Why ISIS can’t Make Much Headway in India?

hqdefaultPTH is grateful to Abhinav Pandya for contributing this article.

Abhinav Pandya

New York: Once, on a chilly, windy and snowy evening of Ithaca, my economics Professor lectured us on the importance of asking the right questions. Sometimes even the genius minds and leaders with their gargantuan efforts fail in the lack of asking right questions and beginning with the right definitions. Today in the midst of the entire world questioning India’s tolerance, for real or fabricated reasons, and the resultant fears of the Indian Muslim minority getting radicalized, in the milieu of a global Jihadist movement of ISIS, I feel that the most pertinent question to ask is,

“Why ISIS or Daesh is not going to make much headway with Indian Muslims?”

This question is important because today the humanity faces a major threat from an extremely brutal and cannibalistic extremist organization led by a misguided religious leadership, running amok to destroy not just human lives, but the entire heritage of human civilization in the fields of arts, religion, literature, culture, science, philosophy, architecture, education and philosophy over the recorded and unrecorded history of last five thousand years. It poses a real threat with its sophisticated military technology, communication strategy based on the deft use of social media and global reach in terms of propaganda and terror.

Today when one witnesses the Muslim youth raised in liberal, democratic and multicultural Europe, falling prey to Jihadi ideology, the fear which scares all of us is that what happens, if India’s huge Muslim population which is comparatively more religious and less educated as compared to the Muslims of Europe, falls prey to ISIS’s online propaganda and join its rank and cadre. To date, to everyone’s surprise, in spite of having a huge and fairly religious Muslim population, one hardly finds many Indians joining Daesh. This becomes even more, puzzling when one finds that India has had a bitter history of communal riots and is presently headed by a Prime Minister, who allegedly has a polarizing image and controversial past, for partly real and largely, political reasons.

When PM Modi says that Indian Muslims will not join global Jihadi extremism, then I feel that it isn’t something coming from an iron-willed PM who is spearheading global counter-terrorism efforts, but from a spiritual master born and brought up in Indian legacy of mysticism, and who knows and understands his people. In this essay, I have explored the answers to the aforementioned question, and interestingly most of the answers come from India’s civilizational roots of harmony, tolerance, mysticism, and diversity.

The fact that Islam is not a monolithic religion is displayed with its superb brilliance in the socio-cultural evolution of Islam in the Indian subcontinent. The majority of the Muslims in India have historically followed the Sufi strain of Islam, which is liberal and spiritual i.e. it is not keen on the outer trappings of Islam but focused on the inner essentials of Islam. This brings it closer to the quintessence of Hindu schools of mysticism like Vedanta, which are primarily devoted to the virtues of self-realization, peace, and compassion.  Over the centuries of co-existence and cultural intermingling, there emerged a mixed and mosaic-like Hindu-Muslim culture in Indo-Gangetic, plains which is popularly known as Ganga-Jamni Tahzeeb. Sufi saints like Mahboob-e-Ilahi Auliya of Delhi and Chishti of Ajmer came to be worshiped with equal reverence by Hindus and Muslims alike for their simplicity,  mystic powers and the role played in spreading compassion and harmony. In Rajasthan, one can find several local Hindu deities like Pabuji, Gogapeer, and Ramapeer worshiped with sincere devotion by the Muslim populace also. This is something which will be heretical in an absolute sense for Wahabi school of Islam. This culture gave birth to  unique and interesting social developments. For example, in Mev(Rajasthan) community, one can still find Jogis who are by faith Muslims but by profession, singers of Ramayana and devotional songs of lord Shiva. Even in crime, one could see this composite culture. The notorious cult of thugs of the 18th century had Hindus and Muslims both as their members and they worshiped their cult goddess Kali with the red mark on their foreheads.

Indian Muslims are religious and obeying, but due to the influence of Sufism and a generic otherworldly-spiritual-sort-of-pessimistic -nature of the culture and religion in Indian subcontinent, the appeal for ISIS kind of violent adventurism which justifies itself on the literal and out of context reading of the scriptural injunctions written in the socio-political milieu of 7th century Arabia, is almost absent in India. Even the domestic Deobandi and Barelvi schools of Islam, which are rigid and fundamentalist as compared to Sufism, have not been able to penetrate the rural interiors of India even to date. Their influence is felt among the superficial and elitist scholarly circles of Islamic scholars in Delhi and UP, not beyond that. And, to top it all even these rigid schools of Islam have rejected the ISIS style global jihad in theory and practice and have on several occasions made their nationalist sentiments and staunch opposition to terrorist violence, more than clear.

Secondly, the fertile grounds of recruitment which ISIS finds in Europe are not present in India. Many of the ISIS cadres from Europe are psychopaths, drug-addicts, new converts and youth suffering from depression because of an over-indulgent lifestyle of the west, lack of social support system and weak family ties and, cultural deracination. They are looking for a spiritual anchorage, a purpose and a meaning in life. Graeme Wood, in his essay, “What ISIS really Wants?” observes that for the youth of Europe, joining ISIS is a like a great discovery of purpose and meaning in life and they just hate going back to their monotonous life of 10-hour working  day and standing outside Mcdonalds for food. In India’s case, society, in general, has very strong family and community ties which are a major factor in keeping the youth away from depression, drug and alcohol abuse and other kinds of emotional crises which could make them vulnerable to any radical sectarian ideology of Islam, in the need of immediate mental peace. Among Indian Muslims, like other communities, generally youngsters do not enjoy much autonomy in their decisions about marriage and they are married in the early 20s which bestow them with a stable family life and the responsibility to nurture it, and in such an environment appeal for any kind of radical adventure like ISIS becomes minimal for purely and practical, social and economic reasons.

Thirdly, among Indian Muslims, the feelings of insecurity, economic and political marginalization and religious suppression are very little. Indian constitution guarantees complete religious freedom, which the Muslims of India exercise. Even the ultra-right Hindutva organizations never opposed the religious freedoms of Muslims. Though, there have been instances like Babri Masjid demolition, but they are largely political and are of the nature of aberrations. Even in Kashmir, the operations of IB and RAW have preferred the track of dialogue over violence. Former RAW chief AS Dulat in his book, “Kashmir-Vajpayee Years” quotes Sajjad Lone, son of the deceased separatist Abdul Gani Lone, that it is dangerous to talk with Delhi than Pakistan because in case of not toeing the line, India will, at the maximum put them to jails, while the ISI will get them killed, as they did to Majid Dar, Abdul Gani lone and many others, for negotiating with Delhi. Politically, the Muslim community is strong and has a decent representation. There is a lot to be done, but at least, this cannot be denied that Muslims constitute a very strong political force in a democratic India and they are not indispensable. Even the so-called right wing parties of India cannot afford to say things like what Donald Trump would say in the USA. And, Muslims have time and again proved their faith in democracy and the power of their vote. Those who have amnesia might want to refer to the verdict of recent Bihar elections.

Of course, there is a lot to be done in terms of education, employment and political representation of the Muslim minority but one hardly finds any major dissatisfaction owing to it. Interestingly, these days one finds a large number of Kashmiri youth joining Indian Civil Services.

Fourthly, sectarian appeals on the basis of Shia-Sunni conflict will not have much appeals in a multi-cultural society like India, where Muslims flourish with a range of religious systems like Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, and Christianity. In such a multiplicity, intra-faith conflicts of Shia-Sunni become a little insignificant. This is not to say that such conflicts do not exist at all, as there have been cases of such riots in India and the majority of Indian Muslims have similar views regarding Islamic sects like Shias, Ismailis, and Ahemadiyas, as their Muslim brothers in the Arab world, but, in practice the violent sectarian conflicts are not as frequent in India.

Fifthly, the presence of strong Indian right wing keeps the radical and extremist factions of Muslim community engaged with them over the domestic issues and they don’t find the ideas of global caliphate worth pursuing.

Lastly, the future of online recruitment strategy followed by ISIS is not very bright in India as still the internet/computer literacy in India among lower middle classes and the poor strata of society is not very high.

Having outlined the positives that we have in our fight against religious extremism, I would still like to exercise a note of caution in the end. The centuries of co-existence are not just characterized by love and harmony only. There have been phases of very violent struggles, and even the present is marred by the dark and tainted past of communal violence. Off late the Hindu right wing has also made its presence felt through its proclamations and movements like Ram temple, anti-love jehad, and anti-conversation campaign. All this adds to the already existing communal hatred. But what alarms is the fear of this communal violence translating into radicalization, and violent extremism, as there are outlets/organizations like ISIS present to cash upon the sentiments of hatred.  Off late, I have come across the Deobandi preachers with green turbans in small cities of India, preaching against Sufism as a heretical school. A study reported that about 1800 crore has flown into India to facilitate the takeover of the management of Mosques by Wahabi ideologues, which is certainly an alarming development.

To conclude, I would say that still the positives outweigh the negatives, and it can be seen in the fact that to date hardly 25 to 30 Indians have joined ISIS as informed by the intelligence agencies and those who joined have come back with a complete detachment of any such lunatic adventure. Hence, any counter-terrorism strategy that we follow must be nuanced enough to reflect our cultural, historical, and social realities outlined above in the essay. A right approach based on trust, harmony, caution and smart intelligence cannot only prevent the Indian youth from falling prey to deadliest terror machine of human civilization, but also strengthen the foundations of our diversity, democracy and multiculturalism.

  • CM

    Bombay High Ccourt calls Arundhati Roy “nasty, boorish & surly”, sends her contempt notice over Saibaba case

  • CM

    Russian Muslim Pop singer, flawlessly recited Sanskrit shlokas in ‘Friends of India’ event in Moscow for PM Modi

  • tajender

    Why ISIS can’t Make Much Headway in India?”

    because india has no oil.ghareeb ko koyee gale nahi lagata hai.

  • CM

    Abducted minor 2 year Hindu girl found dead in Bangladesh.
    http://www.observerbd.com/2015/12/25/127748.php

  • The Lahore visit suggests that a broad and consistent policy of engagement with Pakistan is falling into place. But India should always keep the powder dry and not lower its guard.

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    Prime Minister Narendra Modi did the unexpected when he dashed to Lahore for a brief tete-a-teete with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The official reason given, that it was a spontaneous decision to land up in Lahore to wish Sharif on his birthday on the way back from Afghanistan, is obviously just a story. These things don’t happen on a whim and fancy. A lot of planning went into it. After Ufa, Paris, NSA-level talks in Bangkok and a Sushma Swaraj visit to Pakistan, a PM visit can hardly be called unplanned.

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    The Lahore visit suggests that a broad and consistent policy of engagement with Pakistan is falling into place. This is a welcome change from the stop-go nature of recent exchanges, when talks got repeatedly suspended whenever Pakistan made provocative gestures.

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    A few observations are worth making about this latest move.

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    First, Modi is now driving Pakistan policy directly and he is convinced that talks are vital even if they don’t always yield anything concrete. He is right on this. Not talking is not an option – it only makes the world more anxious what two nuclear powers are upto, and increases the possibility of unexpected descent into conflict.

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    Second, given the secrecy involved in the visit, it is clear that the government will conduct its major diplomatic moves away from the glare of publicity. This is sensible as important negotiations cannot be allowed to be sabotaged by media buildup and controversy. The Congress carping about the PM’s sudden visit is just that – carping without cause.

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    Third, the government sees that there is a small constituency in Pakistan for peace, even while acknowledging that elements in the Pakistan army, the ISI and the terrorist groups will continue to queer the pitch. In fact, just as Atal Behari Vajpayee’s Lahore bus trip ended in Kargil, Modi’s Lahore trip too will surely bring forth the spoilers. But this time the government may be ready for it, and not give the generals and jihadis reason to celebrate another deterioration in Indo-Pak ties.

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    Fourth, with Ajit Doval as NSA and Modi as PM, the focus on talks will actually be more realistic in terms of expectations. Issues like trade and visas could move forward, but expecting deals on Siachen or LOC will be tougher. On the ground, though, they should know that India always has to keep the powder dry and not lower its guard.

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    Fifth, we have to have an SOP for dealing with likely disruptions. A terror attack, more firing on the LOC, provocative statements from the Pakistan army, and a deliberate effort to stoke trouble in the Kashmir Valley should be expected. Instead of breaking off talks, we should immediately send someone to Islamabad for talks to convey our concerns and condemnation. We can also plan our own counter-measures whenever terror strikes – as it surely will. The Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad are not going to like any prospect of India and Pakistan even attempting to solve some of their problems.

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    Sixth, a key domestic factor propelling Modi towards talks is Jammu & Kashmir, where the BJP is in partnership with the PDP. Any improvement in ties with Pakistan will help the coalition become stronger.

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    The bottomline in the India-Pakistan relationship is this: the BJP, with its Hindu nationalist image, is the party with the greatest chance of making a durable peace. This is why Vajpayee made all out efforts to reach out to Nawaz Sharif. Modi is doing the same thing, hopefully with better chances of success.

  • This is for Chote Miyan.
    .
    Lalu Yadav’s son Tej Pratap has a Eureka moment: Ride a horse, cut pollution in Biharhttp://www.firstpost.com/india/lalu-yadavs-son-tej-pratap-has-a-eureka-moment-ride-a-horse-cut-pollution-in-bihar-2560184.html

    He should give this suggestion to his hero , Kejriwal, to adopt this method of reducing pollution instead of stupid odd and even

  • tajender
  • 3 youth from Hyderabad detained by Nagpur ATS. Wanted to fly to Srinagar, travel to Afghanistan & ultimately reach Syria to join ISIS

  • There is much debate around the concept of the veil in Islam. In my city of Srinagar, in the predominantly Muslim province of Kashmir in India, the attitudes towards females covering up for modesty were always conservative but turned quite ugly in 1990 with the breakout of the Pakistan-backed Islamist insurgency in Kashmir against the Indian State.
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    Before 1990, attitudes about female modesty were similar to those in the rest of the Hindu majority, multi-ethnic Indian subcontinent – a certain restriction of dress and behaviour on girls after puberty. I remember when I was told to stop wearing jeans and skirts, and to start wearing the shalwar kameez, traditional South Asian female clothing, with a dupatta or chunni, a long-flowing piece of cloth that covers the upper torso and can be adjusted to cover the hair as needed, typically in the presence of elders or while praying. The instructions weren’t strict, and the attitude was lackadaisical with no enforcement of the dress code except when visiting a shrine or praying and handling the Quran. Contrary to the intent, this change of dress in fact brought unwelcome, and frequently harrassing, male sexual attention as it represented a transformation from childhood to womanliness. However, unpleasant though it was, it was nothing compared to what the rise of Islamist aggression in Kashmir was to bring.
    .
    The launch of the Islamist militancy brought with it the first diktats of the newly appeared militant guerrilla organisations, the tanzeems, which started issuing farmans, or official orders, that any Muslim girl or woman found wearing jeans or not having her head covered would have acid thrown on her or be shot at. Hindu girls and women were mandated to identify themselves as such with the bindi, a vermillion red dot otherwise worn cosmetically on the forehead.
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    I remember these farman being laughed at initially, but then reports started coming in of women being shot in the legs and knees for wearing jeans. There was panic. Mothers, aunts, grandmothers rushed to cloth shops for black fabric and tailors were swamped with orders to stitch up clothing that met the approval of the armed Islamist enforcers. Old burqas and abayas, mostly those that our grandmothers had long discarded, were dug up and girls and women held try out sessions to match everyone to the burqa that fitted them. We laughed about how on earth our grandmothers had been able to get around with only a net for vision and breathing. But it turned serious when they said this was ‘taawan’, a curse.
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    They said they had given it up as it had come to be considered backward and very rural to not show their faces. My grandmother talked particularly about using hers only when she went to the mosque to hear the khutba (Friday sermon) as that was a tradition. These matriarchs were the most vociferous of all the women about the explosion of tanzeems and their farmans, cursing the ‘misguided youth’ on the “Islam they were bringing”.
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    My mother’s generation of women however had a different problem altogether – rebellious daughters who refused to get behind the veil, come what may. Mama spent many a sleepless nights worrying about what could happen if the Islamists diktat was not followed.
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    Soon enough, the militants clashing with the Indian armed forces made the streets of the city unsafe. Curfews became routine. The population became virtually confined indoors. The veil became something to be put on if we went out so as not to attract the ire of the militants or some zealous lunatic.
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    The whole dressing sense of the city changed. Even conflicts can’t stop creativity and women became creative with designs, especially with the upper class women settling part time in the countries around the Persian Gulf, and the then new phenomenon of cable TV piping entertainment and fashion into our homes. These wealthy women started setting up boutiques and beauty parlours surreptitiously in upper crust neighborhoods of the city, hidden from public view.
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    Ever wary of being shot in the legs or having their knee caps shattered, they slowly changed the fashion sense of the city as more and more women turned to creatively designed hijab, burqas and abayas. We watched with fascination the various techniques of putting on the hijab with coloured pins or safety pins; heard the increasing jokes of getting pricked in the wrong places.
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    But then came the rising association of piety with the practice of the veil. Horrifically, the slut-shaming began of those who chose not to ‘veil up’.
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    I used to walk everyday to a bus stop to commute to my day job, and one day a man of the neighborhood threateningly shouted at me, demanding why I didn’t have a poosch (veil in Kashmiri). In a flash second, all the frustration of years of confinement indoors, the discontinuation of sports, the constant moral policing, the justification by women of the ‘piety’ of the veil came rushing to my head, and I whirled and slapped him with maximum impact. The whole street, the mechanics in the shops beneath a mosque, the passers-by stopped in stunned silence as I ran him off the street. Decades on, this man still cowers every time he sees me.

    It was then that I started reading about Stockholm Syndrome, white guilt, etc.
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    I started to realize then that the women who were advocating the veil the most were the ones who found meaning in the approval of the Islamist frat boys that they earned through subjugating themselves with the ‘penguin dress’.
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    Muslims opposing the hijab have to face arguments about personal choice from hijabi women, but it’s not about freedom of choice at all. It’s about hijabi women wanting to preserve the roles, responsibilities, obligations and limitations of women in Muslim society. That this results in pressure on all women to fall into line is not a problem for the hijabis because they think it perfectly right for women to know and occupy their proper place.
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    So the millions of women who are forced into the hijab, face not just the men who command it, but also the women who agree with those men, and dress it up as “freedom of choice”.
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    It is my experience and looking at the motivations of hijabis I have known even as some of us are making the assertion that the hijab is an instrument of oppression of women in Muslim society, a number of hijabi women, supported by Western feminists, are defending the hijab as a matter of a woman’s freedom to choose what she wears. On the surface, that seems a reasonable assertion. However, these women are not defending the freedom of clothing choice of women. These are women who are in agreement about the position of women with the men who bully women about the Hijab.
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    What is in question is not the freedom to choose to wear the hijab but the freedom for a woman to choose the position in Muslim society for themselves that the imams and the mullahs decree. That’s a right they have, but in pretending that it’s about the freedom of choice of clothing, they contribute to the firmness of the mullah’s decree and so assist in denying space and freedom to those women who would prefer to reject the hijab and the oppression it represents. The “freedom to wear what I choose” argument is in fact an insidious dynamic of women sustaining the mullah directed patriarchal order of Muslim society, and treating those women who reject it as enemies of the correct and proper order of Muslim society.
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    One has to see objectively what the hijab, niqab, and burqa have come to signify. There are symbols of oppression of the unwilling, and the atrocities faced by Muslim women who don’t keep their “proper” place. When the Taliban got projected into our living rooms in the 90s with their stadium executions and thrashings of women in blue burqas, there was no doubt as to what was going on. With the advent of Wahabbism/Salafism across the Muslim world, the hijab is being enforced on girls as young as three.
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    So I find it very hard to accept the efforts of women in free countries to use the symbol of oppression as a means of showing solidarity. I can only label it as either ignorance of the Liberals of the West, or outright appeasment by the regressive Left of the backward, oppressive, misogynistic attitudes of Muslim society.
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    I am still unable to understand the desperate desire in the Western democratic Left to appease and coddle the most regressive aspects of the conservative Muslim right.

  • CM

    Days after questioning Islamic tradition, Kerala man’s studio burns down
    It was on a WhatsApp group called ‘What is Islam’ that Rafeeque had shared his thoughts.
    – See more at: http://www.thenewsminute.com/article/days-after-questioning-islamic-tradition-kerala-mans-studio-burns-down-37093#sthash.CsBQciKN.dpuf

  • tajender
  • tajender

    In Lewis’s book Islam: The Religion and the People, Lewis states quite correctly:

    1. “At no time did the (Muslim) jurist approve of terrorism. Nor indeed is there any evidence of the use of terrorism (in Islamic tradition).”

    2. “Muslims are commanded not to kill women, children, or the aged; not to torture or otherwise ill-treat prisoners; to give fair warning of the opening of hostilities; and to honor agreements.”

    3. “Terrorism … has no antecedents in Islamic history, and no justification in terms of Islamic theology, law, or tradition…

    4. “The fanatical warrior offering his victims the choice of the Koran or the sword is not only untrue, it is impossible.”

    5. “Generally speaking, Muslim tolerance of unbelievers was far better than anything available in Christendom.

  • tajender

    abhinav ask with advani and company 2 questions,

    1.why no enquiry commission was formed on 26/11 by indian goverment.why advani opposed the formation of that commision.
    2.why no local arrest was made.

    without enquiry commission no solid argument can be made against hafiz saeed which can stand cross questioning in court.

  • tajender

    the millions of women who are forced into the hijab, face not just the men who command it, but also the women who agree with those men, and dress it up as “freedom of choice

    most of them wear hijab out of choice.not force.

  • Rex Minor

    Arshia malik writes, there is much debate around the concept of the veil in Islam.

    Madam, the religion of Islam does not stipulate any dress culture, but the traditions of the individul communities do, the conservates try to cserve the old traditions but the liberals redily reforms when nessary through a process of devolution to avoid a backlash from the majority.
    The principle to follow is when in Rome one does what the Romans do, women who do not follow this, are likely to cause aggravation and hostility from some.

    Rex Minor

  • Rex Minor

    PS
    the conservatives try to conserve

  • CM

    IS murders a woman for breastfeeding her child. And the IS terrorist who carried out this murder.. was a woman.
    http://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/483839/Islamic-State-ISIS-Raqqa-Syria-Al-Khansaa-Brigade

  • CM

    Bihar – Loot of Ten Lakh Rupees from Hello India Mobile Shop at Girls School Road in Katihar
    .
    Two engineers killed in daylight because they didn’t pay extortion money. A small business was killed for the same reason.
    .
    Chutiya Miyan must be very happy that jungle raj has returned in Bihar.

  • engrich

    cm why bjp changed the name of aurangzeb road.bjp office is in ashoka road.ashoka killed his 99 brothers to become ruler.mascared entire population of kalinga,present day orrisa before converting to budhdhism.built 63000 budhdhist temples demolishing many vedic temples.

    south india is part of india becausse of aurangzeb.he started moradabadi bartan trade which provided jobs to millions of indians.afghanistan to myamar was part of his empire.ruling 25%of earth.sacrifised his life to maitain unity and integrity of india.crushed the sessionist like shivajee and sikh scavangers.WHY SO INJUSTICE TO HIM.

  • engrich
  • engrich
  • engrich

    Chutiya Miyan must be very happy that jungle raj has returned in Bihar

    many many women are raped in delhi everyday under the nose of central and aap goverment.crimes much bigger than u mentioned happen daily.

  • engrich
  • dunkirk

    The muslims are taught to hate non-muslims and their good achievements. Or to declare the good achievements of non-muslims as those of muslims.

    The muslims do this in order to prepare for a final extermination of non-muslims.
    ALL muslim plans nowadays have the long-term goal of exterminating non-muslims in due course of time – which may be months or years.

    Glorifying some past pseudo-achievemnets of some idiots and scoundrels like Aurangzeb, Tipu, Jinnah, Mohammad, At Turk etc. is all that muslims can do to while away their time.

    The idiocies, self-deceits and deceits of muslism are sickening the whole planet. And the muslims have the money to do it.

    Muslims are instruments of sadism and cynicism and islam is and will be the most sadistic form of fascism.