Exclusive! De-radicalised Pune teen speaks about her brainwashing by ISIS
The Anti-Terrorism Squad has had its hands full trying to counter the growing online network of terrorist groups in India. Four men had disappeared from Malvani last month, and while two have been rescued and counselled so far, the other two continue to be on the run.
The ATS had launched a campaign to help de-radicalise youth who have fallen prey to ISIS handlers and recruiters online. The campaign has so far helped rescue 25 youth from across the state, and Islamic clerics and scholars are aiding the ATS in this initiative.
Suspected ISIS agent Mohammad Sirajuddin being produced in a court in Jaipur
The arrest of Mohammad Sirajuddin, a manager at Indian Oil Corporation, from Jaipur on December 5, was a huge success for the ATS. His arrest led to the unravelling of several toxic chat rooms and groups on social media that were radicalising youth and urging them to join the ISIS. While screening the social media groups, the ATS discovered a 17-year-old girl from Pune, nicknamed Radical Gun, who was being coaxed to fly to Syria and attend to wounded soldiers. The teenager had a 90% score in her SSC and was pursuing medicine when she was roped in by the social media handlers. However, the ATS was able to de-radicalise the girl and make her see the truth behind the sinister plans of the ISIS.
Another youth that the ATS rescued was a Hindu engineering student, who had converted to Islam and had been teaching Arabic at Madrassas across Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. The boy is now helping the ATS sift through jihadi material that is printed in Urdu and Arabic and circulated across social media.
'They wanted me to treat war victims in Syria'
The 17-year-old girl is a lone child from an affluent family in Pune. "Between April and August 2015, I was waiting for college to resume and whiling time online. I came across the ISIS and my curiosity got the better of me," the girl said.
"I started reading up on why people were supporting ISIS. The information that I found was about the Dos and Don'ts about Islam. But later, as I moved to Facebook, I became a part of the ISIS web group. I shed my western attire and began wearing the burkha," she added.
"The group members kept egging me on, as I was the youngest in the group. I was online 24/7 posting and preaching."
This was when the group urged her and offered to sponsor her medical education, so that she could attend to the wounded soldiers involved in the war in Syria.
"Cops landed at my house and I was scared that I would be arrested. However, I am thankful to the ATS for rescuing me from the dark side of the ISIS. They helped me with sessions where Islamic scholars revealed the truth to me," the 17-year-old added.
"This is really a new life for me. And now I have promised the ATS that I will help them in de-radicalising youth and be part of the initiative."
The ATS initiative has so far been able to rescue about 25 youth. ACP Bhanupratap Barge said, "During the interrogation of the suspects we came to know that youngsters are brained washed and are often not aware of what they are doing. In our interaction sessions with students we share information about terror outfits, sleeper cells, their funding and operational methods. We have more than 12,000 volunteers from different colleges, who share and pass on information about suspicious movement in their area and also about missing youngsters."
Help the ATS: If you spot any suspicious activity, you can share the info by dropping a mail at email@example.com or call on 022 23087336