Book Review | Radicalisation In India: An Exploration

 By Ananya Sharma
Publisher ‏ : ‎ Pentagon Press LLP (30 December 2019) Language ‏ : ‎ English Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 236 pages ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 8194163463 ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-8194163466 Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 473 g Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 16.1 x 2 x 24 cm Country of Origin ‏ : ‎ India


“Radicalisation”, “Extremism”, “Terrorism”, are terms that we have been surrounded with. Terms that have often been used interchangeably. The book, “Radicalisation In India: An Exploration” is a master class and breaks down nuances of the global security environment by shedding light on the realities of violent extremism, radicalisation and its process, and challenges posed by terrorism and militancy with in-depth research and case studies on various states including Kerala and Kashmir. The author also elucidates the existence of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) and IS (Islamic State and Al Qaeda and attempts at exploring robust, unique, and reasonable solutions.

Abhinav Pandaya’s lens through which he views Kashmir is prophetic, empathetic, and logical. He deconstructs the issue for his readers in a simplistic manner without losing the essence of the topic at hand. He covers the role of psychology in the process of radicalisation and the role extremist ideologies such as Wahhabism, Deobandism, and Salafism in Jihadi radicalsation and serves a holistic perspective for his readers. The author notes that radicalisation as a concept has its roots internationally and gives examples of Kosovo, Catalonia, and Spain which have witnessed rigorous Wahhabi radicalisation. He believes that India is undergoing a “different” form of radicalisation on rural and urban levels where the Tablighi and Wahhabi ideologies exist, wherein they do not promote the downfall of India but the world dominance of Islam, creating a separatist mindset that gets nurtured into an exclusive mindset.

He notes that the study “Radicalisation” in India has focused on military and law enforcement measures and the research on Islamic Radicalisation has been on the sidelines. While collecting data and conducting in-depth studies on the matter he noticed the lack of sophisticated research on the subject. In his attempt to collect validated knowledge and information the author depended on sources such as; Interviews with Maulvis and students of Madrasas, National and International experts on Counter Terrorism, Intelligence Officers, NGO workers, literary papers, government documents, and so forth.

Chapter 1 – Introduction to Concepts: Radicalism, Extremism and Terrorism

 Part 1

The book starts by equipping its readers with the basic concepts and terms that are involved in understanding the slow yet dangerous process of radicalisation. He states how radicalism in the 18th and 19th centuries which aided progressive changes such as voting rights for women, abolishing of slavery, and regulations for better work conditions went on to become a threat to the global security environment. We see how different scholars and researchers have viewed radicalism and extremism and their take on the possible reasons as to how and why and an individual might become a radical. It throws light on the basic difference between the concepts of radicalisation and extremism and concludes that both concepts lie at different stages on the same path to becoming terrorists. He states that it is not imperative for all terrorists to be extremists and vice versa. While understanding radicalisation the readers will witness the works of renowned scholars such as John Horgan, McCauly and Mokalenko, Kruglanski, Neuman, Koehler, Giles Sipel, Trujillo, Bart Schumman, Jerold M. Post, Clark McCauly, and Oliver Roy.

All theorists and scholars have different yet overlapping views on the concept which puts things into perspective for the readers. They suggest that various factors such as psychological, pathological, socio-economic, grievances, religious, victimization, aloofness of religion, and many others play a role in the process of radicalisation. The first part of the chapter ends with views on India and narrowing radicalisation majorly down to religious and ideological factors. The author also suggests “preemptive and corrective interventions at an appropriate stage” with more allocation to counter – radicalisation programs.

Part 2

School of Thought: Wahhabism, Deobandi School of Islam, Barelwis and A Dive into the Hindu and Muslim Minds of India.

The infamous names mentioned above are the major driving force of Jihadi terrorism across the world. In order to understand why terrorists do what they do and to dive into their thought processes the readers have to understand these ideologies that are prevalent in the radical Islamic world. These conservative ideological groups have been known to promote Jihad through the years. Geographically they have a strong footing in various parts of the world. For example, Wahhabism is known to have started in Saudi Arabia, whereas Deobandism has been witnessed in India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, and in recent years has also shown in prevalence in South Africa. One would think that these groups would have a common agenda and would have similar views but it’s the opposite. They oppose each other on various ideological grounds.  On the other hand Barelvis and Deobandis, both with their roots in South Asia, also have differing ideologies. Barelvis are known to defend the faith centered in Sufi mysticism whereas the Deobandis have aligned with the Wahhabi school of thought. It is believed and proven that even though Barelivs don’t identify with the other two ideologies, they’re still coming under the grasp of global Islamism through social media and Whatsapp messaging because of their allegiance to the global Islamic identity and brotherhood.

Chapter 2 – Is Wahhabi Radicalisation finding roots in India?

The answer to this question has been dissected into various parts, beginning with getting a 360-degree view of radicalisation in India, understanding what radicalisation is, knowing the history of Wahhabism and Salafism, and knowing the various perspectives and the discourse on radicalisation in India. This is exactly what the author does. This chapter views the changes that India has witnessed in the hinterlands. In sleepy states such as Udaipur and the riots for the Rohingya refugees to protect the ummah. The prominence of ISIS in cities such as Jaipur and Ajmer and the threat to the Indian version of Islam by Wahhabism which is proposed by Saudi money. Valid questions are raised, that is radicalisation going unchecked in the name of religious and cultural freedom of minorities? The author believes that the names of these reformist groups might be different but their trajectory is the same. The history of Wahhabism and Salafism goes back to the 1800s and their strong roots have also been discussed. Concepts such as “competitive secularism” post the Babri Masjid demolition in the author’s opinion have made it a good breeding ground for exclusivism amongst the Muslims. The chapter concludes with suggestions from the author on various de – radicalisation initiatives.

Chapter 3 – Radicalisation Case Studies in Kerala and Udaipur, and Mapping ISIS and AQ in India.

An attempt to understand and dissect the social, political, and religious forces that aid Jihadi radicalisation in the states of Kerala and Udaipur has been made. An analysis of how “The God’s own Country” could be the state sending the maximum number of fighters to join ISIS. An overview of the history of the state along with tracking the conflict between Hindus and Muslims can be seen. The demolition of the Babri Masjid along with the growth of Hindu nationalism, cases of beef lynching and ‘ghar vapsi movement’ has been a breeding ground for extremist groups to recruit and radicalise young minds. Broad parallels and vivid differences have been witnessed between Islamism in Kashmir and Kerala. The role of PFI (Political Front of India) and its beliefs in political Islam in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, involvement in attacks and murders, it’s linked to terrorism and forced conversions, their finances, and links to the Gulf have also been discussed. In Udaipur, a strange mix of Hindu and early footprints of global Islam has been witnessed.  Majorly and surprisingly, Shia – Sunni conflicts are serious in a very subtle manner. Hindu radicalisation has been explored and examples of intolerance have been cited. Unemployment, Social media, Hindu radicailsation, an increase in the appeal to transnational terrorism, and the shrinking of communal spaces for communal harmony have been viewed as possible reasons for radicalisation in the area. An insight into the global enemy, ISIS is given.  India is home to the third largest Muslim population, even then hold on the Indian population has been weak. The possible reasons for this are discussed and an important question has been asked, which is “Has ISIS failed in India?”. A brief note on online radicalisation along with Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) aids the readers to evaluate future threats.

Chapter 4: Case Study of Kashmir and Caliphate 2.0

The land of terror and religious extremism was not always the same way. Kashmir was home to Hinduism, Buddhism, Sunni, and Shia Islam. The rise of Kashmiriyat saw tolerant co-existence and symbolized religious harmony amongst other things. The author throws light on the contrast of what Kashmir is like in the present day. He mentions how the children who grew up in the 90’s didn’t witness the “kashmiriyat” but alas saw the violence, conflict, military presence, and harsh terrorism. A timeline of where this change began gives the readers an insight into this much-debated Kashmir issue. The most imminent threat posed to India’s national security is the JeI (Jamaat-e-Islami), its existence, political allegiance, military front (HM), teachings, and perception amongst the Kashmiri youth is discussed and deliberated upon. Jamiyat Ahle-Hadith, an organization that believes in the Salafi/Wahhabi school of thought, has seen considerable growth in its popularity amongst the youth of Kashmir. They are viewed as less orthodox and archaic than JeI. An emerging conflict between the Salafis and Kashmiriyat has been discussed. The role of religion and the afterlife as motivating factors have been determined.  Reasons for alienation and mistrust, along with the advent of social media, the role of global Islam and the role of mainstream media, Hindu extremism, and civil society activists in the fate of Kashmir have been dissected. Various features have also been debated such as the promotion and usage of drugs in the state is viewed as a serious concern. The author also points out the ability of the state to adapt and accommodate in addition to the high literacy rate and sheds light on the hope of Kashmiriyat not being dead. The chapter ends with policy recommendations by the author with the pros and cons of those recommendations.

Chapter 5: Countering Radicalisation; Strategy and Measures.

Radicalisation is an ongoing and dynamic process that needs a multifaceted approach that involves various policies and measures. Structural factors, in addition to psychological and ideological factors, go a long way in the explanation of radicalisation. Various counter radicalisation steps such as the correct diagnosis, building a counter-narrative, shattering the myth of victimhood, having the right communication strategy, education, having a counter radicalisation law, effective oversight and accountability, regulating madrassas, the role of media, academia and public intellectuals, learning from other countries such as Singapore, dealing with virtual Jihad, and many others have been deliberated upon. The author discusses the need to de-glamourise terrorism and calls upon a coordinated South Asian effort in countering radicalisation.

Chapter 6: Developing a De-Radicalisation Program for India. 

A few pages of a book can barely cover such a vast topic but the author does a brilliant job of discussing the need for a de-radicalisation plan for India and talks about the measures that could lead us there. He mentions how an effective de-radicalisation plan is necessary for individuals to be less of a threat to our society. Some famous de-radicalisation plans across the world include those of Saudi, Indonesia, and the UK. The author mentions even though these plans have been successful, it’s not easy to implement the same in India as there are crucial differences in the challenges faced by our country. India does not come across a huge chunk of the population joining transnational organizations or the Muslims in India do not find it tough to adjust or integrate as they’ve been a part of this country for decades. However, India faced radicalisation on the religious front. The author believes that India would need a solution, a judicious mix of “de-radicalisation and disengagement”. A de-radicalisation model has been proposed and its limitations of the same have also been discussed. The book and this chapter end with the author exploring the possibility of developing the Islamic Radicalisation Index wherein he discusses the possibility of this index being a tool to measure radicalisation. He suggests various reasons to support his pitch and concludes with the various indicators that this index will cover.


This book by Abhinav Pandaya is a gripping book and analyzes the various not so simplistic layers of the demon of “Radicalisation”. The reader is left wanting more. Insights into terrorist organisations and their modus operandi along with imminent and new examples help the reader stay connected with the vast text presented in the book. Radicalisation is dynamic in nature, its roots are strong and are not unidimensional. This book explores all those other dimensions that aid and assist radicalisation and gives it a fertile breeding ground.  The book does not only cover current perspectives but also delves into the history of this concept and puts the text into perspective. Recommendations and strategies provided by the author are realistic and achievable to counter radicalisation, encourage growth and nurture peace in India and it’s subcontinent.