Eight months after four youths from a distant Mumbai suburb travelled to Iraq and Syria to join Islamic State (IS) jihadists, Maharashtra’s Director General of Police Sanjeev Dayal has proposed what would be India’s first structured plan to counter the appeal of extremist ideology among Muslim youth.
Speaking at the Idea Exchange programme of The Indian Express, Dayal said he recently presented the proposal to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Acknowledging the challenges posed by rising radicalisation of young Muslims, the DGP has proposed a proactive government role and a holistic policy involving multiple government departments incuding health, education and housing for a gamut of schemes and programmes that can tackle “various contributory factors pushing people away from the mainstream”.
This would include, for example, programmes for more inclusive patterns of housing, an outreach programme for the mainstreaming of madrasa education and dealing with even the perceived grievance that minority-dominated areas are victims of wilful municipal neglect.
Dayal said he has cited the Singaporean law mandating mixed ownership in all housing complexes through a fixed percentage of Malay, Chinese and Indian owners. He said while it may not be possible to replicate the model entirely, it could offer insights into government-mandated mixed housing. “At least in government-subsidised properties, can we not say there should be a percentage of housing for minorities?” said Dayal.
Fadnavis is reportedly “very positive” about the suggestions and senior government officials said the BJP-Shiv Sena government in Maharashtra is now applying its mind on drafting the plan.
Elaborating on his proposal, Dayal said the challenge for authorities right now is to locate those being swayed by online propaganda, especially since those being radicalised are not just impoverished rural youth but also educated young Muslims with good jobs and prospects.
“To locate those getting swayed, we need to have contacts in the community affected and we need to counter the wrong message spread through the Internet that jihad means only this,” said Dayal. “The other thing we need to do is counsel youth and ensure they report quickly if they notice something amiss.”
Alongside encouraging deeper linkages with the community at every level, another suggestion is to push for change in the madrasa system of education through the introduction of Marathi and computer science as subjects. “We need to make education in madrasas more liberal. Madrasas are always going to be there, and that is a positive thing for they provide inexpensive education. But only talking to children in Arabic is not ideal,” said Dayal, pointing out that while a small percentage of madrasa-educated youth find employment as maulvis and pesh imams, many others struggle to find jobs.
To reduce the sense of alienation among Muslim youth, the state police department has pointed out the need to sensitise members of one community to other communities’ religious beliefs and to tackle biases among members of various communities starting with government employees.
Senior government officials told The Indian Express that the radicalisation issue was raised at the western region zonal coordination committee meeting in early December, where issues including security, coastal security and the situation arising out of the Kalyan youths joining the IS were discussed. The state home department was tasked to draw up a note on the matter.
Speaking to The Indian Express earlier, State Minister for Minority Affairs Eknath Khadse said the government was aware of the fraying of trust between the minority community and the police. “Human intelligence on terror activities has weakened because there is a fear of the police,” Khadse had said.