'Terrorism has no place in our religion, society or in our daily lives.'
As security agencies grapple with the rising trend of young men coming under the influence of Islamic State, a seminar and interactive session is being organised in Hyderabad this week to discuss ways to wean away people from IS' violent and ultra conservative ideology.
State Minorities Commission for Telangana and Andhra Pradesh Chairman Abid Rasool Khan, below, left, who has organised a seminar to explain to Muslims the dangers of Islamic State, speaks with Rediff.com's Prasanna D Zore about the seminar and discusses the report on the welfare of minorities that he submitted to Governor E S L Narasimhan last week.
What is the purpose of this seminar you have organised in Hyderabad on August 6?
We had witnessed some instances of Islamic State activity and recruitment (for IS) in Hyderabad recently. The National Investigating Agency arrested 10 to 11 youth from the city on this charge.
When these youth were arrested, interrogated and subsequently let off, some of the parents of these youth came with a petition to me as the chairman of the commission that their children were innocent.
It was only after their arrests and discussion with them, these parents came to know that their children had visited websites of such (Islamic State) organisations.
In their petitions these parents requested me to help them out. So we have taken this initiative to explain to the community the serious repercussions of such actions or involvement with such terrorist organisations.
How these terrorists are inducing the youth through social media and how dangerous is the path which they should not tread on.
This seminar will be addressed by researchers and authors who have studied and written books on Islamic State. One very eminent speaker from Hyderabad, Mirza Yawar Baig, has written a book, ISIS Isn't: The Faulty Logic of Opportunism -- on the modus operandi of the terrorist group in alluring young Muslims.
A scholar from Kolkata, Aslam, who is doing research on radicalisation of Muslim youth, will also be speaking along with police officers from the IT cell of Telangana who are monitoring these activities, college heads, institution heads and vice-chancellors of various universities who have a following among the youth here.
We will be sending out a very strong message (to the Muslim youth) that this (IS) is a very strong and cruel terrorist organisation. It is the responsibility of the parents, mentors, teachers to give a strong message to the youth that they should not get involved with it in any which way.
We have also invited the head of the NIA, Hyderabad. There will be 10 speakers -- religious leaders and imams of mosques who give sermons on Fridays, researchers, legal luminaries, police officers -- who will address more than a thousand Muslim youth from colleges and universities about what are the perils of getting attracted to IS.
You have also invited representatives from Google and Facebook. What role will they play in this seminar?
We have the (Indian) headquarters of Google and Facebook in Hyderabad and since most of this radicalisation takes place online, these representatives will explain to the youth how social media works, how terrorist organisations are using it to recruit and spread terror activities. We will be appealing them to block such sites.
We want the (Muslim) community to understand the serious implications (of getting attracted to IS) and then respond positively against the spread of such terrorist organisation as one unit.
We also want the government (state as well as central) to block such sites and Google and Facebook being major players on social media, they should also help us by identifying, blocking such sites and by educating the youth.
The three annual reports you submitted to Governor Narasimhan as the chairman of the state minorities commission for Telangana and Andhra Pradesh has highlighted how since 2013 the attacks on churches and on Muslim women have increased. What reason does your report assign for this trend?
This is the scene (trend) throughout the country... attacks on churches and on isolated Muslims, especially rapes of Muslim women (have been on the rise). The major reason is the communalisation and polarisation which is happening throughout the country.
Any data to back your findings?
There were 11 cases of rape of Muslim women in the last one year in Telangana. Most of these girls were raped when they were coming back from colleges or schools in rural areas. In a lot of cases victims died too.
Were the accused in all these cases from the majority community?
Yes, they were from the majority community.
And as per your assessment, these rapes are happening because some people want to communalise the atmosphere in Telangana?
It (the increase in trhe rapes of Muslim women) could be because the Muslim girls are taking advantage of the opportunities and going out to study, which was not the case before. They were very conservative earlier and would not travel distances to study. Hence, they have become easy targets now.
We have submitted our report along with our recommendations to the state government. We have given our suggestions and asked for trials of such cases to take place in fast track courts.
We want such cases to be tried within six months and a strong message should go to people who indulge in these acts that the law is not going to spare them.
Has your assessment reached a conclusion that only Muslim women are being singled out or is there an increase in the overall cases of rapes in Telangana, which include women from the majority or any other communities as well?
I cannot comment on that because as the chairman of the state minorities commission, my job is confined to the welfare of minority communities in the state. I am not working on the data of other communities that faced similar crimes in the state.
So, one cannot draw a conclusion that Muslim women are being singled out?
Yes, it's not that... I cannot say that. But there is definitely an increase in the rapes of Muslim women and that is what we are worried about. We also want the state government to address this issue.
I, personally, and members of my commission, feel that this increase could partly be attributed to an increase in number of Muslim girls travelling to faraway schools and colleges that make them vulnerable targets for such attacks when they return home late in the evening.
Three to four cases happened when these girls were coming back from their colleges. And this worries us if these rapes are related to the communal happenings or if these cases are just a coincidence.
What has your report recommended to end such cases?
Like I said, we have asked for setting up of fast track courts to get these cases tried within six months and quick convictions of the guilty.
The second recommendation is setting up of more schools and colleges near mandal (taluka) headquarters so that these girls don't need to travel long distances.
Third, we have asked for more police patrolling on the routes that these girls take to reach their schools or colleges.
Fourth, there should be quick rehabilitation of the girls who suffer such trauma. So that they can live normal lives again.
Fortunately, the government of Telangana has responded very positively on all these recommendations and one can see their effective implementation on the ground.
In the last four, five cases of rape the accused were arrested immediately, the fast track courts were set up in the districts.
But no convictions have happened yet.
Convictions haven't happened because these cases took place in the last one to six months.
You also stated in your report that funds allocated for the minorities have not been fully spent. Why has that happened?
Fifty per cent of the total annual allocation goes unspent. The survey we did to find out the reasons behind this, made us realise that the infrastructure required to disperse this money does not really exist at the taluka level, but only on paper.
So, we recommended that the government strengthen taluka level offices that look after disbursement of funds to the minorities, then at the district level and then at the state level.
Vacancies are unfilled in these offices. So, we have asked the government to fill these positions on a war footing.
You also requested the governor and the state government in your report for more powers to the state minorities commission. Do you think the powers that the commission wields are not enough to satisfy its mandate?
We have powers to study, but when it comes to take action we only hold recommendatory powers. We have requested the government to give us powers to pass orders.
Basically, the commission is given the powers of a civil court up to the trial stage till the time we call for reports. But we can't give final orders which are binding because we are just a recommendatory body. This limits our scope to discharge our duties mandated by the Commission properly.
We have requested the Telangana government to give the commission powers that are binding in nature.
As the chairman of the commission, what message would like to give to the Muslim youth of India?
- Terrorism has no place in our religion, society or in our daily lives.
- The people who are getting attracted towards Islamic State are doing it at the peril of their own career and the lives of their loved ones.
- I personally plead with all the youth to desist from visiting such (Web) sites and concentrate on opportunities in this country, which are great and one of the best in the world for minorities to develop socio-economically.
- Work hard and be a responsible citizen of this country