Independence Day: India must remain alert as arrests of Bangladeshi terror operatives, ISI agent raise suspicions

As 15 August approaches, we are seeing a number of disturbing developments that could disrupt the peace and tranquility in the country. While intelligence agencies may not perceive any specific threats, when pieced together, the recent arrests of Bangladeshi extremists call for extra vigil and alertness along the border and in India, so as to maintain a secure environment especially in the view of the upcoming Independence Day celebrations.

On August 10, the Delhi police arrested Raza Ul Ahmed, an Al-Qaeda operative who was trying to escape to Nepal. Copious amount of fake Indian currency notes (FICN) was recovered from his possession. Preliminary investigations have revealed that Ahmed, a Bangladeshi citizen, is wanted by West Bengal Police. More importantly, he is believed to be a member and activist of the Ansarullah Bangla Team.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

An extremist organisation from Bangladesh, Ansarullah Bangla Team went on a killing spree from 2013 to 2015 in Bangladesh, terminating atheist bloggers and liberals perceived to be non-believers of Islam.

Ansarullah Bangla Team was also actively affiliated to Islami Chatra Shibir, the students' wing of the banned Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, which not only abetted Islamic fundamentalism but also unleashed terror on those opposed to Islamic zealots. Further, ABT is believed to be the front group of Al-Qaeda in the Indian sub-continent. Their website is located in Pakistan. So, we notice a nexus between Pakistan and Bangladesh which is not at all desirable from the security point of view.

The presence of Raza Ul Ahmed in Delhi — with a suspected profile and background of a Bangladeshi extremist outfit and that too with Pakistani links — raises suspicion. And, the timing of his arrest is perhaps more than a coincidence.

Earlier, the Anti Terror Squad (ATS) of Uttar Pradesh Police arrested one Abdullah Al Mamoon from Saharanpur. He, too, is a Bangladeshi belonging to district Mymensingh. Mamoon had made an Indian passport through brokers and undesirable elements for just Rs 9,000. He has also got a voters' ID from Assam.

Mamoon had come to India through the borders of Tripura and has been living in Saharanpur for the last four years. A close look leads us to a disturbing pattern and the fact that he chose to remain in Saharanpur makes the whole thing very suspicious.

Saharanpur recently in news for violent caste-linked clashes, and, in the past, it had also witnessed fierce communal riots. Saharanpur is also home to Deoband theological institution, Deoband Darul Uloom. A section of this school may be a target of a bigger plan and that needs a detailed interrogation by all arms of the security outfits.

Intelligence agencies, however, do not yet know if Mamoom had any linkages with Ahmed, who was nabbed in Delhi. But if a nexus is established, one may safely infer that a broader blueprint is being planned by the hostile forces for some deadly subversive activities detrimental to Indian interests.

During his preliminary investigation, Mamoon, currently under Police custody, disclosed that a large number of Bangladeshis continue to infiltrate into India through the borders of Assam, West Bengal and Tripura, and disturbingly they try to pass as 'students'. This is really a matter of genuine concern and calls for a tightened immigration and beefing up of security along the borders with an active collaboration of the Border Security Force (BSF).

The activities of Pakistan Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) in Bangladesh and India are established beyond doubt. In the past one year, Bangladesh has declared several staffers of the Pakistan High Commission in Dhaka as persona non grata for their incompatible activities. The ISI is using several Bangladeshis as operatives on the Indian soil as part of its proxy war and for intelligence operations. Despite an all out alertness and vigil, the ISI is also active in India trying to cover as many targets as they can to subvert vital installations and collect hard military intelligence. They don't seem to remain deterred.

In a fresh incident less than a week ago, an Indian ISI agent was questioned by the UP ATS in Jhansi. According to reports, a low-level civilian officer was interrogated at length for supplying crucial military related information to his ISI handlers. It's noteworthy that Jhansi has a huge military cantonment with high military formations (under XXI corps) as well as a division and a brigade. It also has a large firing range where all arms of the army and the paramilitary units converge for firing practices using a variety of weaponry.

The stepped up activities of the ISI, the arrests of the two Bangladeshi nationals with doubtful antecedents plus the timing of their apprehension — 15 August is only a few days away — indicate that forces inimical to India's security interests are active and it's possible that others are waiting in the wings to strike at an opportune time. Thankfully, the Indian intelligence fraternity is working in close concert trying to foil any evil design threatening our security system.

It would augur well if Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his Independence Day speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort on 15 August, appreciate the police and intelligence agencies for their tireless efforts in keeping the enemy at bay. A special mention may be made acknowledging the Jammu and Kashmir police for their proactive role in engaging terrorists in fierce encounters in an apparent bid to bring Kashmir back to normalcy. The morale of the security forces has to be at an all time high. And a word from the prime minister will be decidedly helpful with a positive impact.

The writer is a retired IPS officer, a security analyst and senior fellow of the India Police Foundation

Updated Date: Aug 11, 2017 21:39 PM

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