying and ring-fencing potential non-violent supporters of jihadi ideology, through its search engines and Youtube platform. The search engine also helps in dissuading the same people from accessing content on extremism in the future- this method allows a slow weaning away from radicalization. Google has not yet finished working on the required algorithms.

In over-populated democratic countries like India, where ISIS can easily access myriads of supporters with a click, tasks of intel agencies and defence forces becomes more onerous than it already is. In May 2019, ISIS claimed to have opened its new “branch” in India. This statement by the terrorist organisation and news of merging of local terrorist organisation with ISIS, has made deradicalisation a paramount priority for the government, especially in places like Jammu and Kashmir. Under such circumstances, vacuous statements against deradicalisation by opposition party leaders act like fuel to fire. Temporary solutions for an ailment like terrorism will jeopardize lives of millions of people in the subcontinent. Therefore, those uttering mendacious nonsense against deradicalisation programs will ultimately be forced to prioritise national security over playing politics. An aphorism that holds true in such dire situations is–that which needs a surgery can not be cured by a bandage.

This article is written by Levina

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