Interview: ISIS returnees, should they come back?

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Should those joining the ISIS be allowed to return to India? Should they be let off with counselling or should they be prosecuted for trying to join a banned terror outfit?

The ISIS ideology is growing and it is a grave threat that is here to stay for a very long time. In such a scenario questions are being raised in India over the manner in which some of the cases pertaining to the ISIS are being handled.


Just last week a group of nine were let off by the police after counselling. They were all deported from Turkey to Bengaluru after they were trying to join the ISIS.

A week before that, one girl from Hyderabad was deported from Qatar after she had shown interest in joining the ISIS. She too has been let off after counselling.

In this context, former Chief of the Research and Analysis Wing, C D Sahay speaks with Oneindia on the handling of these ISIS returnees and what the government and the security agencies should be doing.

Should persons trying to join the ISIS return to India and is the counselling approach helping? What does one do legally in such cases?

There is a price to pay in cases of such misadventure. Across the border when terrorists are trying to come back one cannot shoot them below the hip.

In these cases it becomes very difficult to book a case when the person has only travelled. It is a different thing when he has travelled and taken part in a terrorist operation with a banned outfit.

What needs to be done?

It is those cases in which an act of crime has been committed that should count. When a person has joined the outfit and participated in a crime, then it becomes important for the Indian agencies to act.

In these cases substantial evidence must be collected fast and these persons prosecuted. The prosecution must act as a deterrent for all other cases. We should not be seen as being soft in such cases.

Is counselling and letting off going to help the cause?

There is a need to interrogate and establish the crime before prosecuting such persons. One has to be extremely safe in such cases. We have taken the more decent way of doing things.

The approach that we have been taking is once such persons come back, we try to convince them about the ill-effects of undertaking such an adventure. The parents, relatives and friends are brought before the police and advised.

There is a need to put-forth the message within the community so that a greater role is played by them in ensuring that the youth do not get swayed.

Does it work? What if there is a repeat offender?

To a large extent it does. It should be made the responsibility of the family and also the friends to ensure that the person does not stray out again. The fear of the name coming on the police records must be there.

Every step must be taken to discourage such persons. They need to be kept under watch. The agencies especially the local police have to be on their toes and ensure that there are no repeat offenders.

What about those who have been complete brainwashed?

Generally the approach of counselling has worked. However it does not appear to have worked well in cases where the person is completely brainwashed. Such youth are either brainwashed completely or lured in with jobs and a better future.

We must watch out for those who are completely brainwashed as they would attempt to do it once again. These are the persons who are first radicalized and then turn into mercenaries.

Which states of India must be extra cautious to the ISIS problem?

Before I answer that let me point out that the police are watching this on a day to day basis. Unlike ten years back, today there is a lot of awareness to terrorism. Even the West woke up only after 9/11.

Maharashtra, Karnataka and Gujarat face a lot of this problem today apart from West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Agencies need to work alongside the government hard on this and put aside all vote bank related issues while dealing with this threat as it is a serious matter.

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