Once un­der ISIS in­flu­ence, men in Maha be­gin a new chap­ter

The Free Press Journal - - MUMBAI -

Un­em­ploy­ment was one of the ma­jor rea­sons for such men from the Mus­lim com­mu­nity most of whom were from Marath­wada — get­ting rad­i­calised on­line and fall­ing into ISIS’ trap. — ATULCHANDRA KULKA­RNI, ATS Chief

Jamil An­sari (name changed) runs a mo­bile phone re­pair shop in Ma­ha­rash­tra's Beed dis­trict.

But, no­body would imag­ine that only two years ago, he was on the verge of join­ing the dreaded ter­ror out­fit ISIS by trav­el­ling to Iraq, thou­sands of kilo­me­tres away.

Thanks to an ini­tia­tive of the Ma­ha­rash­tra Anti-Ter­ror­ism Squad (ATS), An­sari changed his mind and un­der­went an em­ploy­ment train­ing pro­gramme af­ter escaping clutches of the Is­lamic State of Iraq and Syria's (ISIS) on­line 're­cruiters' who had al­most rad­i­calised him.

He is not the only one. There are many such young men in Ma­ha­rash­tra, mainly in the in­dus­tri­ally back­ward Marath­wada re­gion, who had once fallen vic­tim to ISIS' pro­pa­ganda but are now lead­ing a nor­mal life with the help of the em­ploy­ment train­ing pro­gramme, a se­nior ATS of­fi­cial told PTI.

An­sari, a 35-year-old grad­u­ate, lost his job as a sales­man in 2016 and be­gan spend­ing a lot of time surf­ing on­line, where he came in con­tact with some ISIS sym­pa­this­ers and soon got rad­i­calised.

“His on­line ac­tiv­i­ties brought him un­der our scan­ner,” the of­fi­cial said.

The ATS sleuths re­alised that An­sari had be­come a vic­tim of ISIS pro­pa­ganda and he was coun­selled in a bid to de-rad­i­calise him, he said.

The of­fi­cial said the ATS runs a de-rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion pro­gramme for such people to once again join the main­stream with the help of re­li­gious lead­ers and cler­ics.

But the real prob­lem was that An­sari had no job, and there were many more like him, he said.

In Marath­wada, the ATS in the last two years iden­ti­fied as many as 400 young men who were sus­pect­edly un­der the in­flu­ence of ISIS.

In all the cases, the re­cruiter started chat­ting with his tar­get about “atroc­i­ties” on Mus­lims in In­dia to gauge the per­son's views, the of­fi­cial said.

Af­ter the per­son was suc­cess­fully rad­i­calised, he would be taught how to make Im­pro­vised Ex­plo­sive De­vices (IEDs) or other weapons, he said, adding that some were also en­cour­aged to join the ISIS in Iraq, where the mil­i­tant out­fit once con­trolled large swaps of ter­ri­tory.

Notably, the ATS last month ar­rested nine men from Au­rangabad and Thane dis­tricts for al­legedly plan­ning chem­i­cal at­tacks with an in­tent to cause mass ca­su­alty at pub­lic events by con­tam­i­nat­ing food and wa­ter, he pointed out.

In 2018, the ATS had ar­rested a 36-year-old man from Parb­hani dis­trict who came in con­tact with ISIS and re­ceived in­struc­tions on how to make IEDs.

He made bombs and even car­ried out tri­als, the of­fi­cial said, adding that he was ar­rested along with four oth­ers be­fore he could use the IED for a ter­ror­ist act.

ATS chief Atulchandra Kulka­rni said they re­alised that un­em­ploy­ment was one of the ma­jor rea­sons for such men from the Mus­lim com­mu­nity most of whom were from Marath­wada — get­ting rad­i­calised on­line and fall­ing into ISIS' trap.

“The chal­lenge was to bring these people back to nor­mal life, and we found a so­lu­tion in the Ru­ral Self­Em­ploy­ment Train­ing In­sti­tutes (RSETIs), run by the Union ru­ral de­vel­op­ment min­istry,” said Kulka­rni.

As many as 239 such men were im­parted train­ing at these in­sti­tutes last year. Be­sides, the anti-ter­ror cells formed at po­lice sta­tion-lev­els iden­ti­fied 15 men who were also trained in self-em­ploy­ment, another po­lice of­fi­cial said.

Thirty such men se­cured bank loans af­ter un­der­go­ing train­ing and started their own busi­nesses, Kulka­rni said.

Ap­pre­ci­at­ing the ini­tia­tive, RSETI au­thor­i­ties agreed to train the can­di­dates short­listed by ATS on pri­or­ity ba­sis.

The ATS also ap­proached the Syn­di­cate Bank and the Bank of Ma­ha­rash­tra, which agreed to of­fer loans to the short-listed men af­ter they un­der­went train­ing, he said.

The ini­tia­tive be­gan with some 270 young men, who were trained in mo­bile phone re­pair­ing. Another batch is now re­ceiv­ing train­ing in fit­ting elec­tric wires, a po­lice of­fi­cial said.

An­sari is one of the ex­am­ples of this ini­tia­tive's suc­cess. Af­ter be­ing im­parted coun­selling, he was rec­om­mended for a short train­ing course in mo­bile re­pair­ing at an RSETI, he added. Now, he runs a small mo­bile re­pair shop of his own, far away from Iraq.

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