The massacre in Dhaka’s diplomatic area on one of the most important days of the holy month of Ramadan should be a wake-up call to Indian intelligence agencies and the government. It is important to realise that there is a group of die-hards across the eastern border for whom the tenets and sanctity of the religion mean little, if anything at all.
The border between India and Bangladesh is one of the most porous borders in the world. In comparison, the border between Mexico and the US is much better guarded.
Although in recent times, India has upped the surveillance, the ‘wall’ is very thin and fragile. The Indian mindset does not take the influx from Bangladesh as seriously as it should.
The daily influx of illegal migrants is given impetus by the loss of land because of global warming,flooding and blatant stealing licensed under an official legislation. The minority community and the poverty-stricken people are often compelled to surrender their land under this law, which allows for the seizure of the property of anyone assumed to be anti-national. Often, it is misused to usurp land belonging to the Hindu community.
But what is equally worrying is the fact that terrorist activities are increasing across the border, and such easy movement into India is now a matter of great concern. Over 10 million Bangladeshis have slipped into the country since its creation in 1971 and more enter every day.
The eastern states in India are already concerned about the increasing populations of such ghettos, which have been constantly fed by trafficking. However, not much is said about their presence in other parts of India. Politicians have added to the threat level, and the situation is such that thousands of people without any identification have become legitimate residents.
And yet, getting a passport for an Indian is still akin to climbing Everest without oxygen.
It is indeed frightening these immigrants get PAN cards, Aadhaar cards and ration cards with consummate ease and become Indian for all it is worth. This means that they become potential vote banks.
In fact, in the capital itself, there are enclaves of people from Bangladesh.
After yesterday, it is only fair warning that we take this matter more seriously, especially in the light of the fact that global jihadists see Bangladesh as an open market and recruit increasingly from the low income ranks of one of the most high density populations in the world. There are at present five active terror groups in that country excluding splinter and nascent entities that could be innumerable. Clearly, they are also being financed.
The Terrorism Research Initiative says: Bangladesh does not attract as much Western attention as some other South Asian countries like Pakistan or Afghanistan. As a result, many important issues and clues end up being overlooked by the international community.
It goes on to issue an alert: Another largely overlooked issue involves Bangladesh’s terrorist connection to south-east Asia. Prior to being captured in Thailand in August 2003, the former operational planner of the Jemaah Islamiya (JI) terrorist group, Hambali had made a decision to shift JI elements to Bangladesh in response to recent counter-terrorist activity in Southeast Asia. Hambali identified Bangladesh as a safe refuge.
Dr. Sajjan Gohel, International Security Director at the Asia-Pacific Foundation, a London-based think-tank, has this to say-
The secular and nationalist foundations of moderate Bangladesh are being undermined by a culture of political violence and the rise of Islamist extremists. Although the JEI (Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh) was banned by the government from taking part in the general elections, it still commands a significant and loyal following. It is not about to disappear anytime soon even if the war crime tribunals causes some discomfort for its leadership.
Our preoccupation with Pakistan is allowing us to lower our guard with respect to our eastern neighbour. While the majority may be just normal worker bees trying to make a decent living, after yesterday, we have to accept that there is an organised group of hardcore individuals who are seeking to take forward their agenda.