Supporters of the Islamic State (ISIS) have put up posters in several districts of West Bengal asking the youth to join the terrorist organisation, a report of the Intelligence Bureau has warned the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). MHA officials, who are keeping a watch on the spread of ISIS sympathisers in the country, complain that the West Bengal government is yet to wake up to the danger of the ISIS finding a foothold in the state. They express concern that the Mamata Banerjee government is not doing enough to control the radical elements in the state despite repeated warnings. The West Bengal police is yet to act on the IB report, say sources.
“Murshidabad and Nadia districts in West Bengal are witnessing increasing fascination for the ISIS. Posters exhorting the youth to join the ISIS and contribute to the ‘cause’ in any way possible have been found to be pasted across many parts of the two districts. The state government needs to do more to control elements who are promoting ISIS’ ideology in the state,” a senior IB official said.
“It has been more than one year since the Burdwan blast took place, which exposed West Bengal’s reluctance to crack down on the radical forces in the state. During that period too we had asked the state government to crack down on the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen (JUM) by sharing regular inputs. It seems that the state government has not learnt its lessons and is still reluctant to act tough against the ISIS supporters, who are mostly illegal immigrants,” a senior IB official said.
West Bengal has 27% Muslim population, who have been traditionally voting for the Left since the late 1970s. However, they switched loyalties to the Trinamool Congress in the 2014 general elections because of which the TMC won 34 out of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state, with a 39.4% vote share. The importance of the Muslim vote bank in West Bengal could be gauged from the fact that of the 42 Lok Sabha seats, on 20 seats a swing in the minority vote share can make a difference. Assembly elections in the state are slated to be held early next year.
Officials suspect that activists of JUM, which has a strong network in West Bengal, were helping the ISIS recruiters on the ground. “JUM, despite the recent crackdown, has a formidable presence in the state and we believe that it is helping the ISIS handlers who are on the lookout for new followers in India. Most of these handlers are conversing with the JUM through the social media and passing on instructions,” the official said.
Officials, who have been monitoring the social media presence of ISIS supporters, have expressed their worry to the MHA over the fact that now the ISIS handlers, rather than asking the supporters to come to Syria and Iraq, are asking them to start their “war” from wherever they are.
“The youth, including girls, who are mostly in the age group of 16-30 years, are being asked to start their own jihad from their place of residence. They are being told that there is no need for them to come to Syria to join the war actively. This is basically asking them to carry out ‘lone-wolf’ attacks that are very hard to stop until they are executed,” the official said.
The IB report states that apart from West Bengal, similar activities are being seen in Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Assam, seeking the enlisting of “capable youth to join the war against the infidels so that the caliphate can be brought”.