WITH more suspected Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (IS) sympathisers and recruits being arrested across the country, Maharashtra’s police force has felt the need to know more about the organisation.
Officers are thus reading up books on the terror group to better understand its roots and growth.
“What little we know about everyday life inside the Islamic State is mostly found out second- or third-hand. But we need information from people who have done ground research on it. What has happened in other countries could happen here as well,” said a senior IPS officer.
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Over the past year, a prominent feature found in the office libraries of several high-ranking officers is a hardbound book – Jessica Stern and J M Berger’s ISIS: State of Terror.
“This is not leisure reading, it is necessary reading. We have had a few cases of youngsters joining IS from our state and we ought to know more about this group. Among officers, we are exchanging and reading books on the group,” said a police officer in Navi Mumbai, who has ordered online a book called Jihadi John, on a British Arab alleged to be seen in many IS videos.
Senior police officers believe that many of these non-fiction books are study references for the officers.
“It is the analysis we look for to understand how IS eclipsed al-Qaeda to become one of the most worrisome enemies of the West and of us,” another officer said.
To know more about the complex IS, a senior police officer suggests to his subordinates that they also read up on terror groups that preceded it, so they can understand how terrorism is evolving.
“To lower-rank officers who face trouble comprehending the IS, we give examples from rural Maharashtra as references,” an officer said.
With the modes of attacks varying, such as the recent lone wolf attacks in Australia and the Nice attack where 86 persons were mowed down by a truck, the police have to constantly be on their toes.
“Two weeks before the Ganpati celebrations, police stations checked all possible truck and tempo drivers, especially those driving bigger vehicles, to ensure there is no attack like the one in Nice,” said a senior police officer involved in Ganeshotsav security arrangements.
The officer added that during this time, he referred for the first time to the book Black Flags written on the IS.
According to most officers, author Joby Warrick’s Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS is a preferred read now, as it is written in a novel-like narrative about the ascension of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the one-time street thug turned co-architect of the Islamic State.
“Warrick’s focus is on the people who have fought for and against ISIS, rather than the intricacies of international politics, which makes for interesting perspective unlike the other books,” another senior officer said.
An IPS officer shared a recent experience of his visit to a popular bookstore in Delhi, where last year, he had noticed few books on the IS, but the number had gone up significantly this time.