The Indian government is yet to take note of the accelerating emergence of the Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HuT), a political organisation banned in several countries. The HuT was recently in the news for its alleged involvement in the failed coup attempt in Bangladesh, orchestrated to bring down Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who is seen as pro-India.
Till now, the only instance of HuT's presence acknowledged by the Indian security establishment is the demonstration that it arranged at Batla House in New Delhi, in 2010, to protest Israel's action in Gaza. "The HuT has a presence in the national capital. This was visible in the 2010 rally, which was mostly attended by students," said a top official who is with an anti-terror body. The HuT is known to be behind the floating of several NGOs that target police action in sweeping locations where terrorists are suspected to be clustered.
The HuT, which was founded in 1953 in Jerusalem by a religious cleric Taqiuddin an-Nabhani, has a presence in more than 40 countries. It aims to establish an "Islamic" way of life in Muslim countries and unify them under a caliphate. It continues to grow in several European, Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries. However, it is the UK that is considered to be the HuT's main recruiting ground.
A top official with the Intelligence Bureau (IB), requesting anonymity, said that the name of HuT has not come up in any major incidents in India till now, and hence it is not seen as a major threat here. Its name also does not figure on the list of 35 organisations that have been declared as terrorist organisations under the Unlawful Activities (Preventions) Act, 1967, which has been compiled by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
"Do we need a covert organisation to give a newspaper advertisement before taking steps to check its activities?" asked a security expert in exasperation at the Indian government's "indifference" to HuT.
Another example he gave was the granting of an Indian visa to Anjem Choudhry, who has openly called for the overthrow of the political system in India and its replacement by (his version of) Shariah law.
A former RAW chief said that the emergence of HuT needs to be followed because of its philosophy. "Even though the HuT says that it is a non-violent political group, it is hard to believe this because its philosophy is based on the Khilafat movement of 1921, which turned violent in Kerala."
Former Director-General of Police (DGP) Hormis Tharakan feels that even though the HuT has not made its presence felt in India in an obvious way, yet, it cannot be conclusively ruled out that it's trying to build a base in India so as to cause serious problems to national security.
Commenting on the fact that no security agencies see HuT as a serious threat, Tharakan said, "Their presence in India cannot be ruled out just because they have not (publicly) undertaken any major incident. Security agencies have not studied the HuT deeply enough. They need to follow them and study their subtle way of functioning, which is quite dangerous."
Sanchita Bhattacharya of Institute of Conflict Management (ICM), a Delhi based think tank, did not rule out the possibility of the HuT working with the militant organisation Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) and Indian Mujahideen (IM) covertly. "The specialty about HuT is that they are focusing on scholars and elites of the Islamic society. Unlike other militant organisations that target the illiterate and the mullahs, the HuT is focusing on the progressive population of Muslims. They try to indoctrinate the educated elite."
The Hizb ut-Tahrir follows a strong anti-Jewish policy and has repeatedly called for the dismantling of Israel. Sources in the police said that the recent attacks on the Israeli diplomat are being investigated through every angle and the HuT is on the radar.
Experts believe that the modus operandi of HuT to bring military personnel, members of academia and the elite under its umbrella makes them highly dangerous. In the past they have used this method to destabilise Pakistan where it tried to bring change through the military. Brigadier Ali Khan of Pakistani army who was arrested by the police was alleged to have links with HuT and was working on a plan to bring an Egyptian and Tunisian style uprising in Pakistan.