Situation, Facts and Events

Extremists of Hizb ut-Tahrir group grow more active in India

The international terrorist Islamist movement Hizb ut-Tahrir has intensified its propaganda targeting India. The arrests of several militants of the movement in the states of Central and South India (including Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu) confirmed the clandestine presence of the terrorist organization in the country. Experts agree that Hizb ut-Tahrir is trying to revive the previous pro-Islamic anti-Indian discourse through its preaching activities.


In May 2023, a coordinated operation carried out by several Indian security agencies, including the Intelligence Bureau, Madhya Pradesh Anti-Terrorism Squad and Telangana Counter-Intelligence Department, exposed clandestine networks linked to Hizb ut-Tahrir. Their members were accused of violence against people fr om the Hindu community. Cells of the organization have reportedly infiltrated educational institutions in Madhya Pradesh and Telangana.


During the initial phase of the operation, 11 suspected Hizb ut-Tahrir members were arrested in Bhopal and Chhindwara (Madhya Pradesh). In addition, five more people were detained in Hyderabad, the capital of Telangana state. The arrested persons included at least three converts from the Hindu community.


It is also noteworthy that most of those arrested were qualified specialists. They included a dentist, a cloud service engineer and a teacher specializing in pharmaceutical biotechnology. Police also found that five of them married Hindu women and converted them to Islam.


Subsequent police operations led to the arrests of several more Hizb ut-Tahrir militants, so that the total number of arrested members of the organization reached 17 people by August 1. According to investigators, the arrested Hizb ut-Tahrir militants were engaged in undercover training in martial arts and shooting in the forest of Madhya Pradesh. They also communicated through encrypted web applications such as Rocket Chat and Threema and listened to Islamist preaching on these platforms.

Their arrests were part of an ongoing investigation that works to gradually identify individuals and extremist networks after the arrests of the group's “influential persons” Ziyavudin Bakavi and Bawa Bakhrudin. Both were arrested a few years ago in Thanjavur and Tiruvarur districts of Tamil Nadu for recruiting Muslim youth via Facebook.


According to a report issued by India's National Investigation Agency, Bakavi was the leader and chief recruiter of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Thanjavur, Madurai, Erode and Salem districts of Tamil Nadu and Karaikal district of Puducherry. Besides, it turned out that the two leaders of Hizb ut-Tahrir held secret meetings wh ere they advocated the establishment of an Islamic state in India with the ultimate goal of adopting a national constitution that complies with Sharia law.

  Hizb ut-Tahrir's activities in southern India came to light in April 2021, when India's National Intelligence Agency began searching for newly converted Mohammed Iqbal due to his social media posts about the Islamic State (IS). This attracted attention, in part, because Iqbal was a resident of Casimar Street in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, an area of the city famous for the fact that its several hundred inhabitants were descended from the same family and had lived on the same street for over 800 years.


In May 2021, the National Investigation Agency accused Iqbal of promoting the establishment of an Islamic caliphate and publishing offensive material against Hindus inciting Indian Muslims to unleash violence against the majority Hindu population. In response to these events and subsequent investigations, Hizb ut-Tahrir strongly condemned the activities of the agency and the Indian government. The organization accused Indian intelligence agencies of trying to criminalize Islamic preaching associated with the concept of the caliphate.


In recent years, Hizb ut-Tahrir's press releases on India have drawn increased attention from the country's security agencies, although the organization has not yet announced the establishment of a regional Indian affiliate or appoint a local Islamist leader. In March 2023, an India-focused Hizb ut-Tahrir press release hinted at the presence of militant groups in the country's internal districts. It also covered various events that called for the restoration of the caliphate.


Hizb ut-Tahrir's presence in India's internal districts will undoubtedly harm Indian democracy and its secular fabric in the long run due to the group's usage of inflammatory rhetoric against the Hindu majority. The organization currently engages in indoctrination and other non-violent activities such as holding events in support of the caliphate and conversion to Islam. However, its fierce rejection of modern secular government structures, the principles of democracy and pluralism could revive extremist sentiments in India.


Larisa Shashok, expert at the Institute for Advanced Strategic Studies of the Higher School of Economics