Women jihadis in Bengal? NIA probe suggests madrasas training ground for militants

An unassuming long rectangular mud hut with thatched roof stood in the middle of a sprawling paddy field in Shimulia, 40 km from Burdwan town in West Bengal. Pristine in its isolation, the farmer's hut completed the picture of the idyllic Gram Bangla. Then came the explosion of October 2 at Khagragarh, its links to Shimulia's hut and a deluge of dangerous secrets. Investigations now reveal Gram Bangla is less innocent than it looks; it has become the hub of Islamic radicalisation in the state. What took all by surprise is the discovery that some of Bengal’s villages had turned training ground for women jihadis, a new aspect of Islamic terrorism in India.

Weeks of investigations by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and other intelligence agencies working in tandem have revealed how such mud houses have been converted into madrasas. These madrasas, instead of imparting lessons on Islamic religion or elementary education, had turned into training centres for militants.

It also brought to light the indoctrination of poor village girls into the ideology of ‘jihad’, converting them into terror recruits. Until now, only Maoists in India have been known for recruiting girls and women extensively in their cadre and using them for terror attacks.

 Women jihadis in Bengal? NIA probe suggests madrasas training ground for militants

Representational image. AFP

The madrasa in Shimulia came under NIA’s scanner, after the arrest of two women – Razia Bibi and Amina Bibi — for the Burdwan blast who allegedly admitted their links with the blast. Razia is the wife of Shakil Gazi — the module leader, who got killed on 2 October in a house at Khagragarh village in Burdwan, when a bomb he was assembling accidentally went off. Amina is the wife of Abdul Hakim, who survived the blast and was Gazi’s associate.

This madrasa only admit girls at an early age for training.

“As many as 30-40 poor young girls lived with teachers and some with their husbands at the madrasa, and under the garb of teaching religious lessons, these girls were taught to terrorise. They had no links with the village, and they hardly interacted with the locals,” an intelligence source said.

The major training for girls and boys was allegedly provided by two Pakistan-based jihadi trainers, who visited Shimulia. The duo also trained those jihadis in Sherpur in Bangladesh, who later infiltrated to West Bengal and acted as trainers or madrasa teachers.

According to a report, there are around 3,000 unrecognized madrasas in the state, of which nearly 700 alone are in Burdwan district. Only 36 madrasas in Burdwan are recognized. One of the key players in the blast, Yousuf Sheikh, got arms training from Uttar Pradesh for about four years, before he came to Shimulia madrassa and acted as a teacher. As a result, the sleuths are suspecting a possible Azamgarh link in this case.

“There used to be systematic brain-washing of girls through radicalization in these madrasas and later they were given training to be a tough jihadi and carry out terror attacks in Bangladesh. Terror-related documents and literature have also been recovered from madrasas,” the source said.

The recovery of ISIS-styled pamphlets in Bengal and Assam hailing Islamic Caliphate and mentioning “Bangal Se Baghdad – al Jihad, al Jihad” has led investigators to believe a possible link of local terror modules with al Qaeda (al Jihad is a wing of al Qaeda).

“It’s a very alarming situation for West Bengal, as it has become a terror sanctuary for quite some time, especially due to the minority appeasement policy played by the Left and now TMC. Due to massive crackdown on jihadis by the government in Bangladesh, these terrorists took shelter in Bengal villages,” said director, Centre for Security & Strategy, India Foundation, Alok Bansal

“Through radicalization, these Muslim village boys and girls have been systematically brought into jihadi fold by the Jamat-e-Islami radicals and madrasas played a pivotal role in it,” he added.

According to intelligence sources, the girls were provided training in combat skills, making and handling of arms and hand grenades, assembling IEDs and ultimately unleashing terror attacks. “It’s not just Bangladesh, India is also a possible target, and we’re trying to find links with other blasts across the country,” the source said.

Rampant sprouting of unrecognized madrasas across West Bengal has been attributed to Mamata Banerjee’s minority appeasement and vote-bank politics. “Mamata Banerjee has been soft towards these radical elements, and West Bengal can become another Kashmir if not checked,” warned former Border Security Force director general Prakash Singh.

Director for Centre for Land Warfare and Security, Dhruv Katoch added, "There has been a gradual decline in Bengal’s law & order situation. Infiltration across the border has added to it. Mamata’s minority appeasement without verifying credentials, has led to the current menace. The accused need to be prosecuted and punished in fast-track courts.”

Another unusual element has appeared out of the blast incident on the psycho-social nature of the jihadis. It was almost an unwritten rule for these under-cover madrasas that the women trainees would be married only to jihadis working for the same goal. This became evident, when the police broke into the house at Khagragarh, where the explosion had occurred and were taken aback to see two men lying in a pool of blood and their wives, who were later arrested, washing away the blood.

“The women trained in the madrasa would be married only to men who were on the same mission. Soon after marriage, the couple would either set out on an assignment or await instructions. The jihadis hardly have any emotional attachment with the women they marry. It’s a marriage of convenience and terror modules in West Bengal use such couples to carry out subversive activities, and no one would doubt,” an intelligence source explained.

"West Bengal is a case of demographic invasion and as a result Jamat-e-Islami jihadis have found it a fertile ground for their nefarious activities and training centres have mushroomed across the state. TMC is practicing the same minority appeasement politics like its predecessor, to remain in power by all means. National security and national integration can’t be kept hostage in the name of politics,” counter-terrorism analyst Sushant Sareen remarked.

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Updated Date: Nov 05, 2014 11:49:59 IST

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