The government Wednesday said it does not want Indians to fight against the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria since that can “directly result in sectarian conflict in India”.
Submitting an affidavit in the Delhi High Court, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said it wanted to restrain Indian citizens from travelling to Iraq and Syria to participate in the ongoing conflict there because they could get radicalised and, on their return, indulge in extremist activities in India.
“Allowing any sect to take part in the conflict in Iraq/Syria would have had repercussions on other sects in India. This could directly result in sectarian conflict within India, which is not in the interest of the nation,” the affidavit stated.
The MHA contended that joining the fight against the IS was tantamount to “terrorist activities” and this would “adversely impact friendly relations with the foreign countries”.
“Allowing an Indian to go to another country to take part in a conflict would lead to allegations that the Indian government is promoting terrorism in other countries,” the MHA said, adding that the safety of such volunteers would also be at stake.
Citing resolutions adopted by organisations such as the Lucknow-based All India Shia Hussaini Fund and All India Shia Federation, the MHA said it has received credible inputs that these organisations had sought to register volunteers willing to fight against the IS in Iraq and Syria and, therefore, preemptive steps ought to be taken.
The MHA affidavit was filed in response to a court notice on a PIL by Delhi-based lawyer Mehmood Pracha. Pracha had challenged a decision to issue a look-out-circular against him and five other members of the Shia organisation Anjuman-e-Haideri (AeH).
According to Pracha’s petition, the delegation intended to travel to Iraq on a humanitarian mission, but was stopped from boarding a flight in November last year and their passports were endorsed “offloaded”. The lawyer sought disbanding of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), questioning the validity of its formation and functioning.
Then, in January this year, the MHA stopped Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai while she was heading to London to speak on the alleged violation of forest rights of tribals. Pulling up the government over attempts to muzzle voices of dissent, the Delhi High Court had quashed the look-out-circular and the “offloaded” endorsement on her travel documents.
In his petition, Pracha drew a parallel with Pillai. In May, the MHA, rattled by the HC order two months ago, agreed to expunge the “offloaded” endorsement from Pracha’s passport and also modified the look-out-circular, saying Pracha could travel to Iraq if he submitted an undertaking that it was for pilgrimage and that he would not make statements about Iraq or do anything that may disturb sectarian amity in India.
But it defended invocation of the look-out-circular, saying it relied on an IB advisory which stated that Pracha and other AeH members sought to travel to Iraq to discuss modalities for sending volunteers from India to fight in Iraq, which is why they were detained at the Delhi airport.