By Ashis Biswas
KOLKATA: There are no two opinions about it: unless the Indian government cracks down hard on the unholy nexus between the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Bangladeshi Jamat-e-Islami, India’s regional foreign policy objectives will be seriously compromised.
The recent accidental explosion at a house in Khagraghar, Burdwan town, where Muslim extremists with Bangladeshi links had set up an explosive manufacturing centre and the State Government’s frenzied efforts to suppress facts and tamper with evidence , makes it clear that Delhi must read the riot act to Kolkata. Two Muslim extremists were killed, one of them an illegal Bangladeshi migrant. Four persons, including two women Al Jihad activists have so far been arrested.
Central security agencies had alerted state police authorities about the possibility of a terrorist strike during the puja festive season. The explosion occurred on Oct 2, Mahastami day. This is by no means the first time that the state has failed in its primary duty to prevent such occurrences, despite timely warnings from the centre. But even more worrying than the failure of Bengal police, which no longer makes news in the state, was its hamhanded attempts to mislead the people and disseminate false information .This needs some elaboration.
First the local police said the blast had occurred as a gas cylinder had exploded. The other explanation was that rival political groups had clashed among themselves. Neither the police nor the fire brigade personnel could enter the building, which also housed the Trinamool Congress office on the ground floor, for nearly two hours. Reason? The two women did not open the doors on the first floor and threatened to open fire!
In the meantime they burnt incriminating documents in Arabic and Bengali, Al Jihad brochures, made calls from mobile phones and tried to wash off the blood from the rooms , even as the state police personnel stood and watched from outside ! They fobbed off local neighbours, who were intrigued to see blood flow out of pipes, claiming that they were slaughtering some chickens. When the police finally gathered courage enough to enter the first floor, they recovered 59 hand grenades, a lathe machine, manuals on bomb making, a stash of Rs 44,000, and over 40 chemicals and compounds , along with one dead and another dying man . One of them Shakil Gazi, it was later learnt, had come over from Bangladesh and had been associated with the Jamat in Bangladesh and the banned Islamist group JUM. There were video clips of Islamic militants being trained and the 9/11 attack in the US among other items.
The women belonged to the State. They had attended ‘school” in Khariji madrasas (not affiliated with the government), where they had been indoctrinated in Islamic militancy. During police interrogation, they proved to be hardened activists, hailing the deaths of their husband and male colleague as a sacrifice, rather than expressing their grief!
Local inquiries revealed that the mysterious group of men and women did not ever mix with anyone of the locality, always keeping their doors and windows closed at all hours. Only the lights were on throughout the night. Mysterious people riding bikes without any number plate would visit the house late at nights, carrying away arms and explosives by the bagful!
This had been going on for over six months, and yet the local police did not have a clue that within this densely packed residential area, an arms factory had been set up and functioning effectively.
What was the state Home Secretary’s explanation for this colossal intelligence failure? First, he had the audacity to say that he would issue only a statement and ‘not take any question’ from media persons. There was no apology for the abysmal failure of the force, nor explanation. He denied the charge made by NIA officials, who alleged the state government of non co-operation in probing the explosion. Amazingly, the Home Secretary said that no Al Qaeda posters had been found! This left most newsmen puzzled! ‘Does our Home Secretary not know that internationally banned terror groups like Al Qaeda do not flaunt posters or banners in the manner of political parties like the TMC, is he so ignorant?’ asked a correspondent. The decision of the state police to detonate and explode all seized grenades without benefit of forensic analysis, also suggested incompetence, if not criminal complicity.
Initially the state police did not even charge those arrested under sections relating to sedition and similar serious offences, even after the Bangladesh connection of the group had been clearly established! It seemed the grenades and bombs were meant for use in Bangladesh, against the ruling Awami league government. Dhaka asked for details about one of the victims who had crossed over to India illegally. Earlier, Dhaka had warned India about the links between Bangladeshi Jamat, a banned outfit and the TMC Rajya Sabha MP Hasan Imran, who is under the CBI scanner in the Saradha Chit fund scam.
Dhaka-based security agencies were confident that the explosives were being manufactured in West Bengal as the Awami League had cracked down very hard on Islamic fundamentalists, who were encouraged to cross over to West Bengal by the ruling TMC for reasons of vote bank politics. They had earlier sent India a list of persons wanted in Bangladesh for crimes or attempted sedition, who were known to have taken shelter in Bengal; with active TMC help. Such elements in West Bengal were kept supplied with money regularly by their associates in crime from Bangladesh.
“Who can say if the Burdwan Muslim gang was not being financed from Bangladesh, with Saradha scam money, which TMC elements have been accused of sending to Dhaka, by the Bangladesh Foreign Ministry ,’ asked a security analyst .
With India and Bangladesh probing the matter with due seriousness, the TMC government has been forced to step up its efforts to assist the investigation, much against its will. Given the good equation between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the Burdwan blast and similar incidents would be probed very seriously indeed. On its part, Bangladesh has stopped Indian insurgents from using the country as their base against India. India is bound to return the compliment if good neighbourly relations are to be maintained. Dhaka has also allowed India some transit rights through its waterways.
India has followed suit agreeing to Bangladesh’s claims on its maritime rights in the Bay of Bengal. It is only the TMC that is playing spoilsport by obstructing the Indo-Bangla Teesta water sharing treaty. “It is time Modi told Mamata Banerjee where to get off and accommodate Bangladeshi concerns,’ says an observer.
In fact, there is very little else that Mr, Modi can do, other than falling in line with Bangladesh’s demands, given the present hostilities with Pakistan on the Kashmir area. Good relations on the Eastern flank are crucially important for India, far more than Ms Banerjee’s antics. Buddhist organisations in Sri Lanka, according to media reports, have suggested greater Hindu-Buddhist coordination and co-operation in the days ahead to combat Islamic extremism. India should not neglect this opportunity of building up and cementing cordial relations with two important neighbours in the present situation.