In the January 2023 issue of its publication Nawa-e-Ghazwa-e-Hind, al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) announced that it will build a mosque on the site of the demolished 16th century Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in India, where a temple of the Hindu deity Ram is being built. “Just as the Ram temple is being built on the ruins of the Babri Masjid, it [the temple] will be demolished, and the Babri Masjid will be rebuilt over the place of the [Hindu] idols in the name of Allah,” AQIS said, urging Indian Muslims to join the jihad.
Underscoring the priority it accorded to India, al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahiri set up a South Asia wing named al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent in 2014 to focus on the region. An Indian national, Sana-ul-Haq aka Asim Omar, was made its first amir (chief). The objective of setting up AQIS was to bring together Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Burma (Myanmar) under Islamic rule through violent jihad, and establish “Shariah in the land [of South Asia] and to free the occupied land of Muslims in the Indian subcontinent.”
Since its formation, AQIS has focused on “Ghazwa-e-Hind” (the righteous battle in India), an ideology based on some contested Prophetic narratives. AQIS invokes the following Prophetic traditions to justify its jihad in India:
Abu Huraira (RA) narrates that the Prophet Muhammad promised us the Jihad of Hind. “If I get a chance to be part of that then I will spend my whole wealth and life in that. Then if I’m martyred, I’ll become the best of martyrs and if I return alive, then I will be free-from-hell” [Sunnan Al-Nisai]. Thauban (RA) narrates in a Marfoo’ Hadith that the Messenger of Allah said that there are two Jama’ahs (groups) in my Ummah for whom Allah Has Decreed salvation from Hell. One of these Jama’ahs is the one that will wage Jihad in Hind and the second Jama’ah is the one that will wage Jihad alongside Isa (peace be with him) after he descends during the last days. [Tibrani Shareef]
While some Muslim scholars contend that these hadiths (Prophetic traditions) are fake or weak, and others consider these hadiths to be already fulfilled with the invasion of India by Muhammad-bin Qasim in 712 AD, AQIS believes that this war in Hind is yet to happen for the re-establishment of Muslim rule in India. The name of the AQIS magazine, Ghazwa-e-Hind, reinforces the jihadist group’s ambition of conquering India.
In a statement through “As Shahab” media in May 2022, AQIS said:
For the Muslims of the Subcontinent, it is the call of the hour to strengthen the movement of Jihād and Qitāl (fighting) in Kashmir, by their hands, their wealth, their approval and to support it by all means possible. For it is the selfsame Jihād and Qitāl which will break the stronghold of Indian violence and shall prove to be the gateway to the Battle of Hind (Ghazwa e Hind). The Muslims residing in India, must now free themselves of the fraudulent shackles of secularism and democracy, they must show respect, dignity and honour for their religion, and should gather and assemble to face the aggression of the Hindutva terrorists in such a manner that would put a stop to the Hindutva aggression….We congratulate all believers, for the time is not far when Islam shall once again dominate the Subcontinent, the Muslims shall be honoured and dignified, Ghazwa e Hind shall be in victorious progress, and the leaders and chiefs of Kufr (evil and disbelief) shall be chained and shackled. Not only in the Subcontinent, but Islam shall be victorious in the whole world and Muslims shall be strong and respectable.
To achieve “Ghazwa-e-Hind,” which looks for Muslim supremacy over others, especially over Hindus in India, AQIS is attacking “Hindutva aggression” in India, which is being carried out by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government. The BJP government’s Hindutva ideology seeks to establish Hindu supremacy in India and make India a Hindu state. It is promoting a cultural nationalism that centers on Hindu religious identity, which emphasizes “Hinduizing the polity and the nation.” BJP leaders have made blasphemous comments about Prophet Muhammad and the government has taken several steps to marginalize Muslims in India, deprive them of citizenship and other rights, and undermine their cultural and religious identity.
The BJP’s Hindutva ideology and its anti-Muslim policies are serving to rationalize AQIS propaganda to attract recruits to wage war against India.
Indian Muslims by and large have resisted extremist ideologies. India’s secular democracy, which offers equal opportunities for all; a strong Muslim social heritage of integration with society; and India’s collectivist social system, which works as a watchdog against radicalization, were among the reasons for its Muslims not being drawn to global jihadist appeals.
However, under BJP rule, India’s minorities, especially Muslims, are under tremendous pressure of marginalization. AQIS is capitalizing on this. If India persists with its anti-Muslim policies, AQIS might find traction.