The Islamic State, which until recently had a Caliphate in Iraq and Syria, has recently declared that it has now successfully established its province, which it calls the Wilayah al-Hind.
Acting on a tip-off on the presence of a much-wanted militant, the J&K police raided an orchard on May 10. In the brief encounter during the early hours of the day, the security forces gunned down Ishfaq Ahmad Sofi. This exchange of fire could be misconstrued as any other regular encounter which the security personnel have done in the past 2-3 years in the valley, except it was not.
Sofi was linked to IS, also known as the ISIL or ISIS. Probably the first militant in J&K to have pledged its allegiance to the organization. Sofi was proclaimed as the commander of the Islamic State in Jammu & Kashmir (ISJK). He was tasked with expanding the reach of the Caliphate in J&K.
Major activities of the group had halted after the final defenses were breached back at home in Iraq and Syria. As the allied forces pierced through the self-proclaimed Islamic Caliphate, hundreds of Islamic jihadi fighters surrendered and were sent for trial in Iraq to answer for their war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Indian intelligence agencies were worried that the militants returning from the battlefields fighting for IS would turn into sleeping modules and could be used to manipulate the youths in the nation to turn into Islamic jihadists.
After a period of setback and slow activities, different factions of the outfit have kicked into action. The recent Sri Lankan bombings and various lone-wolf attacks in major cities have given the terror outfit a breather. IS claimed responsibility for the deadly Sri Lankan suicide bombings which tolled around 321 lives and other attacks. (1) (2) (3)
IS proclaimed its Caliphate in Western Iraq and parts of Eastern Syria, with major cities like Raqqa, Mosul, Palmyra, Deir al-Zour under its control. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights had stated that ISIL “seeks to subjugate civilians under its control and dominate every aspect of their lives through terror, indoctrination, and the provision of services to those who obey”.
Human Rights abuses in the IS-controlled territories became rampant in the region after the proclamation of the Islamic state. Women and young children were raped, men suspected to be western spies shot, Yazidis forced to convert into Islam, failing to do so led to their massacre and sexual exploitation.
The state of human right abuses in territories controlled by ISIL is considered to be worst in modern times, where soldiers were told to rape women in order to forcefully convert them to Islam. Reports of soldiers being paid bonuses whenever they converted a woman into Islam also surfaced.
IS also used trafficking as a source of its income. The recruits were ‘groomed online’, told that they were serving a higher purpose and that they were playing a role in propagating the Rule of Islam. They were then trafficked. These trafficked women and children posed a dynamic problem for law enforcement agencies around the world: technically they were victims of human rights abuse, on the other hand, they were brainwashed, believed fully in the IS methods and values. The returnees are therefore contained in refugee camps, rehab centers or prison. Responsive measures include security restrictions (i.e., tags, curfews), surveillance, passport revocations, limitations of social benefits, citizenship revocation, and criminal prosecution.
ISIS in Kashmir
After establishing itself in the Middle East, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi started eyeing South East Asia in order to realize his dream of a world caliphate. After all, SE Asia is the second most terror affected region of the world after the Mid East and is considered a hotbed for terror activities.
The unrest in Kashmir provides an ideal condition for any terror outfit to expand its activities. Various IS sympathizers united different factions and leaders from small organizations and formed the ISJK or the Islamic State in J&K around 2014. IS’ black flags were waived during protests and processions, much to the chagrin of Indian intelligentsia.
Ahmad Sofi had been previously associated with Harkat-Ul-Mujahideen (HuM) before pledging his allegiance to IS. He had been involved in terror attacks in the valley for over a decade but he came on the security agency’s radar after his recent interview with al-Risalah, an IS sympathizer magazine. In the interview with al-Risalah, Ishfaq had said that he was influenced by the IS ideology of caliphate since 2014 which helped him “distinguish between the truth and falsehood.”
In the aftermath of its local commander’s death, IS HQ has declared that it has been successful in establishing ‘Wilayah of Hind’ or the Hind Province in India. This can cause the already boiling conditions in the region to spiral out of control, seriously damaging the peace efforts of the Indian government in the valley.
Authored by Gyan Prakash Tripathi