BY RSN SINGH
The Intelligence Bureau (IB) has alerted the Bihar Police about conspiracy by the Indian Mujahideen (IM) and other jihadi groups to target Narendra Modi during his public rally at Muzaffarpur in Bihar on 3rd March 2014. Inputs provided in this regard are quite specific incase the political dispensation in Bihar chooses to be concerned and its security machinery decides to be professional. Even in the public meeting addressed by Narendra Modi at Gandhi Maidan in Patna in October 2013, there were specific inputs about the plans to assassinate him by causing stampede through blasts in series all around the venue. Six persons were killed. For the first time in the history of India people as such were targeted during a public rally. Hitherto-fore the sole targets were the political leaders. Thus, the jihadis introduced a new kind of ‘political terror’ in India in the land of Bihar.
North Bihar is now the hub of Indian Mujahideen (IM). The districts of Darbhanga, Smastipur and Madhubani have emerged as the safe hideouts for terrorists. Its signatures have been found in most terrorist attacks in the last few years, i.e. Pune Bakery blasts (2010), Mumbai blasts (2011), Chinnaswamy Stadium blasts in Bengaluru (2010) and Patna Blasts (2013). One of the culprits, Mohammad Yunis Ansari, who desecrated the Amar Jawan Jyoti in Mumbai in 2012, was picked up by the Maharastra ATS from Sitamarhi district in Bihar. Ishrat Jahan of LeT, had links with Bihar. Some political leaders of the political dispensation went to the extent of showering the epithet of ‘Bihar ki Beti’ on her.
Following the Batla House encounter in 2008, wherein the main ID expert Atif Ameen was gunned down, there were series of crackdowns by Delhi Police and UP’s ATS in Ajamgarh and other areas of Eastern UP. Simultaneously, the Pune module of the IM was also busted by the Maharastra ATS. The joint operations had neutralized the IM talent spotters. It was then that the IM training school shifted to Darbhanga.
The eastward shift of the epicenter of jihadi terror has been particularly discernable after the visit of the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to Pakistan in December 2012. Just a week back on 07 February 2014, interrogation of two IM operatives Zami Akhtar and Manzar Sai by the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) revealed their alleged terror links with the Minority Welfare Minister of Bihar Shahid Ali Khan. Khan represents Sursand Assembly Constituency in Sitamarhi, not far from Muzaffarpur. From personal experience, this author may submit with all the emphasis that initial interrogation reports are prepared in full innocence and are therefore rarely inauthentic. Nevertheless, the Chief Minister took an umbrage over the input. He had taken similar umbrage when a team of Maharastra ATS and Special Cell of Delhi Police carried had travelled to Bihar to apprehend members of IM. He had strongly objected on basis of misplaced territorial jurisdiction to the arrest of alleged IM module operative Kafil Akhtar by the Karnataka Police in 2012 in Bihar. Kafil was allegedly involved in Chinnaswamy Stadium blasts. Belying the the expectation from any nationalist Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar was clearly seen to be taking a devious route in avoiding the interrogation of Yasin Bhatkal, when he was apprehended on the Indo-Nepal border in Bihar by the NIA in August 2013. In this deliberate act of omission, the Bihar Police unabashedly ignored the fact that Yasin Bhatkal was the terrorist who setup the IM module in Darbhanga in North Bihar.
The Bihar government disdainfully ignored requests by the Union Home Minister to setup Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), despite repeated urging for four years. It was only after the blasts at the Maha Bodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya in July 2013 that the government was compelled and impelled to embark on the process of forming ATS.
While the Bihar Chief Minister has been taking strong exception to the so called interference by security agencies of other states in apprehending terrorists in Bihar, the revelations by the SSB about the alleged IM links of his Minority Welfare Minister of Bihar Shahid Ali Khan, is a stark reminder as to why for the purposes of secrecy, operations against terrorists need not be necessarily shared with the concerned state governments. In such operations and for matters of secrecy everyone, no matter his or her official position , should be treated in a circumspect manner. Moreover, while ‘law and order’ is a state subject, internal security is not. The former director of the IB DC Pathak said: “This is beyond ‘law and order’ matter of national security. There is prescribed practice and convention for joint effort and assisting agencies tracking terrorists. States cannot interfere when it comes to terrorism.”
North Bihar has emerged as a meeting point of jihadi terror and Maoist terror. The districts of North Bihar, which facilitate jihadi industry are also becoming safe-havens for Maoists. When the present government assumed power, 18 districts of Bihar were impacted by Maoist terror, today it is 32. Maoist terror has crossed the Ganges and now engulfing most parts of North Bihar. So the new refrain about Maoist insurgency being a tribal problem is humbug, an agenda of the West.
Only last week, in Misraulia village of Muzaffarpur, not very far from the place where Modi is to address his rally, nearly 200 Maoists, dressed in battle fatigues, destroyed 10 vehicles and road construction equipment of a company engaged in repair and construction of national highway, as it had refused to pay levy. The estimated loss was of Rs 5 crores. Again just a few days later in the same area, two tractors belonging to brick kiln company were destroyed for the same reason. The Politician-Maoists nexus in Bihar and Jharkhand is well known. Are these attacks aimed at widening the extortion network through terror before elections for political funding? Government and political patronage to Maoist extortion industry is indeed the new innovative route for political funding. Most of the dacoits in the Bettiah district of North Bihar have now joined the Maoists ranks and are now part of the thriving extortion industry patronized by some mainstream politicians.
Both jihadi terror and the Maoist terror have different manifestations. Jihadi terror can be controlled to a great degree by choking external aid and abetment. The perpetrators of jihadi terror can be isolated and eliminated. However, the Maoist terror is difficult to grapple because of its linkages with the so-called intellectuals and mainstream politicians, thriving on the extortion industry. It is Maoist terror under which the affected people are gasping for life, liberty and growth. It is Maoist terror that targets economic and human development and desiccates the soul of the society. In their methods the Maoists are far more brutal than Taliban.
After the recent destruction of road building equipment by the Maoists near Muzaffarpur, will any contractor dare to take up projects in affected areas?
Nitish Kumar has been garrulous about his agenda of development and economic achievements. In all fairness the quantum of his claims can be debated, but certainly not denied. It is these developmental efforts that brought the ruling dispensation back to power with an unprecedented majority. The moot question therefore is, how then Maoist terror instead of receding, has been consuming new areas in Bihar? It clearly indicates that Maoist terror has little to do with development. It is being exacerbated by powers, both external and the internal. Only two years back, 10 French tourists were deported from Bihar for their bid to establish links with the Maoists.
As per the MHA, Bihar has witnessed the fastest growth of Maoist terror in the last two years. The MHA labels Bihar as one of the ‘severely affected states’ along with Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha. Even West Bengal has improved to ‘partially affected’ state.
The security space in Bihar has been shrinking at a frightening pace. Most businessmen, contractors , and professionals working in the shadow of Maoist terror have accepted the extortion industry as fate accompli. The destruction of road construction equipment by Maoist is a normal feature. Who would then like to invest in areas suffering from Maoist terror?
In the Maoist strongholds or ‘liberated zones’, in some areas of Gaya district, no development effort is possible. These are areas where even the Chief Minister cannot dare to visit, leave alone address a political rally. The political representatives of the area are known to be in truck with the Maoists and at least one of them enjoys a high and sanctimonious legislative position.
Despite the growing Maoist terror, the Chief Minister again took umbrage when the Union Home Minister questioned Bihar’s ‘counter-naxal strategy’. He said that Maoists had looted 38 sophisticated weapons and ammunitions in 2013, the highest in the country from Bihar police due to poor training. He also lamented the complete lack of cooperation between the Bihar Police, central forces and police forces of neighboring states like Jharkhand.
Narendra Modi is therefore going to address his next rally at a place which is the meeting point between jihadis and the Maoists, the former orchestrated by Pakistan, and both aided and abetted by some subverted within the government in Bihar.
The former Union Home Secretary, R K Singh has accused the Bihar CM of being soft on both Jihadi and Maoist terror. When the CM treats a political adversary not as a political rival, but an enemy, the underlying message percolates down the administration, and security becomes causality.
(RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research & Analysis Wing. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan, he is also a Guest Blogger with Canary Trap)