July 13, 2019

Why Tamil Nadu is cradle for the Islamic State in India

OneIndia com

By Vicky Nanjappa

Published:July 14 2019, 10:07 [IST]


New Delhi, July 14: The National Investigation Agency has busted another module in Tamil Nadu, which was propagating on behalf of the Islamic State.

The NIA searched the the office and house of What-e-Islam Tamil Nadu leader, Syed Mohammad Bukhari. It may be recalled that in raids conducted last month, the agency had arrested six persons.

Representational Image

During the raids, the NIA had seized incriminating documents and learnt that they were propagating on behalf of the Islamic State. Further, it was also found that these persons were propagating the ISIS ideology on the social media and were also aiming at recruiting youth in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

NIA busts ISIS backed Ansarulla in Tamil Nadu that tried to set up Islamic rule

The accused persons, while being within and beyond India, had conspired and conducted consequent preparations to wage war against the Government of India by forming the terrorist gang Ansarulla. It has also been learnt that the accused persons and their associates had collected funds and made preparations to carry out terrorist attacks in India, with the intention of establishing Islamic rule in India.

During searches, 9 mobiles, 15 SIM cards, 7 memory cards, 3 laptops, 5 hard discs, 6 pen drives, 2 tablets and 3 CDs/ DVDs besides documents including magazines, banners, notices, posters and books have been seized by NIA.

The first known ISIS recruit from India was in fact a resident of Cuddalore. Haja Fakkruddin, it may be recalled had in early 2014 left for Syria through Singapore to be part of the ISIS. This was followed by a series of events related to the group and there was an image on the social media that went viral, in which several youth were seen posing with ISIS merchandise.

The threat of the ISIS has been looming large in the state and there are several pockets where the problem is severe. While looking into Haja's case, it was found that he was radicalised by a Cuddalore based group, .

Haja is not the only operative from Cuddalore to have joined the ISIS. A computer engineer was deported recently from Singapore. He said that it was he who had introduced Haja to this organisation, following which he was radicalised.

During the various searches, literature relating to the ISIS had been found. Speeches of the 20th century Islamist thinker Abul Ala Maududi have been found in the possession of several youth. Further the police have also seized compact discs which had the speeches of radical elements such as Anwar Al Awlaki and Abdul Raheem Green.

The first known ISIS recruit from India was in fact a resident of Cuddalore. Haja Fakkruddin, it may be recalled had in early 2014 left for Syria through Singapore to be part of the ISIS. This was followed by a series of events related to the group and there was an image on the social media that went viral, in which several youth were seen posing with ISIS merchandise.

The threat of the ISIS has been looming large in the state and there are several pockets where the problem is severe. While looking into Haja's case, it was found that he was radicalised by a Cuddalore based group, .

Haja is not the only operative from Cuddalore to have joined the ISIS. A computer engineer was deported recently from Singapore. He said that it was he who had introduced Haja to this organisation, following which he was radicalised.

During the various searches, literature relating to the ISIS had been found. Speeches of the 20th century Islamist thinker Abul Ala Maududi have been found in the possession of several youth. Further the police have also seized compact discs which had the speeches of radical elements such as Anwar Al Awlaki and Abdul Raheem Green.

ISIS Kerala module being used to radicalise Muslims near Indo-Nepal border

The problem of the ISIS did not remain restricted only to Tamil Nadu or the rest of South India. The spill out of this was felt in Maharashtra, where four persons left India for Syria to join the outfit.

However, the biggest case relating to the ISIS was again reported from South India. Nearly 23 persons had gone missing from Kerala and investigations showed that they had joined the ISIS in Afghanistan.

The Afghan wing of the ISIS has been heavily recruiting Indians and the target has always been South and Kerala in particular. It was found that it is easier to target youth from Kerala due to the high levels of radicalisation and hence this has been a preferred destination.


Muhammad Amir Rana July 14, 2019

A long the major highways across the country, madressahs, mosques and other big and small structures of various religious denominations are a common sight. From Karachi to Torkham, Islamabad to Gilgit and Peshawar to Kotri, the spread of religious institutions is a visible indication of the religious ethos in the country. But the ?architectural symmetry of madressahs, mosques and religious centres? also points to the presence of religious forces that are at work to create a kind of national cohesion.

The main beneficiary of religious institutionalisation is a major segment of the lower income groups. In Punjab, this phenomenon has already significantly transformed social structures, and a similar transformation is also underway in Sindh. Now, not unlike the rest of the country, such structures are increasingly sprouting up along the major highways and inter-district roads in Balochistan. But, the case of Balochistan is a more complex one in many respects.

Rapid urbanisation in parts of Balochistan and a growing middle class can be counted as primary factors behind growing religiosity in the province. The Baloch overseas workers in Middle Eastern countries, as well as Omani and Iranian influences in the coastal and bordering regions, have also factored in to change the socio-economic fabric of the area. Encompassing all this is the state’s larger religion-oriented national cohesion project, which defines Pakistan’s ideological foundation in religious terms and places religious identity above all other identities including ethnic. The historical processes of Islamicisation of the state and society palpably indicate that.

A nationalist Baloch scholar, Naseer Dashti, in one of his publications, acknowledges that Baloch society has undergone profound change during the last few decades. The traditional social and tribal structures have changed, nomadism has vanished and, with the development of numerous townships throughout Balochistan, a middle class has emerged on the Baloch socio-political horizon. With this change in society, claims the scholar, the essence of nationalist leadership is also transforming; instead of tribal elders, the middle class is increasingly taking up the leadership role.

The intersection of maulvis, militants and the military is a complex web of overlapping and opposing interests in Pakistan’s largest and most restive province. And its dynamics are increasingly reshaping Baloch society

The traditional religious structures — which were once responsible only for performing religious and social rituals and reflected the conservative side of society — are becoming a genuine socio-political force.

Baloch clerics, sub-nationalist in character, have gotten a sense of empowerment because of the increasing religious influence and religious institutions in Balochistan; they lacked this empowerment within the traditional social structures. Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, the renowned Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazlur Rehman (JUI-F) leader in the province, asserts that the establishment has its favourites within the religious parties but it still relies more on sardars? because they prove more helpful in counteracting separatist tendencies among the Baloch than the religious leaders do.

However, divisions among different religious brands are also visible in their geographical distribution. The banned sectarian and militant organisations politically associate themselves with pro-establishment political streams. Such groups have influence mainly in Quetta, Mastung, Kalat, Naseerabad, Jhal Magsi and the Pashtun belt of the province. In Gwadar, Turbat, Panjgur, Washuk, Chaghi, Kharan, Kech, Nushki and Awaran districts, nationalist tendencies are dominant among the clergy, who have to deal with other influences, including from nationalist political parties and insurgent groups of both left-wing leaning and religious-nationalist character. Pakistani Baloch insurgent groups such as the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) and the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) are mainly active here and are seen as having largely a leftist or secular ideological character. The Iranian Baloch insurgent groups, mainly Jaishul Adl, are also present in bordering areas of some of these districts and deemed as religious-nationalist owing to their use of a religious ethos to influence their fellow Baloch in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchestan province.

“The issue is not as simple as is sometimes understood,” says Hafeez Jamali, an anthropologist who is currently heading ?a CPEC project-related section in the Balochistan government?. He points out that central Balochistan has remained relatively more religious since the times of the Khanate of Kalat as the Khans always patronised religious institutions. Then, during the Afghan-Soviet war, the central parts of Balochistan were relatively more affected by the expansion of religious institutions. “However the eastern and western parts of Balochistan traditionally remained less inclined towards religion,” he says. “Even when the number of madressahs and mosques is increasing in these parts, the pace of religious influences [gaining traction] is slower [there] compared to the central parts of the province.”

The madressah factor

A boy reads the Quran in a seminary | File photo

Hafiz Zubair Ahmed, a madressah teacher in Quetta who is a local JUI-F leader says, “Education, both formal and religious, is changing Baloch society.” He claims that it is the burgeoning of madressahs that not only contributes to an increase in the literacy rate in the province but that it is also helping to create a new lower middle class, which is more conscious about its political rights. Some journalists and madressah teachers from different parts of the province share that Baloch madressah graduates have strong ethnonationalist sentiments and are against the tribal and ?sardari system in the province.

The powerful tribal or ?sardari? system deemed itself the custodian of the Baloch socio-cultural and political ethos. The traditional religious structures were somewhat entrenched within the ?sardari system and the two rarely challenged each other before this trend of increasing religiosity.

If the impact of this new wave of thought can be measured by counting the number of religious centres one passes on the highways in Balochistan, the picture is stark. There are more than 10,000 small and big madressahs in Balochistan?, which roughly translates into availability of ?one madressah for every 1,200 to 1,300 people in the province?. In Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, by contrast, there is ?one madressah for about 45,000 to 50,000, and 10,000 to 12,000 inhabitants?, respectively.

However, one cannot claim that the madressah is a new centre for revolutionary thoughts and ideas. The madressahs in Balochistan played a key role in the formation of the Taliban and not only provided human resource to their militias but also provided ideological and political support.

The madressah institution has also fanned the flames of sectarian violence in the province. Yet, the presence of a distinct nationalistic character among madressah students in Balochistan can be attributed to the overall political environment of the province, the dominance of the Baloch nationalist discourse in mainstream education, and an element of anger against the state’s polices to reverse the militant chapter in the country.

“There is a sense of humiliation that the state has abandoned them, which could be a reason for their anger,” says Qari Saifullah, the principal at Markaz-e-Islami Panjgur, a prominent seminary of the area belonging to the Jamaat-e-Islami. However, Shahzada Zulfiqar, a Quetta-based senior journalist and political analyst, doubts such claims. According to him, most of the madressahs students in the province belong to the ?Pashtun community. “These [nationalist] tendencies [among the madressah graduates] are not going to benefit nationalist politics and the Baloch insurgent movement because they will prefer to support their religious political and sectarian organisations,” he says.

Whatever the cause may be, the Baloch nationalist insurgent movement — which is largely left-wing leaning and seeks revolutionary inspiration from global leftist movements or from its own historical background — is now facing resistance from the emerging religious-nationalist forces.

Does religious nationalism exist in Balochistan?

Pakistan security personnel inspect the site of a suicide attack in Dalbandin carried out by Baloch insurgents targeting Chinese engineers on August 2018 | AFP

The institutions of religious education may have not completely eroded the nationalist ethos of the Baloch but they have at least provided them a sense of connectivity with the broader religious communities in Pakistan. The Tableeghi Jamaat is one of the instrumental organisations connecting the Baloch with the wider national, religious and social discourses in the country. Banned terrorist groups such as the Jamaatud Daawa and Al-Rehmat Trust were also encouraged to expand their networks in the province, especially in the insurgency-infested areas. “If these organisations are agents of national cohesion, they may take a few more years to dilute the nationalist tendencies and this cannot happen without the expansion of the middle class,” says Quetta-based civil society activist Ali Baba Taj.

Despite the conflicting views, this fundamental question still remains unanswered. A review of the Iran-focused militant group Jaishul Adl can help to understand this question.

Rapid urbanisation in parts of Balochistan and a growing middle class can be counted as primary factors behind growing religiosity in the province. The Baloch overseas workers in Middle Eastern countries, as well as Omani and Iranian influences in the coastal and bordering regions, have also factored in to change the socioeconomic fabric of the area.

Balochi separatists and militants have engaged in regular cross-border raids against Iran which has made the Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchestan a flashpoint since long. In October 2018, 12 Iranian security personnel were abducted near a village 150 kilometres southeast of Zahedan, the capital of Sistan-Baluchestan province. The group that claimed responsibility of the abduction was the anti-Iran Sunni Muslim militant group which calls itself Jaishul Adl (JA), or the Army of Justice. Operating primarily in the Iranian province, it receives support from local Baloch tribes in Pakistan where it also operates from.

Jaishul Adl can be classified as a Baloch religious-nationalist militant group, which was formed soon after the arrest and execution of Abdul Malik Regi, the leader of the Sunni extremist organisation Jundallah. Jaishul Adl claims to be fighting for the rights of the Baloch and Sunnis in Iran. It had demanded of the government equal rights for both the Baloch and Sunnis in Iran, among other things, in exchange of freeing the Iranian guards.

Such a demand reflected that, unlike Jundallah, the group’s struggle is for the rights of the Baloch-dominated districts in Iran and not necessarily for the independence of these areas. However, on-the-ground reports reflect a different reality. Local accounts from Panjgur and Nushki claim that JA has separatist tendencies and, like the Pakistani Baloch groups BLA and BLF, it advocates for a ‘greater Balochistan’ comprising Baloch regions within Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.

This is the reason that has drawn the Baloch youth from Pakistan’s bordering towns to join the group. Quetta-based journalist Akber Notezai feels that “Unemployment could be one of the factors for Pakistani Baloch youth to join the Jaishul Adl.” Mainly those youth who subscribe to different Sunni sectarian and religious organisations comprise its ranks. JA’s core leadership, however, is mainly Iranian Baloch. In this context, it has become a transnational religio-separatist group of the region.

Jaishul Adl vs BRAS

JA is often engaged in skirmishes with left-leaning Pakistani Baloch insurgent groups. The Baloch Raaji Ajoi Sangar (BRAS) is an alliance including the BLA, the BLF and the Balochistan Republican Guards (BRG) and often clashes with JA in armed confrontation in the areas they share alongside the Pakistan-Iran border.

The BLA and the BLF are beneficiaries of Iran’s lenient attitude towards them and, in turn, BRAS insurgents believe that Jaishul Adl enjoys Pakistan’s inattention to its activities as well as support from some Middle Eastern countries. They also claim that JA has been undermining the nationalist insurgency. However, the presence of Pakistani Baloch youth in the folds of JA indicates that the issue goes deeper.

While Pakistani insurgents did not have a close association with Iran, the breakaway faction of the Jundullah group was tolerated by Pakistani Baloch insurgents. But now the situation is different. A few blogs maintained by BRAS supporters reflect that the debate among Pakistani Baloch insurgents to form an alliance with their Iranian counterparts carries on, though with little success.

A few among hardliner Baloch nationalists in Pakistan, who take pride in the traditionally left-leaning and secular roots of the Baloch nationalist movement, consider JA an illegitimate entity to lead the Baloch. They assert, instead, that the group is dividing the force of the insurgents while giving a religious colour to the resistance movement. According to them, the Iranian regime is, in fact, not against the Sunnis because it allows Sunni mosques and madressahs to function, that Sunni books are published in Iran, and Sunnis have representation in the Iranian parliament. They also point to Maulana Abdul Hameed, the head of the Sunni Council in Iranian Balochestan.

They argue that the Iranian regime is, in fact, against ethnic minorities including Baloch, Kurds and Arabs. They assert that the Iranian regime has not set up any Baloch cultural centre in Sistan and there is a ban on the publication of Balochi-language books. A secular Baloch cannot contest elections in Iran. This is a popular view among the hardliners, but many experts underscore that Baloch nationalism in Iran has become increasingly religious in nature, and JA is one of the reactions.

Although the groups in the BRAS’ fold have a critical view of Iran and advocate for a greater Balochistan, logistical support from Iran has also made them dependent on the country. This has given Iran clout over these insurgent groups and it is using them against anti-Iran groups such as JA. According to local accounts, families of BRAS commanders have been given protection and refuge by the Iranian security forces and, in return, they attack JA hideouts inside Pakistan and provide information about them to Iran.

The Zikri factor

Seminaries have been accused of providing human resource to the Taliban movement | AFP

The Zikri issue is another manifestation of the complex religious landscape of Balochistan.

In Turbat, in Kech district, Zikris have prayed for centuries at Koh-e-Murad. Every year, on the 27th of Ramazan, members of the small Muslim sect hold a mystical gathering at the shrine. Mainly based in the Makran region, the Zikris also inhabit in large numbers the Mashkay and Gresha areas of Khuzdar district, the entire Awaran district and many parts of Lasbela district. Many historians believe that Zikris were the native Baloch. Some claim they came from Fatimid Egypt and, travelling through Iran, they arrived on the Makran coast centuries ago. However, Zikris have a strong affiliation with Balochistan and have nationalist thoughts.

Derived from the Arabic dikr — meaning ‘pronouncement’ or ‘remembrance’ — the term Zikri denotes the prayers which Zikris perform in place of the daily Muslim prayers. The exact number of Zikris is unknown but it is estimated at around 600,000 to 700,000 , with more than 100,000 living in Karachi, and a considerable number present in interior Sindh as well. The predominantly Baloch community lived peacefully side by side with the ‘Namazi Baloch’ (Sunni Baloch) until religious persecution reared its ugly head. 

Some journalists and madressah teachers from different parts of the province share that Baloch madressah graduates have strong ethnonationalist sentiments and are against the tribal and ​sardari system in the province.

When the government allowed Salafi clerics to settle in the Makran region, it triggered a discourse of hatred against the Zikris. Later, Deobandi clerics from Karachi and sectarian groups from Punjab also joined the campaign against them. In 1978, Ziaul Haq himself visited the region and had a long consultation with the local religious leaders, which has been documented by Maulana Abdul Haq in his booklet Zikri Masla. He claims that the ‘ulema’ demanded that Zikris be declared non-Muslim and Zia promised in the meeting that he would send the case to a superior court to resolve the issue permanently. Zia encouraged the clerics to sensitise people about the issue.

The mullahs also tried to incite other Muslims in Makran and Balochistan against the Zikris in order to force them to the margins of society. A religious group Majlis Tahafuz Khatm-e-Nabuwwat, in collaboration with the Sipah-e-Sahaba, organised an annual congregation in Turbat at the same time as the Zikris’ annual gathering at Koh-e-Murad near the city. These religious groups invited thousands of their followers from across Pakistan to stop the Zikris from performing their rituals.

Over the last few years, the local administration has stopped the religious groups from intervening in the Zikris’ rituals, but this action comes too late. A wide sectarian rift has already been created among the Baloch. Zikris are still the target of terrorist groups and religious zealots. In 2014, six Zikris were shot dead in a Zikr khana in Awaran district. In the same year, Zikri passengers of a bus were attacked in Khuzdar district of Balochistan. Seven of them were injured. In 2016, a Zikri spiritual leader was killed in Kech.

The Zikris claim that they are targeted because of their political views — they have strong nationalist inclinations and they support nationalist parties in the province. Maulana Abdul Haq, in his booklet, also endorsed that the Zikris’ secular and nationalist credentials were a cause for concern for the government. In retaliation, many young Zikris have joined insurgent groups, mainly the BLA and the BLF.

Some see the Zikris’ inclusion in Baloch insurgent groups as one of the impediments to developing a working relationship between these groups and the Iranian Sunni religio-nationalist groups — despite the fact that they all have some common nationalist tendencies among them. Abdul Haq Hashmi, the Jamaat-i-Islami provincial head, endorses this view. He points out that the anger among Zikri youth was already intense and when the current phase of insurgency began, many of them instantly joined in. “The Zikri factor could be one of the obstacles in the way of any probabilities of cooperation between nationalist and religious insurgent groups,” he observes. However, the number of Zikris among insurgent groups is significant. Most of the important commanders of the BLF and the BLA belong to the sect.

Compounding the crisis of identity comes the modern-day problem of housing and settlement. After fighting nationalist insurgency, religious extremism and sectarianism, the Zikri sect now faces encroachment by mega development projects. Journalist Notezai says that many Zikris fear that the CPEC route will cause massive displacement for them as many community members reside in the areas the CPEC passes through — starting from Gwadar to Hoshab-East of Turbat (M8) on one side and Gwadar to Lasbela, as well as in Awaran. M8 connects Turbat to Hoshab, where one can find a significant population of Zikris. Areas with a strong presence of Zikris include Gwadar and surrounding areas, Turbat city, Kissak, Kikkin, Shahrak, Shapuk, Sammi, Karki, Hoshab and some parts of Dander and Kohlwa.

The sectarian turf

Many Baloch insurgent groups are said to be fighting for a ‘greater Balochistan’

The markets of eastern and western Balochistan are full of Iranian goods and Iranian petrol and diesel. Goods from Iran have occupied virtually the whole market not only in Balochistan but also in bordering towns of Sindh and Punjab. “Bordering towns cannot survive without trade with Iran and this is used for political leverage,” says Dr Ishaque Baloch, central vice president of the National Party (NP). In the absence of religious influence in Balochistan, Iran mainly depends on economic incentives as a tool. Many Baloch in the border regions have dual nationality of both Iran and Pakistan, and others have entry permits as they are in the business of trading petrol and grocery items.

While infiltrating the market via trade with the Pakistani Baloch is easy, the religion schema is more complex for Iran as the Baloch on both sides belong to the Sunni school of thought. Iran made attempts to introduce Shia Islam in the bordering regions of Pakistan but the campaign was abandoned because of fear of persecution of the Shia population by Sunni hardliners and violent groups. Journalist Zulfiqar points to the presence of pro-Iran religious scholars sent on preaching missions in the Baloch areas but says they have had little success. Allama Akber Zahidi, a prominent religious scholar from Quetta, says that the Makran region has zero Shia presence but Khuzdar and adjoining areas are home to non-Baloch Shia families. After sectarian tensions and incidents of target killings, these families were evacuated and brought back to Quetta; many settled later in Punjab.

On the other hand, Sunni sectarian groups and clerics are also confronting Iranian influences, which deepen the sectarian divide in the province. Quetta, Kalat and Mastung districts particularly remain sensitive because of the presence of sectarian and global jihadist terrorist groups in these areas. So far, these groups do not have strong operational linkages with anti-Iran groups such as JA but, if they indulge in any formal alliance, the sectarian divide in the province could intensify. Though the Baloch-dominated districts have a different sectarian complexion, Quetta and the districts bordering Sindh may get affected by such a Shia-Sunni divide.

Many Baloch nationalist leaders are still reluctant to admit the fact that religious institutions are reshaping Baloch society. “The Baloch are born secular and their women are more independent and confident, working in and outside their houses,” says Dr Baloch. But when his attention is drawn towards the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam’s usually securing good number of seats to the provincial and federal legislatures from Balochistan, Dr Baloch asserts the JUI’s rise was only made possible by the Islamicisation process of the 1980s. Otherwise, he maintains, the clergy could not change Baloch society to any great extent.

But religion is reshaping the socio-political ethos of the province and the state is also using religion as a tool to glue disparate groups together. “The establishment feels easy using religious actors and it feels it has mastered this art,” says Zulfiqar explaining why the establishment does not instead engage with other aggrieved segments of society. But the rest of Pakistan has already experienced how the clergy, once empowered through patronage, can start dictating powerful elites after becoming strong.

The process of religious cohesion is slow and complicated. The ultimate outcome of this process is anybody’s guess. Whether or not it will dilute the nationalist tendencies among Baloch remains to be seen. But as has been proven time and again, an ideological dose cannot be an alternative to a cohesive social contract and an equitable distribution of resources.

The writer is a security analyst

Published in Dawn, EOS, July 14th, 2019


‘Caste as Social Capital’ review: The reality of caste inequalities


‘Caste as Social Capital’ review: The reality of caste inequalities

K. Subramanian25 MAY 2019 16:49 IST

UPDATED: 18 MAY 2019 16:55 IST

The Hindu, India


It’s simplistic to revisit the social system and find virtues in the way it works

After Independence, eradication of caste became an important area of social policy. It was the fond hope that industrialisation and urbanisation would reduce its hold and pave the way for a more egalitarian and just society.

But that didn’t happen. Reputed sociologists like Prof. M.N. Srinivas and Andre Beteille have studied the peculiar nature of caste and its tenacity to persist. Now, rising Hindutva ideology is giving new life to it. There are think-tanks and authors who revisit the caste system and find virtues in it. This book is an attempt to lend support on the basis of later-day theory of social capital.

Complex situation

The author bases his main argument on the premise that caste is not unique to the Hindu system and exists in other religions. Moreover, he says the caste system was not rigid and hierarchical and provided upward mobility to groups. He blames British (colonial) rulers for stratifying the system through their policies and also faults all affirmative efforts that followed. He would rather see caste “as social capital and a modern tool for upward mobility.” Based on dubious data, he says that “...discrimination in opportunities for education existed for millennia is a dangerous misconception that clouds our policies and threatens the real progress of the backward classes.” These arguments remind this reviewer of those who argue against Darwin!

In later chapters, the author develops certain themes on ‘caste and entrepreneurship’ and argues that support comes from caste groups acting as social capital. Indeed, there is an emotional bond and caste is socially binding. It was dominant in a dual economy in the informal sector. Entrepreneurs hailing from particular castes like Gounders, Marwaris, Chettiars, etc. set up industries and inducted caste members as workers. They had informal networks and offered financial or other support to others.

There is a detailed narration of certain clusters as in Tiruppur (hosiery), Sivakasi (crackers) and Surat for diamonds. He also refers to what he characterises as Vaishyavisation of India or the morphing of backward castes into the business class.

By holding such a view, the author overreaches or simplifies the complex reality. Clusters were caste based in the early years. But, with industrialisation, the ownership of clusters has vastly changed. They are not a solution to help millions of downtrodden who lack education and skills to move up the ladder. Further, even clusters are sweat shops, especially of women, and caste does not seem to have played a benevolent role. As David Mosse explains, caste is a complex institution and is a contributor to persisting national socioeconomic and human capital disparities.

A different sphere

The chapter on ‘Caste and politics’ is superficial and does not recognise the role of caste in politics. It builds on the basis of family politics and generalises it across the country. As Beteille explained, caste behaviour is weakening in some ways and we have to turn to a different sphere to understand the tenacity of caste and “that is the sphere of politics.” Post-Mandal, caste groups and parties are aligning to get a share in power to advance their interests. This is in essence a democratic process and the author misses it.

Social capital was once a fashionable idea promoted by the World Bank. In recent years, it has been given up as a lost cause, as there is no accepted definition of social capital or the factors that constitute it. Many authors find it convenient to hang their views on it as a peg like Prof. Vaidyanathan does to defend the caste system.

Caste as Social Capital; R. Vaidyanathan, Westland Books, ₹299.

July 11, 2019

What is the Fethullah Terrorist Organisation (FETO)?


Mehmet Melik Kose, Senior Software Engineer at Cisco (2017-present)

Updated May 24, 2017

Fethullah Terror Organisation is the name of a terrorist group which is probably the most sophisticated and large scale one among terrorist groups around the world. They have turkish origins, but they have followers and sympathizers from other nations as well.

Some (actually most) of their followers don’t even realize that the group is a terrorist organization. This may sound ridiculous, but let me explain. The group has two separate structures, they are like two sides of a coin. One of these two structures is quite like an NGO, as a matter of fact, more like a web of NGOs that spread around the globe. Their members, or volunteers, are regular people, most of them are religious, believers of Islam, but even that is not a necessity, one may just be influenced from an NGO just because of the cause it represents, not because of the religion. Most of these NGOs are in education business, some are think-tanks, trade associations, or anything like these. Through their network around the globe, they do make every effort to raise money, both via businesses they have, and via direct donations from their followers. (The donations are mostly voluntary, although they pressure their followers via social means, for example, one becomes more respectful within the network if they donate more money.) By using these legal structures, they try to get grants from governments as well.

Via their businesses in education, they were having the chance to pick successful students, and make them a loyal follower of Fethullah Gulen, the leader of the organisation. These successful students were having two careers. One in the group, the other one in the government organisations. The followers of the organisation, who were working in some government organisation, help these students had a job in government, and they got fast promoted to the positions that are effective in the government. As they progress in their position in the government, they progress in their position in the group. The government institution can be anything, finance, education, police force, military, judiciary, you name it.

The other students who had contact with the group via their training centers, private high schools, or colleges, universities, etc. are brainwashed to be a follower or sympathiser of the group. So, in their future life, they were expected to think of the group, and Fethullah Gulen, in a quite positive way.

Other than the education, another business that was quite important to the organisation was media and publishing companies. Until a couple of years ago, the newspaper with the highest circulation in Turkey was in control of them. Although the number of circulation was manipulated by the followers via the subscriptions like 10 newspapers for one person, it was estimated that the newspaper was one of the most read in Turkey. Other than the newspapers, they were having TV and radio channels, news websites and all other media related things one can think of. Now they only have some news websites. Via their impact in media, they were influencing public opinion, probably much more than any other group in Turkey.

Up to this point, it was about the legal side of the organisation. The other side of the coin is quite different. I said, “their followers don’t even realize that the group is a terrorist organization”, and the reason for that is, most of the people who are members of this organisation is only aware of the legal side of it. They never get informed about the activities of the other side of the group. As a matter of fact, they are encouraged to focus on only their duties, and not to worry about the rest. They only believe to the information that comes from within the organisation. So when Gulen says “we don’t have anything to do with the latest coup in Turkey”, they believe it, when their media says “The head of intelligence agency, Hakan Fidan, has contacts with Iran, and he is an Iranian spy” they believe it, when they say “Turkish intelligence agency is sending military equipment to Daesh”, they believe it, without questioning how someone can be both pro-Iran and pro-Daesh, which are the fiercest enemies in the region. I didn’t even come to the ridiculousness of this claim just because of the fact that Turkey is one of the first countries in the world that has listed Daesh as a terrorist group, and that Turkey has every reason to fight against Daesh in the region, starting from the fact that the existence of such a terror group doesn’t serve to any interest of Turkey in the region, to the abduction of the Turkish officials from Mosul consulate in 2014.

So, about the dark side of the group… The followers of the group who have responsibilities in the government are quite like sleeper cells. Day to day, they just do what they need to do. But when it comes to something related to the interest of the group, they do everything to make it, it can be via legal or illegal means. Say one of the followers of the group is a police. They can fabricate evidences for the prosecutions. There is nothing to prosecute? The prosecutor, who is a follower of the group, can just fabricate one on demand. They can fabricate terrorist groups which is not exist at all. Then they add the people, who they see as an obstacle on their intentions to get the control of the whole government, to the inspection. One doesn’t need to do anything to find that they are claimed to be a member of a terrorist group, that they never heard of. The police can just fabricate the evidences. They can make up group of spies in the military, via these prosecutions, one can be found not guilty, but their promotions would halt for years in the military, since these military suits can take years to lead to a judicial decision. One can be a journalist who is quite suspicious about the group, and is in the process of writing a book about these. The journalist can find himself behind the bars, and the book, which is not even published yet, can be destroyed.

I just gave some samples of the possible ways of the group’s “attacks”. (These all happened in Turkey.) A terror “attack” doesn’t need to be the ones like daesh, or PKK, or ETA, or IRA, or any-conventional-terror-group-you-can-think-of had. They don’t attack by using AK-47 or whatever-a-conventional-terror-group-may-use. But they attack to the people by using the very institutions of the government. When the group attacks someone, one is not even aware of it. One is not aware of that it is a terror-attack in the first place.

From this perspective, the group is quite like an intelligence agency. A conventional terror group uses techniques similar to the military ones. FETO uses intelligence agency techniques. Psychological propaganda, false flag operations, using NGOs for undercover purposes, etc.

I hope the reader get the idea up to this point.

But I didn’t come to the largest attack of this terror group, easily the largest one in the world since 9/11.

The members of this terror group infiltrated military of Turkey as well, just like other institutions. And this infiltration was going on since 1980s, if not since 70s. Throughout the years, they have promoted up to the positions of three-star generals. They had full control of the personnel department of the military. They had control of pretty much the whole air-force. They used the military suits, which were just fabricated to get rid of the military personnel who they saw as an obstacle for their purposes, to be able to get to the positions they wanted.

In 2012, the group wanted to get control of national intelligence agency of Turkey. Just like other cases, they just came up with another case (a fabricated one, as usual) to arrest the head of intelligence agency. That is probably the time Erdogan, the prime minister of Turkey at the time, realised their real intentions. With his and his party’s power in the parliament, an act that prevents the head of intelligence agency from being arrested without the permission of PM passed. But this was just the beginning of the story that Erdogan started to push back against “the cemaat”, the name of the group until their real intentions was found out in Turkey. Erdogan tried to reduce the influence of the group, for this purpose, he proposed an act, which would effectively close down the training centers that the group was making huge amounts of money, and having influence to the young students.

So the group came up with their very well known technique, they just came up with a case against the government officials, ministers, their sons, and Erdogan as well. Some aspects of the cases were certainly not fabricated, but some were just fabricated stuff, as usual. Still, via their media, they managed to influence a large part of the Turkish society.

Erdogan managed to eliminate this “attack” as well (which is kind of surprising), but by this attack, the “cemaat” became “parallel government”, and “fethullah terrorist organisation”. There couldn’t be a better explanation than “parallel government” to describe the structure of the group within the government.

Since then, the situation has escalated, Erdogan won every election throughout 2014 to 2015. And when the calendar was 15th of July, 2016, the group tried a coup to be able to get rid of Erdogan. The coup plans leaked that afternoon, so they had to start the coup earlier than they planned initially. They concealed themselves as if they were a Kemalist faction in the military during the coup. But turkish society didn’t buy this. With the resistance by the whole nation, but especially by the Erdogan’s supporters, the coup plotters had to escape. Most of them caught and arrested.

During the coup, more than 250 people died. They bombed turkish parliament with a bomb initiated from an F-16, and a police building that caused martyrdom of 46 police. They attacked intelligence agency with military helicopters. They attacked people with tanks.

I don’t know any terror group in the rest of the world that is in control of any F-16 fighter jet, or any military helicopter.

That is why FETO is the most sophisticated terror group in the world.

July 09, 2019

Marvel & mystery

Zarrar KhuhroJuly 08, 2019

Marvel & mystery

IN a rare piece of good news, last week we learnt that France will be returning some 445 relics of the Indus Valley civilisation that were smuggled out of Pakistan over the years and were meant to end up in museums, galleries and private collectors in the West.

The network came to light in 2006, when French authorities intercepted a parcel containing terracotta pots claimed to be about 100 years old. On examination, they turned out to be thousands of years older — burial objects likely stolen from Balochistan. The investigation led to a gallery which yielded even older stolen artifacts as old as 6,000 years — belonging to the Mehrgarh civilisation which was a precursor, or perhaps a part of, the larger Indus Valley civilisation.

The other piece of good news is that this gives me the opportunity to write about the fascinating Indus Valley civilisation itself. Now, when we usually think of this wonder of the ancient world we think of Moenjodaro and Harappa, and perhaps Mehrgarh. But — and research is constrained here — in actuality the entire civilisation encompassed an area roughly the size of (and perhaps a little larger) than modern-day Pakistan.

The civilisation offers tantalising clues.

Take the archaeological site at Kalibangan in the Indian state of Rajasthan where we find evidence of the world’s first furrowed field. Or Rakhigarha in Haryana which displays the same incredible urban planning — wide roads and an organised sewage system — that is a hallmark of this lost civilisation. Then there is Dholavira in Gujarat which boasts reservoirs that give us a tantalising glimpse into how advanced their water-management system was. Along with this a step-well has been discovered which is said to be three times the size of the Great Bath at Moenjodaro.

Perhaps the most fascinating of these sites is the one at Lothal in the Indian state of Gujarat. In an echo of Moenjodaro, ‘Lothal’ also means ‘hill of the dead’ and is the site of the first known dock in the entire world, which connected Lothal to the Arabian Sea via the Sabarmati river. And this is when it gets really fascinating; as wide as the spread of the Indus Valley Civilisation was, its trade routes went even further, reaching all the way to ancient Mesopotamia in the West, who knew these proto-Dravidians as the ‘Meluhhans’ (the word is likely derived from the Dravidian words ‘mel-akam’ meaning ‘highland country’.

Archaeologist Jane McIntosh writes: “ships from Meluhha docked in Mesopotamian ports; some Meluhhans settled in Sumer; and there is a seal belonging to a Mesopotamian whose job it was to act as an interpreter of the Meluhhan language. On the other hand, there is nothing to suggest that people from Mesopotamia reached the Indus, so it is clear that the Harappans conducted the trade between the two civilisations.”

One major export from the IVC to the West was sesame oil, which was known as ‘ilu’ in Sumerian and ‘ellu’ in Akkadian, and it is likely that this was derived from the Dravidian word for the same, which was ‘el’ or ‘ellu’, another tantalising clue to how interconnected the ancient world was.

Harappa (near modern-day Sahiwal) also provides clues as to the extent of the trade network, as beads seashells and stones have been recovered from the site, which were not available locally. But perhaps the most incredible find is of a trading outpost located at Shortugai, near the Oxus river near the northern border of modern Afghanistan! From here lapis lazuli was mined and exported to the Indus Valley, and even shipped as far afield as Sumeria. Flourishing trade requires a uniform system of weights and measurements, and indeed a standardised system for such also existed, as did a ruler with measurements marked out in units that resemble modern inches.

We already know of the brilliance of this civilisation’s urban planning, with wide roads, organised housing and a sewage system that was only replicated in Europe in the 18th century. Indeed, were residents of Harappa to take a look at the sewage flooding so many Pakistani towns and villages there is little doubt they would have been appalled.

But what is also notable is that, unlike other ancient civilisations we find little evidence of an organised military, and have yet to discover the great palaces and military murals that were a hallmark of Assyria and Babylon. What is truly unfortunate is that to this day, their script remains undeciphered, and it is unlikely that a Rosetta stone will be stumbled upon, unlocking this great mystery.

Another mystery is that we don’t know exactly how this civilisation perished. There is evidence of invasion, but it is unlikely that this was the leading cause. Indeed, in a grim warning from the past, it seems that climate change may have been the culprit, causing drought and mass migration that led to a collapse of order and, ultimately, civilisation itself. Indeed, here are signs for those who observe.

The writer is a journalist.

Twitter: @zarrarkhuhro

Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2019