While police arrest ‘deradicalised’ youth again for suspected terror activities, officials say there are more than 200 strong IS sympathisers in Tamil Nadu and the number is only growing.
A policy note tabled by Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami during the last budget session had claimed that deradicalisation of 29 Muslim youth, who were found to be having leniency towards the organisation, was in progress. However, officials say, the efforts do not seem to be working any more.
Last week, Coimbatore police arrested a youth identified as A Shajahan. Though he was deradicalised by the police six months ago, he was arrested again after the police suspected him of continuing the links with the terror organisation and also for his pro-Islamic State posts on social media.
According to an officer, they must have taken efforts to deradicalise 35 to 40 IS sympathisers so far. “There is no guarantee that they will not return that ideology. It is possible that more than 200 strong such IS sympathisers are there in Tamil Nadu. And the number is only growing,” noted the officer.
“The ideology of IS is attracting a good number of youth – we don’t know how many of them are falling for it. The kind of likes and shares received by the pro-IS speakers indicates the popularity of the ideology among netizens,” noted another officer.
While the government recommends deradicalisation of IS supporters as its policy, many officers are in favour of handling them with kids gloves.
“Until National Investigation Agency started arresting the sympathisers, the Tamil Nadu police was mum on the subject. Only after NIA’s action did the local police in Coimbatore began raids and arrests. The local police were aware of the activities of IS supporters even before the general election. Maybe they were waiting for the election to get over,” the officer noted.
The serial blasts that rocked Sri Lanka, which left more than 250 people dead, could not be stopped by the security agencies there despite a detailed alert being by Tamil Nadu police through the Intelligence Bureau.
The police officers here are positive about pre-empting possible terror strikes in south India, particularly after what happened in Sri Lanka. “We can always act on inputs, but there is no guarantee that we will get timely alert every time,” a senior police officer noted.
IS presence in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities
The NIA believes that members of IS modules had discussed launching attacks using trucks, possibly inspired by similar attacks a few years ago in France and Germany, to eliminate non-believers. NIA also suspects that the arrested persons had plans to use suicide bombers to target places of worship and public places in Tamil Nadu. Sources claimed that TN police had even thwarted such a plan a few months ago but refused to divulge details of the incident.
“Underground activities, secret meetings, interaction through WhatsApp, Telegram and FB are happening in places like Madurai, Nagapatinam, Tiruchy and Tirunelveli,” noted a senior official.
Speeches available on social media by certain leaders who believe in IS ideology are spitting venom on non-believers. “They don’t believe in democracy and believe in eradication of all kafirs (non-believers),” the official noted.