Radicalization through Media Mobilization in the Indian Periphery

In recent times, pandemics and regime changes have shaped national interests of countries and have created new security concerns while various radical groups are making efforts in attracting attention of citizens in the Indian subcontinent, seen through using media to create a positive image and influencing gullible minds. Radicalism has evolved, evident through passive mobilizing tactics fueling ethnic and communal uncertainty along which the role played by governments, non- state actors in such circumstances need to be seen.

Media and Mobilization: A new trump card Of Radical Groups in the  Indian Periphery ?

Currently, media propaganda has become a new tool of radicals to impose their own ideology and will by setting preferences and perceptions upon  illiterate and unaware communities , which could be seen vis-à-vis majoritarian  behavior witnessed through maltreatment, discrimination towards minorities who are later on, compelled to take up aggressive measures. The strategies being adopted by such movements are witnessing changes amidst periods of pandemic with mass media becoming an extensive tool of mobilization among the weaker youth ,who are being persuaded to join these groups through economic incentivization where hopes of  fulfilling  social cum economic needs are being provided to earn their bread and butter. Moreover, radicalization has furthered due to increasing  nationalism being promoted  in religions  such as Islam and Hinduism.

Islamic Radicalism is heightening with increasing usage of hate speeches, fake news and misinformation campaigns in South Asia through online social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, which are being used by extremist groups to express their mindset on the aim of establishing a universal caliphate, promoting jihad or holy war while generating a feeling of national and historical pride.

Communal and ethnic violence through misinformation initiatives being apparent in countries such as India, Afghanistan, Myanmar, could pave way towards regional instability through widening inequalities, hatred being fueled among various communities. Firstly, the case of India will be looked at with New Delhi having historical roots vis-à-vis ideas of secularism, tolerance where as of now these values and norms seem more idealistic, due to them being ignored in agendas of right wing groups, witnessed through massive propagation of Hindutva, being spread under guidance of fanatics, who are  vigorously imposing it towards minority religious communities through immense coercion, pressure while considering the latter as invaders or outsiders and eventually compelling them to leave behind their original identity and take up a new one.

Political appeasement and vote banks fulfillment has created uncertainty  in democracies like India where populist tactics have become a new trend for political parties for garnering public support through incentivizing the latter in the name of development and welfare but at later stages however, these promises remained obsolete, making it  counterproductive for New Delhi in her neighborhood with terrorist groups  exploiting the former’s weakness in her dealing with counterterrorism techniques and territorial disputes vis-a-vis the Kashmir Valley . Currently, this region which is stuck between a rock and a hard place because of the prevailing geopolitical threats emerging from China and Pakistan, where the latter is trying to count on its all-weather ally vis-à-vis protection and usage of separatist groups such as Lashkar E Taiba, Jaish E Muhammad and ISI aspiring to alter status quo ,deeming unfavorable to New Delhi.

Furthermore, increased minority migration from their home territories is widening in least developed countries ,due to nationalist activities being provided support by ruling governments who are being biased towards minority groups , which  has been observed through the 2017 Rohingya crisis where many of the Rohingya refugees went to Bangladesh for seeking asylum since the junta in their  home state, Myanmar, was punitive with its dealings with respect to supporting Bamar nationalism. Now, after the Tatmadaw has taken over, the rights of the minorities are at a question since they have had a turbulent past during previous coups , which man-handled as well as harassed them. Similar events have also been witnessed vis-à-vis Afghanistan in 2021 where question of minorities needs to be looked at.

In August 2021, ever since the Taliban captured Kabul, further fears and doubts have been created about whether is there chance of any improvement in the current situation or it will further accentuate. When it comes to the radical organization being mainly Pashtun, it is imperative for rights of other minorities to be looked at, as far as groups such as the Hazaras, Tajiks and Uzbeks are concerned.  According to a Human Rights Watch report, restrictions have been put in place vis-à-vis media forums to prevent opposition to Islamic values, spreading resentment regarding government activities abroad due to which many journalists have faced violence , intimidation by the local police.

Civil Society Groups Coming In: A Way Forward ?

Observing the developments above, many South Asian countries lag behind vis-à-vis religious freedom , as mentioned in the recent Freedom Of the World Report, New Delhi is partially free with a rating of 67/100 and its neighbors, Myanmar(28), Afghanistan (27), where all fall under the sections of partially free and not free vis-à-vis media, religious and speech,  which is witnessing further downhill due to radical movements being one of the root causes plus with the Covid pandemic, economic inequalities and dissent have widened.  The situation is becoming more complex in countries under autocratic and authoritarian regimes with media and civil society groups being curtailed and censored, thereby limiting multiple solutions.

While ensuring regional stability, civil society groups have a lot on their plate when it comes to spreading awareness, rehabilitation plus welfare in conflict ridden zones but only if governments are autonomous then civil society groups could act as bridges in spreading awareness along with promoting skill development amid such circumstances.

Concluding points

Government institutions should adopt a cosmopolitan and holistic approach towards accommodating minorities through giving civil society and media groups autonomy to ensure smooth nation building and integration, where even the same goes for authoritarian governments needing to be inclusive towards minorities for protecting their image, not compelling the latter to dissent and further, being a root cause behind aggravating regional instability.

Vineet Malik
Vineet Malik
Vineet Malik is a student in MA Diplomacy Law Business from OP Jindal Global University . He was a Research Assistant at Oneworld Foundation India and a former Research Intern at Institute For Peace And Conflict Studies and the Kootneeti. His research interests include South Asian Geopolitics, Defense and Strategy in India's Neighbourhood He could be contacted at malikvineet12[at]gmail.com