What are the ideological underpinnings of the jihadist movement in South Asia?
Why did Kerala, one of India’s most advanced States, with high literacy levels, have the most number affected by the Islamic State (ISIS or IS) outreach in India? “The answers are in fact rooted in migration, economics and religion,” writes Kabir Taneja in his book, The ISIS Peril: The World’s Most Feared Terror Group and its Shadow on South Asia. Taneja, a fellow with the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, tells the IS story from a South Asian perspective, bridging a vital knowledge gap in the rise and fall of the ‘Caliphate’.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the IS, announced the establishment of the Caliphate from Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in July 2014. By that time the group had captured huge swathes of territories in Iraq and Syria.
At its peak, the reign of Baghdadi’s Caliphate stretched from Der Ezzour in eastern Syria to the outskirts of Baghdad, the Iraqi capital. The declared aim of the Caliphate was to expand its territories through military action and formation of ‘provinces’ across the world. As part of this campaign, IS units came up in several South Asian countries, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and the Philippines. Taneja offers a holistic view, starting with the IS’ origins in Syria and Iraq and then goes into its leadership.
Taneja provides details of IS-linked activities in the region. The group has made a lasting institutional presence in Afghanistan. “Afghanistan’s political vacuum and divisive socio-religious landscape could, however, become a new ground for ISIS,” he writes.
The IS has claimed responsibility for a couple of attacks in Pakistan, which “offers an intertwined military jihadist civilian complex to accurately place ISIS’s presence or influence.”