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Challenge of Recidivism to Counter-Radicalisation Programmes

Published: 7th Feb, 2022


In recent times, recidivism has increased, as some of the released terrorists have carried out terrorist acts.

  • Some international policy organisations have expressed concern that certain individuals receiving therapy at counter-radicalisation centres may have learnt the art of deceiving the psychologists and in passing the tests conducted there to procure an early release from the prisons.


  • For over a decade, counter-radicalisation programmes have been trying to de-radicalise and rehabilitate violent extremists and terrorists.
  • Various countries have developed different counter-radicalisation programmes with varied results.
    • In Britain, such programmes have been able to counsel, reclaim and rehabilitate several violent extremists and terrorists.
    • In specific instances, the proportion of rehabilitated individuals is much higher than cases of recidivism when violent extremists, released by de-radicalisation-based institutions, have reverted to their violent ways.

In a speech before the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi identified radicalisation as the greatest threat to the security and safety of all member countries. 


Understanding radicalisation

  • Radicalisation is a process with multiple reinforcing pathways of developing extremist beliefs, emotions, and behaviours.
  • People become increasingly motivated to use violent means against members of an out-group or symbolic targets to achieve behavioural change and political goals.
  • Radicalisation develops gradually over time and may occur at individual, group or mass public levels.
  • It also involves changes in attitudes, beliefs, behaviour, ideals, goals, ideology, and willingness, which become extreme.
  • Those extreme aspects are related to political, social, religious, ideological, economic or societal issues.


  • De-radicalisation is a process in which people reject the ideology they once embraced.
  • This is a step further than disengagement, characterised by a change in behaviour (leaving the radical group, stopping violence) without giving up.

Different kinds of radicals

  • There are different kinds of radicals in our midst: Believers in the dictatorship of the proletariat replacing multiparty democracy, or in the idea of a world ruled by Sharia or in the thought of India being a land primarily of Hindus, with others having lesser rights.

What is the actual nature of radicalisation?

  • It must be understood that radicalisation by itself is not bad and gains a positive or negative characteristic based upon its context.
  • A mere deviation from conventional thinking must not be penalised.
  • Radicalisation becomes problematic only where it has the propensity to lead to violence.
  • The challenge lies in preventing such radicalisation.
  • Developing a nuanced understanding of the process of radicalisation as well as its characteristics can help guide the Action Plan in effectively meeting such challenges.

Why radicalisation is dangerous?

  • Since 2002, eight of the nine regions in the world experienced an increase in terrorism.
  • The November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai perpetrated by the Lashkar-e-Taiba, wherein 166 people were killed, revealed how deadly violence can be unleashed by a few individuals.
  • It has been seen that rigid, dogmatic convictions, along with condemnation beliefs, lead to a path of destroying the other.
  • In 2019, when the fidayeen suicide attack on a convoy of the CRPF in Pulwama took place, it revealed how a youth with a history of minor grievances can be indoctrinated.
  • Prisons have been found to be fertile grounds for radicalisation. Imprisonment may increase a prisoner’s susceptibility to new and radicalising ideas or beliefs; referred to as a cognitive opening.

Counter-Terrorism and Counter Radicalisation division

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs had set up the Counter-Terrorism and Counter Radicalisation division in November 2017.
  • The focus of the division is largely on the implementation and administration of counter-terror laws and monitoring of fundamentalist organisations such as the Students Islamic Movement of India, Popular Front of India, Jamaat-e-Islami and Sanatan Sanstha.
  • The division was originally mandated with the task of developing policies and strategies to counter-radicalisation.

Why is counter-radicalisation concerning?

  •  Easy deceiving: Certain individuals receiving therapy at counter-radicalisation centres may have learnt the art of deceiving the psychologists and in passing the tests conducted there to procure an early release from the prisons.
  • False success rate: Such events have raised the question of whether or not have any potential of success, and their scope in the states’ counter-terrorism strategies.
    • However, this analysis does not argue for the scrapping of de-radicalisation programmes worldwide.
  • NOT a fool-proof measure: Moreover, while psychology is relied on to counter radical threats, it is understandably not a foolproof measure, more so because it is a recent phenomenon, requiring at least a few decades to mature and counter threats that have taken considerably longer to evolve and achieve their goals.
  • The terrorists portray to the authorities that they have been redeemed by the de-radicalisation programmes and have sworn off from committing terrorist offenses in the future.
  • Traditionally, compliance involves altering behaviour at the behest of someone’s direction or request. However, in this instance, the act of submission presented by convicted individuals is simply a deceptive strategy.
  • Furthermore, what is worrisome is that officials responsible for de-radicalisation programmes, such as Prevent(United Kingdom), have, in some instances, not been able to accurately assess those posing a grave danger to mainstream society.
  • On the whole, the programmes are effective, but the possibility of some cases of recidivism would be there, because psychological and religious counselling can never be an exact science.
    • However, Norwegian de-radicalisation programmes are a case in point because incidents of recidivism there amount to 20 per cent, one of the lowest worldwide. 

India’s counter-terrorism initiatives

  • India’s counter-terrorism initiatives in Kerala and Maharashtra.  
  • Notably, this is a more desirable alternative than simply incarcerating radicalised individuals who could reform themselves by engaging with de-radicalisation experts.


The Indian state should develop and enforce de-radicalisation, counter-radicalisation and anti-radicalisation strategies at a pan-India and pan-ideology level on a war footing. Such attempts must be informed by the fact that the battle against radicalisation begins in the minds and hearts much before it manifests in terms of violence. Any programme aimed at deterring or reversing radicalisation must focus on the ideological commitment that enables the violence, rather than the violence or the justification of violence itself.

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