The Islamic State has released a new 22-minute Arabic-language documentary on purported Indian jihadists in its ranks, providing the first interviews with five fugitive jihadists known to have joined the ranks of fighters in Iraq and Syria since 2014.
The video, released online early on Friday, is the first propaganda the Islamic State has produced with content focused on India and South Asia.
Thane engineering student Fahad Tanvir Sheikh who travelled to Syria in 2014 along with three other men from the city, as first reported in The Indian Express, is the only individual conclusively identified in the video, in which he uses the pseudonym Abu Amr’ al-Hindi.
“We will return,” Sheikh vows, “but with a sword in hand, to avenge the Babri Masjid, and the killings of Muslims in Kashmir, in Gujarat, and in Muzaffarnagar.”
Sheikh also pays homage to his friend from Thane, Shahim Tanki, who is said to have been killed in a bomb attack in Raqqa last year. The third member of the group, Areeb Majid, is now being prosecuted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
The video also features several still-to-be-identified members, suspected to be once of the Indian Mujahideen, whose members are known to have been serving with Islamic State forces after breaking with their Pakistan-based leadership.
“To those in the Indian state who wish to understand our actions”, says an unidentified jihadist, “I say you have only three options: to accept Islam, to pay jizya, or to prepare to be slaughtered”. Families of the surviving Thane men, as well as members of the Indian Mujahideen known to have left Pakistan for Syria, are being contacted to identify the individuals featured in the video, a government source said.
“The last photographs we have of many of these people we have are from before 2008, when many of them were just adolescents”, the source said. “It’s hard to be certain just who is who in the video, though it is possible to make informed guesses”.
Large parts of the video, narrated in Arabic, seek to provide context to the presence of Indian jihadists in the Islamic State – men it describes as jihadists from “Hind wal’Sindh”, a usage for India and Pakistan. The video begins with with medieval warlord Muhammad Bin Qasim’s conquest of the region, saying it laid the foundations for Islamic rule.
The British, the narrator states, then handed over control of India to Hindus – people it describes as “cow-worshippers” who have been responsible for violence against Muslims in many places, including Mumbai, Gujarat, Assam and Moradabad.
“Hindus are striving to to convert you Muslims to their faith, O’ sons of Bin Qasim”, one recruit says, recounting a string of communal riots. “Is there any other humiliation that you still need to suffer before you will give up chanting that Islam is a religion of peace, and learn from the Prophet, who fought with the sword?”