Millennium Post

Securing the perimeter

Ban on Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh and its affiliates is only the start of serious measures necessary to combat rising terror

In a bold and forthright move, the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs has banned the Jamat ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and its collaborators active in India – the JMB India or JMB Hindustan – on May 24. This action was long overdue. Coincidentally, this ban order came into effect barely 24 hours after the announcement of the results of Indian parliamentary elections sending Prime Minister Modi and BJP into a landslide victory. This is seen as a major muscular and zero tolerance policy to uproot any traces of terror affecting India or its vicinity.

JMB had notoriously come to light for engineering terror blasts in Burdwan in West Bengal in 2014 leading to traces well within Bangladesh where the terror die was cast and a blueprint drawn by the JMB cadres to subvert India. Subsequently, JMB struck in Bodhgaya, Bihar in 2018. Vigorous investigations revealed JMB links in Bangladesh and moral, material, and logistic support received at regular intervals from across the border. Intelligence sources reveal in anonymity that training material, firearms, and explosives were also supplied from Bangladesh. This had alerted the Indian security agencies who started working in close cooperation with their Bangladesh counterparts to unearth the nexus between the JMB cadres active in both the countries.

In the meantime, the Assam Police arrested 56 JMB activists on an intelligence tip-off and their preliminary interrogation has revealed startling details. JMB planned to target critical infrastructures in Assam, West Bengal, Tripura, and Meghalaya as it was (and still is) easy to trespass through the porous Indian borders to achieve their mission. Additional interrogation details are likely to shed more light exposing JMB plans to harm Indian security interests.

It may be recapitulated that JMB was founded in Bangladesh in April 1998 in Dhaka by one Abdur Rahman and the outfit first came to limelight when the district of Dinajpur (2001) saw huge quantity of seizures of explosives and jihadi incriminating literature from the JMB cadres. Consequently, it was declared a terrorist organisation and in February 2005 it was banned.

Notwithstanding the ban, JMB carried out its terror activities keeping India under their radar receiving instructions and support from Pakistan to target Indian locations. Despite strict oversight over their activities, JMB continued its killing sprees, fatally targeting even judges. They were relentless even when some of their cadres were prosecuted and executed.

According to information last received, they have a cadre of 10,000 members and many of them had taken part in Afghanistan terrorist activities while the Taliban ran its writ. Most crucial, however, is JMB connections with Pakistan ISI carrying out proxy activities to hit Indian interests. In April 2015, an undercover diplomat Mazhar Khan was caught red-handed giving Fake Indian Foreign Currency (FICN) to a JMB operative to be circulated in India for subversive activities. Pakistani activities emanating from its High Commission in Dhaka continued unabated and in December 2015, Farina Arshad of the Pak diplomatic mission was expelled from Bangladesh for such undesirable activities.

Possibly at the prompting of ISI, JMB regularly threatened the progressive and secular elements in Bangladesh and several NGOs remained under the threat of being under terror attacks. For such activities, organisations like Revival of Islamic Heritage (RIHS), Rabita Al Alam Al Islami belonging to the Middle East along with other 'charitable' organisations aided and they were blatantly abused against Indian and Bangladeshi interests.

Again, coincidentally after India banning JMB, acting on the basis of intelligence inputs, the Bangladesh Home Ministry has identified 15 religious extremists who had been spreading communally harmful propaganda through hate speeches and appeals for radicalisation delivered at the Waj Mehfils or religious congregations. A formal notification to this effect has been issued. The government says it will, through legislation, hold such elements to account and will be under thorough scrutiny including monitoring their income from various sources. These 15 include figures like Abdur Razzak bin Yusuf (Salafi), Maulana Mahmudul Hasan and 13 others who had delivered acrimonious speeches in the very recent past including threats of hacking to death all against Islam and justified desecration of Hindu religious places even declaring Rabindranath Tagore as an infidel.

It would appear from these developments that India and Bangladesh intelligence and security agencies have been working in close cooperation arriving at banning JMB and taking bold measures to contain the zealots fomenting terror. The Easter Sunday terror attacks (April 21) in Sri Lanka, possibly, was a wake-up call stirring the security setups for tough measures and we see that happening.

In the light of spiralling cases of Islamic terror and radicalisation of alarming proportions, India and Bangladesh need to further intensify their professional ties in jointly combating terror as seen in JMB linkages in both sides of the border. Like a little known terrorist outfit (National Tawheed Jamaath or NTJ) came to notice in Sri Lanka only after the bombings were carried out, we need to find out about the sleeper cells.

The holy month of Ramadan is on and the grand festivity is just around the corner. The terrorists have scant respect for religious sanctity as seen in the recent deadly blasts in Lahore soon after the commencement of Ramadan. Hence, maximum precautions and vigilance are called for to preempt any untoward happening in India or in Bangladesh particularly in the latter for its relatively more vulnerability. Sri Lanka could also be included (if not already) in the Indo-Bangladesh joint operations to fight terror.

India could play the lead role by sharing intelligence and guiding these nations as well as to other South Asian countries in view of its expertise and good asset base of experience and professional officers. This looks more imperative in view of Prime Minister's chat with Pakistan's Imran Khan wherein Shri Modi exhorted (May 26) the need to eliminate terror for regional peace. This is indeed doable and must be acted upon fast to carry forward starting from the banning of JMB and related actions in uprooting terror from the region. None of these countries, or, for that matter, anyone can afford to see terror activities in the vicinity and also, none can find it easy to handle the menace single-handedly.

(The author is a retired IPS officer, a security analyst and a former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Mauritius. Views expressed are strictly personal)

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