“There was a siege going on; it had been going on for a long time,
but the besieged themselves were the last to take notice of it.”
– Paula Fox, a well-known American novelist.
Recent incidents of numerous bomb blasts in West Bengal have caused enormous shock and terror across India. Prima facie while the Intelligence Bureau and West Bengal Police slumbered, Al Qaeda and its associated jihadi outfits like the Indian Mujahideen, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh and the newly created IS Caliphate, acting in cohorts with the Inter Service Intelligence of Pakistan, have managed to strike deep roots in various parts of West Bengal. And now it stands confirmed that during the last ten years the virus has spread to many other parts of the country.
Contours of a Jihadi Plot
On October 2 2014, around 12:00 noon an explosion occurred in a two-storeyed building in the Khagragarh locality of Burdwan. The building was owned by Nurul Hasan Chowdhury who used to stay in another house across the road. Hasan Chowdhury was a leader of the Trinamool Congress and the ground floor of the building was used as Trinamool Congress party office. During the 2008 and 2013 Panchayat elections, it was used as the election office by the Trinamool Congress. Hasan Chowdhury had let out the first floor of the building to one Shakil Ahmed on a monthly rent of Rs.4,700/-.
Local residents informed the police when they heard the explosion and saw smoke billowing out of the first floor room. When police arrived, two women inside the building prevented the police from entering at gunpoint, threatening to blow up the building. The two women were reported to have destroyed several documents which could be used by police as evidence of terrorist activities.
Shakil Ahmed who had rented the place and hailed from Karimpur in Nadia district, died on the spot. Two persons were injured. One of them Sobhan Mondal died later at the Burdwan Medical College and Hospital. The other named Abdul Hakim, from Lalgola in Murshidabad district, was admitted to the hospital in a critical condition. The two women, wives of Shakil Ahmed and Abdul Hakim and their two children were left unharmed by the chance explosion. The police arrested the two women.
Nearly 55 improvised explosive devices, wrist watch dials and RDX were recovered. The police also recovered several SIM cards and tools used for making improvised explosive devices. Also recovered from the building were Micro SD cards containing Islamic propaganda songs and Taliban training videos, fake ID documents like electoral cards and passports were also found. ] Maps and half burnt books in Arabic too were recovered. Preliminary investigations by the West Bengal CID indicated that a militant group called, ‘al Jihad’ was involved in manufacturing bombs.
Long Sweep of Jihadi Terror
According to informed sources , the al Jihad module had planned a series of ten blasts in Kolkata during the Durga Puja. Initially the West Bengal government tried to avoid the probe by NIA into the Burdwan bomb blast. After a delay of eight days, the National Investigation Agency took over the investigation.
To their dismay they soon found that the terror network of Jamat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh was not limited within West Bengal. Its jihadi activities had struck deep roots in several other parts of India, including Chennai in Tamil Nadu and Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh. The jihadi module of Al Qaeda had been supplying explosives and bomb making-material to many other states in India and several strategic locations in the adjoining Bangladesh.
As the plot of Burdwan bomb blast continues to thicken day after day, hour after hour, the dark contours of the global jihad raising its black banner in India’s eastern region threaten to start a major religion-based civilizational clash in West Bengal, Assam and many more States. The ongoing probe has revealed that the Simulia Madrasa of Burdwan has been actively recruiting and training hordes of jihadis from different parts of India as well as from Bangladesh.
Investigations by the NIA have disclosed that Simulia Madrasa, has been functioning as a well organised terrorist training camp – a fact belatedly discovered by the Intelligence Bureau and State Police intelligence sources. The investigations have revealed that a trans- Bengal jihadi network allegedly plotted blasts in Patna’s Gandhi Maidan during Narendra Modi’s election meeting last year. The group is believed be involved in a bomb blast in Chennai.
The investigations have revealed that both Shakil Ahmed Ghazi ( a Bangladeshi terrorist of JMB), who died in the blast at his home at Khagragarh in Burdwan district while making bombs, and another suspect, Mohammad Qauser (who has fled to Bangladesh), were behind the blast at Chennai railway station on May 1, 2014. The timer used in the twin blasts in the Bangalore-Guwahati Express at Chennai Central Railway Station were similar to that which was found by the NIA in Burdwan. Mobile call records too indicated that several calls had been made by Shakil and Qauser to their contacts in Chennai in April, 2014. The sleuths of the central agency felt that JMB was in league with the Indian Mujahideen which had received outside help to carry out the blasts in Patna as well as Chennai.
In all probability, the terrorists also used the “Sigma” watches for timing the bomb blasts. During searches at the home of Shakil and the injured JMB terrorist Abdul Hakim at Khagragarh Sigma watches were reported to have been seized. After analysing mobile call records and cracking fake e-mail IDs in a laptop found in the Khagragarh house, the sleuths discovered that Qauser had visited various states in South India.
SIM cards purchased in West Bengal were also used to make calls to their links in various states and even Bangladesh when the duo operated from Chennai just before the blasts.
Shakil’s widow, Raziya Bibi, now in NIA custody, has started singing like a canary. She is said to have confessed that her husband and Qauser had visited Chennai in April and May 2014 just a few days before the blasts. The tags found in the time bombs in the train compartments had tags of a manufacturer in West Bengal, which they had taken there, Razia reportedly told them.
The NIA team discovered that similar timers had been used in West Bengal bomb blasts. Prima facie this discovery confirms that the Patna and Chennai terrorists had connection with Shakil and Qauser. The seven bombs which exploded last year during the Patna rally had been manufactured in West Bengal. In fact, one of the terrorists arrested from Barpeta in Assam, admitted having learnt to make IEDs in Jharkhand where underground spy nests of Indian Mujahideen and Al Qaeda had been strategically positioned by the militants, perhaps by Pakistan’s ISI.
Further investigations confirmed their links with some Indian Mujahideen operatives functioning from Karnataka. Raziya admitted the two terrorists making calls to Abdul Qader Sultan Armar, who hailed from Bhatkal in Karnataka State. Now, however, Sultan Armar was operating from Waziristan in AFPAK region and adjoining Pakistan.
According to reliable sources, Qader Sheikh, brother-in-law of Shakil, was acting as a courier, providing logistics like RDX and raw explosive materials for training.
Meanwhile the NIA and other Central intelligence agencies continue their hunt for approximately 150 plus jihadis linked to the Bangladesh module. There is some evidence of the attempted cover-up by the West Bengal Police in the Burdwan accidental bombing case. Information received from various sources detailing the Simulia Madrasa terror apparatus reveals that the suspected terrorist Shakil Ahmed prepared self-motivated modules who have gained expertise in making IEDs and carrying out terror strikes as independent operatives. Shakil was aided by the absconding suspects Sheikh Yusuf and Abdul.
India Subverted By Fifth Columnists and Fellow Travellers
The Simulia Madarsa is reported to have trained more than 140 Muslim youth recruited from India as well as Bangladesh. They were trained to unleash new terror operations which Al Qaeda was planning to launch. Allegedly Shakil Ahmed was providing paramilitary training and giving lessons in the technology of making IEDs to new recruits in Simulia Seminary which is an hour’s drive from Burdwan.
The Central agencies seized several issues of INSPIRE magazine, a well-known publication of Al Qaeda from the suspects’ hideouts in Burdwan. The interrogation of captured Jihadi Hasan Molla revealed that Inspire magazine was an excellent guide for making lethal IEDs in kitchens. Al Qaeda magazines, especially THE INSPIRE, teaches how a bomb can be assembled from common items like cooking gas cylinders and iron nails. It can be set off by a remote detonator.
According to reliable sources, substantial jihadi literature and printed material seized from the house of Shakil’s relative Qader Sheikh’s house had slogans like ‘Jihad—f from Bangladesh to Baghdad’ and radical promptings for the indoctrination of trainees. Mercifully, some residents of Khagragarh have now started approaching the officers of the NIA with fresh inputs about which they dared not speak earlier due to the fear of pro-jihadi goons and paid politicians
Monumental Failure of Intelligence Bureau
In early 2004, a Mumbai-based strategic think tank, Foresight Group, chaired by Sundeep Waslekar had published a book titled ‘Cost of Conflict between India and Pakistan’. The tome gave copious details of the activities of the Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan in India, largely managed and monitored through multiple strings of Madarsas embedded across various States. Waslekar’s research highlighted several sinister aspects of the fast-rising network of spies planted across India by Pakistan to subvert and destroy the Indian nation (read the Hindu identity of India). It drew pointed attention to the virulent anti-national preaching in most madarsas of India.
Waslekar’s tome contained useful details of the activities of the ISI, presumably culled from a leaked secret official White Paper allegedly prepared during the tenure of Lal Krishna Advani who was Home Minister during the previous National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime. Mysteriously, the so-called white paper, originally tom-tommed by L.K. Advani as a great expose of the rising crescendo of the ISI’s footprints in India, never saw light of the day.
Mindboggling Sweep of ISI Spynests in India
According to Waslekar’s study, by 2004 itself, the ISI had spread its tentacles all over India by establishing sixty Spying Centres across various states in which nearly 10,000 spies were employed. As many as ten States, namely Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala , Jharkhand and Assam have been actively flooded by the ISI modules. Additionally an effective network of jihad- promoting madrasas had been spread throughout the country.
The latest disclosure about a super spy codenamed ‘Honeybee’ planted in India by the ISI has given a new twist to the narrative of Pro-Pakistani fifth columnists and fellow-travellers embedded in Indian polity. Interestingly the news that the super-spy Honeybee is aided by a retinue of ‘chuhes’ (i.e. rats), as disclosed by Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clarke in their scholarly book, The Seige, appears to be another major failure of Indian intelligence agencies.
It is amazing that the boast of Major Iqbal of the ISI about the cleverly planted Honeybee, highlighted by Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clarke, has not been taken seriously by the Indian intelligence agencies. No one knows the reason for ignoring such a vital clue about the shadowy operations of fifth columnists, boldly highlighted more than one year ago by two reputed researchers.
Sundeep Waslekar’s assessment was that by the year 2004 the ISI had successfully set up as many as sixty regular Espionage Centres all over India in which nearly 10,000 trained spies were employed. That was a rough estimate made by the researchers of Waslekar’s thinktank ten years ago. Since then much water has flowed down the Ganga.
According to reliable intelligence sources, by now the number of active ISI-planted Espionage Centres in India has more than doubled. These espionage centres constitute formidable sleeper cells of Pakistan-financed fifth columnists whose numbers have grown exponentially during the 10 years of misrule by the UPA. According to a former intelligence expert (name withheld to protect his identity) by now the number of core ISI agents plus their cleverly embedded fellow- travellers operating in India is believed to be in the range of fifty to sixty thousands, or more. That makes a formidable corps of spies and saboteurs planted within India. No wonder, India is heading for a major faultline conflict.
It is difficult to believe that senior officers of the Intelligence Bureau have no knowledge of Sundeep Waslekar’s ten years old research. Far more difficult is to believe that they have remained ignorant of the contents of Cathy Scott and Adrian Levy’s widely discussed book, The Seige.
Apparently while West Bengal Police slept under the protective shield of Mamata Banerjee, the Intelligence Bureau went into Kumbhakaran-like slumber for ten years under the UPA’s long spell of non-governance. It is time for some soul searching by India’s current Home Minister for weeding out incompetent security professionals. But can Rajnath Singh use his big broom to clean the Augean stables thriving under his nose ?
What has happened in West Bengal is inexcusable, especially after a strong warning was conveyed nine years ago by the senior journalist, Mayank Jain, in his video-film, The Bangla Crescent .
Indian citizens demand answers. Now.
Ram Ohri is a former IPS officer and writes regularly on security issues, demographics, and occasionally, on policy.