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In a bid to counter radicalisation of youth and prevent them from getting drawn towards terror outfits, senior officials of the Maharashtra police anti-terror wing are holding mock interrogation sessions to understand their psyche better so that they can be counselled more effectively to shun the path of violence.
Recently, two senior IPS officers conducted a series of mock interrogation sessions where one played cop while the other played the role of a radicalised 19-year-old youth. The purpose was to help the police deal with radicalised youths by understanding their psyche and preparing a ready reckoner to tackle them.
“Before touching the subject of deradicalisation, we wanted to understand how youngsters are radicalised, what attracts them to the terror fold, why they feel the need to fight or take up a cause that doesn’t seem to have an immediate connect with them. So we decided to do a role play wherein one of us played the cop and the other a radicalised youth. The exercise was conducted with the purpose of finding answers to help us brief our men on how to handle such kids,” revealed a senior official from the DGP office.
“The need is to understand their vulnerability and tackle them with hard facts so that instead of terror outfits, the police create a deeper impact on their impressionable minds. The purpose is to make them give up the path chosen by them and to convince them that what they have been told is propaganda and not an actual cause for which they should risk their lives,” added the officer.
“To cite an example — assume that the youth says ‘we need to fight to save our women who are being raped’. We will show them actual crime figures that reveal the true picture that women across various religious groups are victims of sexual violence. Also, in most cases, the accused are known to them,” said the senior official while speaking on the action plan. “Terror outfits use propaganda to push their ideology. As cops, our aim is to ensure that we crush the same and use hard facts to vindicate our stand and create an impact,” added the official.
This exercise by the Maharashtra Anti- Terrorism Squad (ATS) is part of a larger deradicalisation initiative undertaken by the state home department headed by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. After coming to power in October 2014, the BJP government had prepared a comprehensive anti-terrorism policy with a special emphasis on deradicalistaion. The policy, which has stakeholders from various ministries, still continues to be a “work in progress”.
The police are also using the social media to counter radicalisation. Earlier this week, the state counter terrorism agency released a 1.07-minute video on social media. The video shows ATS sleuths keeping a watch on a youngster who is otherwise hailed by his parents to be a brilliant mind but falls prey to online radicalisation. The sleuths from ATS, Maharashtra confront the parents with this harsh reality by showing them his online footprints.
The police plan to release five more videos over the next few months. “If the terror outfits can use social media to spread their ideology, we can make better use of them by creating awareness and sensitising the youth,” said another senior official. “The videos are hard-hitting with the intent to both sensitise and send a strong message that they won’t be dealt with kid gloves, if they cross the line,” added the official.
These videos will be soon screened in cinema halls and community gatherings to reach the maximum people.
While the videos are first in the action plan chalked out by the state counter-terrorism agency, its next step would be to reach out to youngsters. “Our men will be visiting colleges and schools across Maharashtra where these videos will be screened. We will also hold discussions on radicalisation and terrorism and take questions that youngsters might have during such discussions. It is important to have a dialogue with our children,” Director General of Police, Maharashtra, Satish Mathur told The Indian Express.
Mathur said just like the metropolises, the hinterlands have seen many cases of youth been drawn to terrorism. “Recently we saw many cases in Parbhani, Latur, Dhule where kids were drawn to the IS fold. We will hold more lectures and seminars in such pockets to sensitise the youth. Not just IS, we have seen youth joining other terror outfits too. Our fight is against them all,” he added.