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Expanding Footprint of Bangladeshi Terror Network in India

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  • February 20, 2015
    Fellows' Seminar

    Chair: General (Retd.) Y.M. Bammi
    External Discussants: Mr. K. Srinivasan and Mr. Malladi Rama Rao
    Internal Discussant: Ms. Gulbin Sultana

    India has often accused Bangladesh of harbouring insurgents and exporting terrorism to India. However, the October 02, 2014 Burdwan blast has challenged this notion. The case has demonstrated that terrorist groups are operating from within Indian territory. Anand Kumar’s paper tries to understand how groups such as the Jama’atul Mujaheedin Bangladesh (JMB) have expanded their reach in the Indian state of West Bengal. The paper also attempts to gain a better understanding of their recruitment pattern. The paper highlights the broader issue of how prolonged neglect of the porous India-Bangladesh border and use of migrants for electoral gains has created a permissive environment for the Bangladeshi terrorist networks to operate in India. This has undermined both Indian and Bangladeshi security interests.

    India’s sustained pressure on the Bangladeshi Government and the latter’s willingness to stamp out terrorism under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina has made it increasingly difficult for terror groups to function in Bangladesh. Since 2005, the Bangladeshi Government under Prime Minister Hasina has initiated a serious cracked down on terror and other radical Islamist groups in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh war crime trials were a result of this crackdown. Although this policy saw a subsequent decline in support of terror outfits in Bangladesh, it also simultaneously pressured terror groups such as the JMB to expand their networks into India. The Indian state of West Bengal has since become a sanctuary for such terror groups.

    The author argues that West Bengal in general is conducive for growing terrorist networks as it shares a porous border with Bangladesh, and its metropolitan character not only makes it well-connected to other regions of India but also makes it difficult for government authorities to locate such terror outfits. The October 2014 Burdwan blast has shown that materials such as ammonium nitrate were sourced from Kolkata. The blast also demonstrated that whilst the JMB has been active in India for quite some time, the Indian Government has not been able to take any effective action against its expanding network.

    According to the author, a major reason for government inaction could be attributed to the role of the ruling party, the Trinamool Congress (TMC), in the state of West Bengal. The TMC has made it easier for extremist forces to operate within the state. For example, in the case of the accidental Burdwan blast, upon discovery of the bombs, the West Bengal police had exploded the bombs by a river side instead of seeking forensic evidence. The TMC Rajya Sabha member Ahmed Hassan Imran is also allegedly linked to the Jama’at. He was one of the founders of the Islamic Students’ Organisation and president of its West Bengal chapter. Imran is also known for inciting violence, and attending anti-India and anti-Awami League seminars. Moreover, in spite of charges of inciting communal violence in the district of Parganas, Imran was made a Rajya Sabha member in February 2014. The TMC has also been extremely reluctant to hand over the Bardwan Blast investigation to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).The author argues that the primary reason for the TMC to allow such groups to flourish in West Bengal is due to electoral support the party receives from the migrant population originating from Bangladesh.

    The Burdwan blast also indicated the existence of a regional and pan-India terror network. It has been found that there are 58 terror modules operating from West Bengal alone. The funding for such groups comes from across the border and more than a $1 billion worth of taxable goods have been smuggled into India. The terror networks also rely on smuggling fake Indian currency notes. More specifically, the Saradha scam has revealed that money could be reaching extremist groups through New Delhi to Bangladesh. Whilst such avenues for funding have been known to exist, it has been extremely difficult to trace the flow of funds to such terror networks.

    Another interesting development is that the Jama’at has been increasingly targeting female recruits. In doing so, the Jama’at also supports women’s rights to study, work and vote. Its strategy is to deepen its terror network by marrying trained women to men who are already working for the terror group. Such couple modelling allows for better indoctrination and greater loyalty to the terror network.

    The author concludes that whilst there has been seamless cooperation between the Indian and Bangladeshi governments on security issues, such cooperation is lacking between the state and central levels of government within India. The Burdwan blast should act as a wakeup call for security agencies as well as the political establishment in India. It is clear that Jihadi terror networks are now deeply entrenched in the sub-continent and are looking for opportunities for revival. Unfortunately, political forces at the state level seem to be allying with Jihadi forces for electoral benefits, and this is impinging upon the security of the Indian state. The Indian policy on migration and terrorism also needs to be disentangled in order to approach the issue of terrorism in India in a more effective manner.

    Suggestions/Comments:

    • The paper must thoroughly explore the concept of ‘Greater Bangladesh’ and the notion of pan-Islamism and their ideological underpinnings, which the author has outlined in his paper.
    • The China factor needs to be further explored.
    • A 2004 survey indicates that there has been a 34 per cent increase in the number of madrassas in the border regions of West Bengal. Why is this necessary when public schools are available in these regions? The author can shed further light on the increase of madrassas.
    • The paper must also factor in the possibility of Sheikh Hasina’s exit. Need to explore how it could change the political and, more importantly, the security landscape with respect to terrorism.
    • The paper must examine the kind of support JMB is receiving from Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and how Bangladeshi terror outfits are part of their larger game plan.
    • The author need to further substantiate the observations and arguments made in the paper. For example, the alleged relationship between Jama’at and TMC, and how it is weakening the secular forces within Bangladesh. Perhaps, the section on the relationship between JMB and TMC need to be moderated.
    • The demographic factor may also be considered when discussing the recruitment pattern of the JMB.

    Report prepared by Ms. Charisma M.S Kundan, Research Intern, IDSA

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