India’s ban on Islamic State

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New Delhi : Quickly after the arrest of a youth from Maharashtra upon his return from Iraq where he underwent some training as a fighter for Islamic State, and the dramatic arrest thereafter of an engineer in Bengaluru for posting on the microblogging site Twitter material that praised IS and its actions, Home Minister Rajnath Singh has told Parliament that “as a first step”, India has banned the group. A resolution by the United Nations Security Council in August had called on UN member-states to take “national measures to prevent fighters from travelling from their soil to join the groups reiterating obligations under previous counter-terrorism resolutions to prevent the movement of terrorists, as well as their supply with arms or financial support”. The Intelligence Bureau had also recommended a ban on IS a few weeks ago, but New Delhi had held itself back until now as sections within the government argued that doing so might drive sympathies for the group in India underground, if any have taken hold, and that this would be a far more dangerous situation. Moreover, the group had no known operations in the country. Also, with IS holding 40 Indian hostages, the government did not want to take any step that might endanger their lives. These are valid concerns. But the government has also had to think on its feet while dealing with IS-related situations that have been thrown its way. Investigators have been hard put to determine the specific laws IS returnee Arif Majeed and tweeter Mehdi Biswas are alleged to have broken, and have finally booked them under a law that prohibits waging war against an “Asiatic ally” of India, and another that prohibits support to a terror group.

Clearly, the Centre also appears rattled after the siege at a café in Sydney, where the hostage-taker, believed to be acting on his own, sought to associate himself with IS, the Iraq-based Sunni group — even though he was an Iranian-origin Shi’ite whose motivations may not have been political. Two hostages and the gunman died in the incident that paralysed Australia with fear and uncertainty for a whole day. The incident showed that even lone wolves can cause serious damage, and that there is no room for complacency. Mehdi too was possibly acting on his own but projected his influence across the globe through the Internet to the extent that many believed he was an IS spokesman. While the concerns around banning IS in India will remain, how such a ban will address the challenge posed by the Internet needs to be watched for implications for free speech on this medium. What is certain, though, is that the existing law under the Information Technology Act is woefully behind the times, both in terms of addressing security concerns and protecting the rights of users.

Source : THE HINDU

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