[Burning Issue] Radicalization in India

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Context: Radicalization in India

  • Recently, India witnessed a series of extremist acts by some radicalized youth from different cities like Udaipur which later got extended to the “sar tan se juda” sloganeering and related controversy.
  • Last year also, The NIA made multiple arrests in a suspected ISI module that was playing role in the radicalization of Indian youth and performing extremist acts in India.
  • The above incidences highlight the issue of radicalization of Indian youth which could pose a serious challenge to India’s internal security. Thus, in this edition of the Burning issue, we will study radicalization in India, its causes, consequences and some way forward.

What is Radicalization?

  • Radicalization is the process by which an individual or a group comes to adopt increasingly radical views in opposition to a political, social, or religious status quo. It is when someone starts to believe or support extreme views and then participates in extremist groups or acts.
  • It can be motivated by a range of factors, including ideologies, religious beliefs, political beliefs and prejudices against particular groups of people.

Type of Radicalization

Right-Wing Extremism

  • It is mostly associated with supremacist ideas promoting the supremacy of the social identity of one class or religion over the other. The fascist, racist, and ultranationalist are types of it.

Left-Wing Extremism

  • They believe in the violent overthrow of the politically established governments and aim to control the state. This type includes Maoists, anarchists (one who believes in absence of the state) and Marxist–Leninists who believe in Marx’s revolutionary theory. Example- India’s Naxal violence in Chattishgarh, Jharkhand.

Politico-Religious Extremism

  • This form of radicalization generally involves a political interpretation of religion and may defend their identity and customs through violent means that they perceive to be under attack.
  • It is the broader aspect of communal extremism where religion is used to politically mobilize people and in the process may turn to violent acts leading to religious extremism.

Single-Issue Extremism

  • This type of radicalization uses a single issue to mobilize the masses. These can be issues of hatred against outsiders (xenophobia), feminist rights, and environmental issues. The recent post-Agniveer Scheme launch caused radicalization of youth for the job and following violence can be put under this category.

Causes of radicalization in India

  • Political– Lack of civil rights or marginalization of a section of society from the political power may lead to the generation of radical ideas or dissent leading to communal mobilization by certain political groups.
  • Economic– Lack or deprivation of equal economic opportunity can be a cause of radicalization. Generally, poverty and unemployment are considered a cause of it. For example, violent Pro-Reservation protests by different communities at different times.
  • Cultural– It is generally seen with the communities who feel some threat to their cultural norms and practices due to the presence of outside people in their areas and attack these minorities out of fear of losing their culture.
  • Social identification– People identify themselves with different groups such as caste, religion, and ethnicity and when some threat occurs to these identifications, it causes them to rise in violence.   
  • Internet radicalization- uses the internet as a medium to propagate extremist views, thus provoking individuals, mainly youth, to rise against so-called injustice thus radicalizing them. Recently, the Union government asked several social media platforms to block accounts and youtube channels promoting hatred against the nation.
  • Individual factors– This includes a person’s natural tendency of violent behavior, aggressive attitude and causing harm to others. It may also include a feeling of revenge, a desire to cause harm to the wrongdoer etc also.
  • Faulty government policies- such as a land acquisition by the government without due compensation could lead to the generation of feelings of injustice and anger against the state, which often lead to moving towards radicalization.

Consequences of radicalization

  • Ruptures the social fabric– as it promotes hatred among communities in the society and thus generation of enmity.
  • Causes trust deficit– among different sections of society in the country’s social and political system.
  • Breeding ground– for extremist or terrorist forces to train and recruit individuals for their motives.
  • Hamper’s economic investments– in a nation as frequent radical acts generate negative sentiments in investors about the future stability of the country and thus  reduce investment.
  • Threat to national security- as above all consequences finally reaches extreme levels leading to internal security challenges for the police and intelligence agencies. As Acharya Chanakya has said that “Internal threats are much more dangerous than threats outside”

Current state of radicalization in India

  • India currently witnessing radicalization in form of Naxalism in central India, Ethnic insurgency in North East India and the recent new types being mob lynching (eg. Cow vigilantism) and even lone wolf attacks (Udaipur and Amravati killing).
  • A number of individuals, though minuscule in number, from India, have joined terrorist organizations such ISIS, Al-Queda etc.
  • Increasing threat of “Virtual Radicalisation” as evident from The Indian government recently blocking more than 100 YouTube channels as they were spreading fake information and communal hatred in India.
  • There is a growing threat of hate speech, and the demonization of certain communities as anti-nationals, which further promotes radicalization and extremism.

Steps taken to counter radicalization

  • Approval of study– The Ministry of Home Affairs has ordered a study on ‘the status of radicalization in India’ which will be conducted under G.S. Bajpai. It will try to legally define ‘radicalization’ and suggest amendments to the UAPA Act,1967.
  • Enactment of laws- Various laws such as the UAPA act, 1967; NIA act, 2008 have to be strengthened to give more power to security agencies to tackle radicalism.
  • Institutions created– Counter-Terrorism and Counter Radicalization (CTCR) divisions of the Ministry of Home Affairs are the key wings of the Government of India to coordinate with various law-enforcement agencies in the country.
  • Cyberworld and technology mechanisms– IB launched Operation Chukravyuh in late 2014 to counter the challenges posed by online radicalization.
  • Several deradicalization programs– Certain deradicalization and anti-radicalization programs are coordinated by the Union Government such as Civic Action Programs implemented by the Seema Shastra Bal (SSB) along the Indo-Nepal and Indo-Bhutan Borders.
  • State-level de-radicalization programs– such as that of the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) which has been quite successful in their attempts of deradicalizing numerous individuals.
  • Other programs- Coverage of the government’s various welfare schemes without discrimination, special schemes for communities and areas, promotion of composite culture and coexistence among various communities and constitutional safeguards for minorities, are some of the steps the government has been taking to keep people away from radicalization

Way Forward

  • Launching de-radicalization programs– which focus on states with higher intensity of radicalization and also Development of counseling and rehabilitation centers for radicalized youths under police custody.
  • Adopting the holistic approach– of deradicalization, counter-radicalization and anti-radicalization at all necessary levels.
  • Promoting research in the field of radicalization– concerning the different regions of India for a deeper understanding of the issue and developing a better solution.
  • Ensuring adequate funds– for these programs, capability development of intelligence forces and creation of modern infrastructure to tackle radicalization, especially the virtual one.
  • Capacity development of state police- as they are the first line of defense. State police forces need to work in good cooperation with central security agencies to better counter the growing radicalization.
  • Increase involvement of family and religious leaders– in not only the process of rehabilitation of radicalized youths but also in preventing youth to move towards radicalized ideologies.
  • Increasing awareness– in society about these threats through school and college education or through social media accounts of security agencies to prevent people from falling into trap of extremists.
  • Need to de-glamourize terrorism- and also a coordinated South Asian effort in countering radicalization can go a long way for the region as all countries of the region is facing the heat of radicalization.


  • Radicalization is an ongoing and dynamic process that needs a multifaceted approach that involves various policies and measures. Structural factors, in addition to psychological and ideological factors, go a long way in the explanation of radicalization.
  • Various counter-radicalization steps such as the correct diagnosis, building a counter-narrative, having the right communication strategy, education, having a counter-radicalization law, effective oversight and accountability, regulating the media, academia and public intellectuals and learning from other countries can be deliberated upon.
  • We all must work together in the ongoing “Amrit Kaal” to create a radicalization and extremism-free India by 2047, the 100th year of Indian Independence.

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