Narendra Modi on Indira’s path?

BY PRAKASH NANDA

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) is reportedly now on a membership-drive. Party president Amit Shah is said to be aiming at making the BJP the world’s largest democratic party. At the moment, the BJP, in numerical terms, is in all probability still behind the Congress (official sites of the both the Congress and the BJP do not mention their respective total memberships). But, it is increasingly becoming obvious that the BJP, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is India’s “dominant-party”, a distinction which the Congress had not long ago. The decline of the Congress may have begun with the advent of the “coalition-era” in 1990s, particularly at the central level. Earlier, collation-experiments at the Centre had proved short-lived. But then, enough attention, perhaps, is not being given to the fact that the coalition-era at the Centre was a logical consequence of the rise and success of state-level or other parties in various states where Congress lost power by and by.

If one goes by the Indian politics during the days of the Congress-dominance, then two features were particularly striking. One was that the dominant party, that is the Congress, was not only in power at the Centre but also in majority of the states of the country. I think, under Narendra Modi, the BJP seems to be proceeding in the similar direction. It has just won two vital states of Maharashtra and Haryana that are of both political and economic significance. And going by the ground reports, the BJP is likely to win the forthcoming elections in minerals-rich state of Jharkhand. If it captures the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in near future, the BJP will have almost all the important states in its kitty.

The second distinctive feature of the one party-dominance, which I think is more important, was that the Congress was the principal pole in Indian politics that determined the national agenda while other parties were just reactive. Even during the earlier days of the coalition-era, all other non-Congress parties were joining hands to form a pole that could resist or withstand the Congress power. Individually, none of the non-Congress parties was strong enough, but united they were of some consequence.

Viewed thus, Modi-led BJP has virtually become the principal pole in Indian politics. Other parties have realised that on their own they cannot stop the Modi- juggernaut. Last fortnight, some of the leading regional parties, which did not see eye to eye , sat together and contemplated even of an outright merger to fight Modi-led BJP. And now it seems that the Congress and the almost defunct Communist parties will join hands with them. In other words, in all likelihood Indian polity is going to witness a broad non-BJP front launching a combined challenge to BJP electorally or otherwise. Only some strictly one-sate parties like the Biju Janata Dal(BJD) in Odisha and AIADMK in Tamil Nadu will perhaps remain neutral in this battle or throw their lot with the BJP, given a good bargain of extracting economic concessions from the Modi-government in Delhi.

All this indicates the external characteristics of the dominant party-system. Equally important, however, are the internal characteristics. And here again, the Congress-experiment throws some light. As the dominant party, the Congress experienced two phases – one before Indira Gandhi came to the scene, another under and after her. In the pre-Indira days, the Congress was no doubt the principal pole in Indian polity; but it was democratic enough to allow strong regional Congress leaders who preferred to work in their respective states as chief ministers, ministers or party presidents. In fact, some of them guided the central leadership. The point to note here is that they were leaders on the basis of their own strength and the party as a whole depended on them. In their day-to-day functioning, they were almost autonomous, notwithstanding the facts that at the Centre there were towering leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, G B Pant and Moraji Desai. Secondly, even at the central level, the Prime Minister of the day respected, more or less, the principle of collective leadership both at the cabinet(council of ministers) and party levels.

Things underwent big changes under Indira Gandhi. In fact, it can be said in retrospect that it is these changes under Indira Gandhi that sowed the seeds of decline of the Congress in the long run. Under Indira Gandhi, regional strongmen of the Congress were systematically decimated. Under Indira Gandhi, the distinction between the central government and the party got virtually blurred. In other words, now we had one supreme leader of the Congress who was the principal vote-catcher of the party all over the country, who alone decided who would be Chief Ministers of the states where the party won elections, who alone selected the central ministers, and who alone set the agenda of both the government and party. These internal features of the Congress seem to have been legitimised or instituionalised in the Congress party and there is no likelihood of any change as long as Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi remain in charge. But then it will be wrong to blame Sonia and Rahul because it is they who can keep the Congress in tact to day and it is they who can fetch some votes.

Against this background, let us look at a BJP under Modi. It is the early days, but then there is an unmistakable impression that is gaining ground all over that Modi is fast emulating Indira Gandhi. In her days of glory, Indira Gandhi was simply unchallengeable. Modi seems to be in a similar situation today. The newly elected Chief Ministers of Haryana and Maharashtra were solely his choice. The BJP President Amit Shah will never dare to say a thing that is unpalatable to Modi. And like Indira Gandhi, Modi seems to be the principal vote-catcher of the party in most parts of the country.

But then, if the trends that got instituionalised in the Congress party under Indira proved subsequently to be the factors of its decline, will the same happen to the BJP sooner or later? In my considered view, there are some differences between a Congress under Indira Gandhi and the BJP under Modi. On a closer scrutiny, things are not that rosy for Modi. All told, in its hey days, the Congress had all-India presence. The BJP has not reached that stage. Its support base at the moment is primarily in the North, West and Central India. And the BJP has reached a plateau in these three regions as in the last general elections the party got more than 90 percent of its elected representatives. Repeating this feat next time will be a herculean task. That means that Modi has to expand his base in Eastern and Sothern India and that will not be possible without making or finding regional allies, to begin with. In other words he has to be sobre and conciliatory.

Secondly, the Rastriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological mentor of the BJP, is too formidable an organisation to allow Modi a completely free run. I am not one of those who buy the argument that it is the RSS which dictates everything to the BJP-government, but it has to be admitted that the latter cannot ignore the sentiments of the former beyond a point. All told, the RSS, which has the real all-India network in providing the social service, provides the foot soldiers to the BJP during elections. Important BJP ministers, including Modi himself, began their careers as and continue to be RSS members. I do not think that RSS will like a situation where the BJP gets completely “Congressised”(if one may use this term).

Thirdly, though Modi is undoubtedly the tallest leader of the BJP today, the fact still remains that there are at least three important central states of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan – all BJP citadels – where the Chief Ministers can win elections without Modi’s help. They are important leaders in their own rights. For example, let us take the case of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. He won his third consecutive elections last year. A powerful orator who loves to remain low profile and easily accessible to the people, his achievements in Madhya Pradesh are remarkable- 24×7 electricity, over 11 percent annual growth rate for the last 7 years and nearly 25 percent annual growth in agriculture ( Madhya Pradesh produces more wheat than Punjab, it produces more pulses than any other state, and what is important is that most if its agricultural products are through organic farming) – and all this was achieved under not exactly a friendly Central government(it was under the Congress party).

It is in Modi’s interest that he not only takes along powerful Chief Ministers with him but also promotes such powerful Chief Ministers elsewhere. After all, India is a federation of states and powerful BJP Chief Ministers in states will make Modi a formidable Prime Minister. A formidable Prime Minister is not the one who centralises all the power in him or her but is the one who has formidable party and ministerial colleagues. Of course, at the Centre, Modi has severe paucity of talents in his Council of Ministers, but the solution lies in optimum utilisation of the available talents, not bringing successful and popular Chief Ministers into his cabinet, something he did in appointing Goa’s Manohar Parrikar as the Defence Minister last week. I think there are a good number of BJP MPs who deserve to be ministers and a number of ministers who have earned their positions not because of their talents but because of extraneous considerations such as personal loyalty, caste, creed and gender. It is difficult to understand why Modi, whom many voted because he rose above regional, casteist and religious slogans during the electioneering, appoints Muslims as only minority affairs ministers; they, if talented, can be given other ministerial portfolios.

In sum, if BJP is going to be the real dominant party for a long time, then Modi needs powerful and popular Chief Ministers like Chouhan and Parrikar in state capitals, not in Delhi.

(Prakash Nanda is Editor of Uday India, a niche monthly devoted to defence, security and diplomacy. The blog has been reproduced from the website of Uday India. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)

India’s military law framework almost derailed with bizarre judgement by AFT

BY JAY BHATTACHARJEE

The nation’s armed forces have an enviable position in the country’s institutional pedestal. For the last seven decades or so, the soldiers, sailors and air warriors have basked in the esteem of the citizens, who have been protected, safeguarded and rescued by the armed forces personnel in times of war, conflicts and natural calamities. Every survey has shown that the Indian military is one institution universally admired and respected by the public. The other pillars of the national framework, like the polity, the bureaucracy and the judiciary are not even within hand-shaking distance of the military in this particular competition.

Among the numerous factors that are responsible for this is that the armed forces also have an exemplary record in punishing any crime or misdemeanour by any member, irrespective of the rank and position of the offender. This is in glaring contrast with the shabby record of the civilian establishment in punishing crimes and transgressions committed by the babus, netas and the judiciary.

All this is about to change, if the general public gets to understand the ramifications of a bizarre judgement recently handed out by the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) of New Delhi or if this decision is allowed to stand in the books of Indian military law. The case was the following : OA 214/2012, Lt. Gen. P.K.Rath (Retd) (Petitioner) Versus Union of India & Ors. (Respondents). The decision was that of the Principal Bench of the Tribunal, consisting of Justice Sunil Hali, Member, and Air Marshal (Retd.) J.N. Burma, Member. In summary, the Tribunal upheld the appeal of the Petitioner, Lt. Gen. P.K. Rath (Retd.) (hereafter PKR) against the earlier judgement of a General Court Martial (GCM) which had convicted him on three counts under the Army Act.

PKR was not only absolved of all the charges against him, but the Tribunal also levied a fine of Rs. One Lakh on the Army for “wrongly” prosecuting PKR and, even more interestingly, denied leave to appeal to the Union of India. This, of course, does not stop the Army from appealing to the Supreme Court, which is the forum for appeals against judgements of Armed Forces Tribunals. Such an appeal, however, may not be made because of the reasons that will become clear as we assess this judgement and its implications. One can only hope that the new Raksha Mantri, Manohar Parrikar, will take the bull by the horns and ensure that the Army and the Ministry of Defence take urgent steps to appeal in the Supreme Court against this judgement.

Before we study the judgement, it would make things simpler if the verdict is summarised. PKR had been held guilty of 3 charges by the GCM on the 21st January 2011. The sentence of the GCM was confirmed on the 9th November 2011 and the promulgation order was on the 17th November 2011. All these decisions went out of the window on the 5th September 2014, when the Tribunal announced its verdict.

Why is this commentator worried about this judgement ? The short and summary answer is that it dilutes the higher standards set by the Indian military in terms of propriety, morality and norms, as compared to the civilian establishment. Like Caesar’s wife, our faujis have always set themselves above the babus and the netas. And rightly so. The Indian soldiers, along with our indomitable freedom-fighter revolutionaries, have demonstrated time and again over many centuries and particularly since Independence that they march to the clarion call of Horatius in The Captain of the Gate : “To every man upon this earth, death cometh soon or late. And how can man die better than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers and the temples of his gods ?”

A thorough reading of the judgment makes one uncomfortable and uneasy. It becomes evident at many stages that the Union of India, the respondent No.1 (for that read the Ministry of Defence (MOD) / Army) did not deal with this case as diligently as should have been done. The MOD, it appears, was quite willing to let its cause go by default. This brings up the issue whether the Armed Forces Tribunals (AFTs) should at all be placed under the administrative jurisdiction of the MOD, since the latter is invariably a party in all the proceedings before the AFTs. There is a clear conflict of interest here; why our legislators have not seen through this grave lacuna is not clear.

Let us return to the salient issues of this case. As the arguments of the petitioner unfold and as we unravel the judgement, it becomes painfully obvious that the primary target in this entire scenario is the Respondent No. 2, General V.K. Singh (VKS), the former Chief of Army Staff (COAS), undisclosed in the citation but mentioned clearly in the details. Like Banquo’s ghost, the former COAS is the spirit that hovers over every segment of this case. In the averments of PKR, he is clearly mentioned. However, since VKS is not the primary respondent, he was not given an opportunity to rebut the claims of PKR. That task should have been that of the MOD / Army, but clearly the latter were not interested. It is a classic example of a false-flag campaign to discredit a person by default.

It is now necessary to quickly review the basic features of this judgement. PKR was convicted by the General Court Martial on three charges, all of them falling under Section 63 of the Army Act, 1950. All three charges pertain to the offence of committing an act that is prejudicial to good order and military discipline or an omission to do something that results in prejudice to good order etc. The elaborate and convoluted reasoning of the AFT seems to have assiduously avoided the following basic queries:

(a) When PKR’s predecessor Lt. Gen. Deepak Raj had taken a categorical decision to oppose any private project on the Sukhna land, why did PKR over-rule this decision? What were the compelling factors that could justify such a U-turn?

(b) How can a private school be glibly declared as not being a security concern, particularly when the land where the school would come up, has a clear, untrammeled, view of the cantonment’s helipad and the Corps HQ itself?

(c) How does the AFT describe Sukhna as being far from the frontier? Did not the Tribunal itself say that the region of Sukhna is the only link to the North-Eastern states on page 55 of the verdict?

(d) Why does it absolve PKR of the offence of not keeping Eastern Command in the picture and conveniently passes the blame to his subordinates? Is this not a direct repudiation of the entire rules of military functioning?

(e) Where was the due diligence exercise on the promoters of the school, who were colourable characters with no experience in either academics or running schools? They were touting their non-existent links/ties with a well-known school in North India before they got caught out.

One can go on with the various omissions of the AFT. However, the basic problem here is that the target in this entire exercise is the former Army Chief, VKS. This is the logical outcome of the insidious “line of succession” argument that was peddled by the previous governments and its acolytes.

The babus and the legal eagles in the MOD have clearly not changed their tune or they would have strenuously countered the AFT’s mind-set.

This is a verdict that might undermine the basic framework of military law in India, setting precedents that will be used in the future to justify acts of omission and commission that simply cannot be permitted in the armed forces. The AFT members approvingly quote from an established treatise which states unequivocally that military justice must promote good order, high morality and discipline. However, they fail to do it themselves.

The final blow that Messrs Hali and Burma strike is against the Bhagvad Gita. They quote Shloka 34 in Chapter 2 of the immortal work to buttress their judgement. They say that the GCM conviction of PKR was an attack on his honour and character and that is why the AFT was restoring his reputation. “People will always speak of your infamy, and for a respectable person, dishonour is worse than death”.

This, I am sorry to say, is as disingenuous a piece of misinterpretation that I can think of. The shloka has been used totally out of context. Any study on the venerated book will bear out my contention, but I cite only Swami Chinmayananda’s and Swami Prabhupada’s books. The words in Shloka 34 are by Krishna to Arjuna, when the latter hesitates in fighting the great war. What Krishna says is that it is Arjuna’s duty to wage a just and righteous war; if he does not do so, he will have given up his duty and abdicated from his responsibility. He will have lost his fame; it is then that people will recount his everlasting dishonour, and for a person who has been honoured earlier, dishonour is worse than death.

This entire discourse is against the backdrop of following one’s duty and moral obligation in times of national and social crises. To reduce it to the level of a mundane court case and a reversal of an earlier judgement is a mockery of the great philosophy behind the original statement.

The Bhagvad Gita will survive the assaults of the AFT members. India’s military legal framework will, certainly, be damaged if this verdict stands.

(The author is an advisor in corporate laws and finance, based in Delhi)

Indian Army must express remorse but not apology

BY RSN SINGH

Security forces barricade roads to deter and filter terrorists and criminals to neutralize them. They insulate citizens and shield them from evil designs of terrorists. A little laxity, however well-intentioned, seduces terrorists to cause ‘Sarojini Nagar’ (Delhi) type of blasts and mayhem. Innocent citizens, which include women and children, are the targets in such attacks. The perpetrators also invariably approach their target with contrived innocence. They do not come in battle fatigues. Road barricades are not ‘Kashmir’- specific, they are there everywhere, in Delhi as well. Since the 90s, terrorism has economically bled this country in terms of incessant accretion of security forces and concomitant security measures that some may find intrusive. Nobody is happy in instituting and exercising these measures, least of all the Indian Army. Keen and constant vigilance puts unremitting physical and psychological strain on the security forces.

In this age of proxy war, the absence of ‘inconvenient and intrusive’ measures could consign the country to the flames of terrorism. If India, beset with vicious and unrelenting terrorism from insurgency from North, West, East and South; still breathes, it is because of the vigilance and sacrifice of the security forces. Politicians, by profession and relative immunity, can disregard terrorist threat and discourse till it acquires pernicious levels. The very vote-bank, which is the reason for their dismissiveness, becomes the first unsuspecting victims. The latest case in point is West Bengal.

The Indian Army, sans by subverted elements, has never been accused of being ‘trigger happy. On 03 November, the two teenage boys killed in Chattegram in Budgam district of Jammu and Kashmir were not as such chased or trapped with ulterior motives by the Indian Army personnel. Their identities were not known. The Indian Army resorts to barricading and security measures in Kashmir for security of the Kashmiris, without which they would be devoured by the jihadi flame. But for the Indian Army, Kashmiriyat along with the Hindu, Buddhist and Sufi past of the Kashmiris would have disappeared by the onslaught of Taliban type forces unleashed by Pakistan. Even in the national capital, if a vehicle is intent upon pushing its way through barricades, it would invite fire from the security forces. Why should Kashmir be then an exception?

Even a minor deferment in reaction by security forces may have massive manifestations. If the security forces fail to fire when the security measures instituted by them are disregarded and assaulted brazenly, it would amount to negligence of their sacred duty. What if the Maruti Car involved in the incident was laden with explosives? So many passengers had otherwise passed through the same barriers on that very day unobtrusively. The vehicle was fired upon only after it had disregarded the third barrier. Security checks are not carried out of personal enmity. In this era of proxy war responsible citizens yield themselves for checks at barricades, airports, railway stations etc without demur.

While the inquiries are on, some reports do suggest that there was indeed a specific input regarding use a white Maruti car by militants for terrorist attack. Going by some past instances, it is quite possible that these young boys Faizal Yusuf and Mehrejuddin and their associates were ‘setup’ by the ISI – separatists combine because they are unnerved by the long term ramifications of the forthcoming elections on the separatist discourse in the state. The goodwill earned by the Indian Army and the PM’S Diwali visit has only accentuated the desperation. In the past, such desperation has induced the combine in resorting to deceptive leaks to the security forces and using unsuspecting and gullible children as baits in ruthless pursuance of their separatist objectives.

It was nauseating to see the separatists mobilizing young children for ‘stone-pelting’ in the aftermath of the incident. These are the separatists who looted the flood relief material from the security forces. That they were not killed by the security forces while doing so reflects on the attributes of ‘patience’ and ‘restraint’ of the Indian Army. The separatists, which include the soft-separatists, otherwise in political mainstream, used the teenager status of boys in whipping up anti-India frenzy.

There is nothing new in the machinations of the separatists. The real culprits however are in Delhi. These culprits include some journalists of doubtful nationalistic credentials, as also a personality who has enjoyed privileges and eminence by the accidental virtue of being in Gandhi’s linage. They too found an occasion to vilify the Indian Army. In that they found age of the deceased boys a convenient tool. Is there any age or gender for jihadis? Haven’t the separatists been using young boys for stone-pelting and jihadi activities for past so many years? Aren’t young boys being initiated into jihadi discourse in some madrasas? Are not teenage boys being sent to receive terrorist training in Pakistan? The gentleman of Gandhi’s linage went on an imaginary trip as how Nehru or Patel, would have taken the Indian Army to task. This gentleman ignores that warfare during that time still celebrated some parameters of chivalry. The phenomenon of cowards using young boys as explosives then did not exist. Women then never fired upon innocents.

Only recently the Indian Army was hailed as angels during the floods in Kashmir Valley. They disregarded their own safety and that of their families in rescuing and providing relief to the affected. It included separatists as well. No sooner the flood waters have drained, the separatists with support of some anti-nationals in Delhi have again embarked on the Indian Army vilification campaign. This diabolical cycle of hailing the Indian Army as ‘angles and saviors’ at one moment and ‘criminals’ in the very next, must come to an end. For the people in Jammu and Ladakh region, the Indian Army personnel are epitome of character attributes, but are turned into rapists by these vested interests in the Kashmir Valley. These vested interests are the collaborators within, in the proxy war being waged by Pakistan.

These vested interests did not allow their heart to bleed when policemen were killed by terrorists in Kashmir, when two policemen were killed in a guerrilla attack in Pulwama district recently. The very next day of the Chattegram incident, terrorists attacked a CRPF camp with grenades in Sopore. It only vindicates that the intelligence inputs received in relation to Chattegram were not entirely without basis.

In the hindsight, one can question whether the method used by the Indian Army personnel in Chattegram was most appropriate under the circumstances. Nevertheless it should be considered that the window of opportunity under these circumstances is very fleeting, the same window of opportunity that the security forces are blamed for wasting in Amritsar during the hijack of IC-814 to Kandahar in 1999.

(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. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)

The Islamic Caliphate of Bangladesh and West Bengal

BY RSN SINGH

For a Pakistan obsessed country India, the accidental bomb blasts in Burdwan on 02 October served as ‘a wake-up call’. Even as Indians primarily confined their concerns on terrorism emanating from Pakistan, the West Bengal–Bangladesh region was evolving into another hub of jihadi terror. Given the fact that Bangladesh geographically impacts on five Indian states; West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram; the destabilizing potential of jihadi terror orchestrated from Bangladesh is even more vicious than the Af-Pak region. For reasons of political and social facilitation, West Bengal and Assam have been so far the preferred areas for Bangladeshi jihadi groups. The new political outfit in Assam, All India United Democratic Front (AIDUF), led by Maulana Badruddin Ajmal (MP) has come under the scanner of agencies and the media for their alleged role in recruitment and training of jihadis in Bangladesh. Bases flourished in these states particularly in the aftermath of the unprecedented crackdown on the fundamentalists and the jihadi groups by Sheikh Hasina regime in Bangladesh.

In March 2007, the leader of the Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB), Siddique ul-Islam (Bangla Bhai) along with five others were executed by hanging. The JMJB, which was banned in 2004, was allegedly linked to the Al-Qaeda. It may be mentioned that JMJB is an outgrowth of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), with considerable overlap of leadership between the two. There are analysts who are convinced that JMB or JMJB are proxies established by the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI). The links between Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh National Party (BNP) and JMB have been conclusively proven. The inaugural rally of the JMJB was addressed by a BNP leader, Besharat Ullah. Later links between Khaleda’s Deputy Minister for Land, Ruhul Kuddus Talukder Dulu and JMB also surfaced.

The sinister reach and influence of the JMB was exhibited in 2005, when the outfit detonated 500 bombs at 300 locations all over Bangladesh (63 out of the 64 districts) within 30 minutes.

The stronghold of the JMB was the Northwestern part of Bangladesh. The principal import of JMB/JMJB ideology is an Islamic State based on Sharia and neutralization of left-wing cadres of Purba Banglar Communist Party (PBCP), which it did with ruthless and unsparing violence. The rabid anti-communist credentials of JMB and associated organisations came in handy to the anti- government political forces in West Bengal. They argued that some extraordinary method was needed to break the CPMs stranglehold on state apparatus achieved purely by means of intimidation and ideological subversion over the years.

West Bengal exported and sustained Communism in parts of Bangladesh, and in return facilitated demographic assault and import of Islamic fundamentalism from that country.

Consequently these fundamentalists in league with politicians invited the jihadi organizations from Bangladesh to set-up bases in West Bengal at the behest of the politicians. The influx increased with the unremitting persistence of crackdown on these elements by Sheikh Hasina in Bangladesh. The legal assault on their mother organization, i.e. the JeI, by the Awami League regime virtually uprooted them.

The JeI leader, Abdul Quader Molla was hanged in December 2013. He, as a member of the Al-Badr militia during the liberation war, was convicted of killing 344 civilians and other crimes. Very recently another JeI leader and a cabinet minister under Khaleda Zia dispensation, Motiur Rahman Nizami, has also been sentenced to death for war crimes. He too was part of Al-Badr militia during the liberation war.

Earlier, Nizami was also sentenced to death with 13 others in January 2014 for smuggling of arms to India. In 2004, the Bangladesh Coast Guard apprehended 10 truckloads of arms and ammunitions in Chittagong, i.e. a total of 4,930 different types of sophisticated firearms; 27,020 grenades; 840 rocket launchers, 300 rockets, 2,000 grenade launching tubes; 6,392 magazines; and 11,40,520 rounds. It may be reiterated that Nizami was a Cabinet Minister then.

Taking on JeI, which has strong linkages with Islamic fundamentalist organizations the world over, significantly India and Pakistan, is an exceptionally audacious move by any leader of a Muslim majority country. The JeI in Bangladesh is considered a ‘state within state’ and an ‘economy within economy’. It has substantial share in Bangladesh’s banking, insurance, transport, NGOs, education, health care, media, information technology, and pharmaceutical industry sectors. Reportedly, it has a net annual profit of around $ 280 million. On 02 November, one JeI media tycoon Mir Quasem Ali was sentenced to death by the special tribunal for 1971 war crimes. Mir Quasem is a member of the highest policy making body of the JeI.

Concomitantly, the crackdown on fundamentalists and jihadi organizations in Bangladesh engendered corresponding increase in levels of violence in West Bengal. A political party in West Bengal used the displaced jihadis from Bangladesh to deadly advantage. The sophistication and quantity of armory of the armed groups opposing land acquisition in Nandigram in 2007 was bewildering. Organizations like Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) and Bhumi Raksha Committee took on the might of the State. Even the Central Armed Police Forces proved unequal to the challenge. The security apparatus of the State surrendered its dominance, which has since remained so even under the changed dispensation. If one were to deduce from the posturing of the SP of Burdwan, SMH Meerza, in the aftermath of the blasts, the allegation of state complicity may not be unwarranted.

The Soviet Union was humbled by the jihadis in Afghanistan. The narrative ‘Islam Vs Communism’, a very potent and successful at that, was scripted by the US. The same narrative operated in West Bengal. The tool this time was organizations like JMB. The Communists in West Bengal and globally as such, unwittingly facilitated this narrative in overestimating the appeal of their ideology vis-à-vis Islam. It is they who willfully re-engineered the State’s demography by illegal immigrants from Bangladesh for vote banks. In the late 70s, one chief minister when queried about the phenomenon of illegal migration said that he did not distinguish between the proletariat of India and Bangladesh. With illegal migration Islamic fundamentalism made strong in-roads in West Bengal. Communist ideology and Islamic fundamentalism developed a symbiotic partnership and borders became incidental. The same fundamentalist elements, who served as Communist vote-banks, turned their back and began to support a party, which they perceived as even more indulgent to fundamentalism. Their new found leader went to the extent of public display of ‘namaz‘, solely for consumption of media.

Bangladesh is critical for ISI for destabilizing operations against India, particularly east and the north-east. In this the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has acted as steadfast facilitator. No sooner, Sheikh Hasina came to power in January 2009, there was a desperate bid to dislodge her by the ISI backed Bangladesh National Party (BNP). It took the form of engineering a revolt in the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), the para-military organization. 57 BDR Officers drawn from the Bangladesh Army were killed, it included the BDR Chief, Maj Gen Shakil Ahmed, Deputy Chief and 16 Sector Commanders. The main target was Sheikh Hasina. There are reports to suggest that this was a desperate bid by the ISI and its jihadi affiliates. The truck between Khaleda Zia and the ISI is well established.

Sensing certain electoral defeat Khaleda Zia boycotted the elections in 2014 on specious pleas. The nexus between the ISI, Khaleda Zia’s BNP and the jihadi organizations have only strengthened, rather become more vicious. This combine is again trying to dislodge her by any means. The difference this time is that West Bengal is serving as a base for the war against Sheikh Hasina dispensation.

The dispensation in West Bengal appears to be so indebted or beholden to these Bangladesh based jihadi outfits and their benefactors and affiliates that on their calling it sabotages every conciliatory, beneficial reach out bid by Sheikh Hasina towards India. It is for this reason that it opposes the Teesta Water Treaty or the proposed exchange of enclaves between the two countries.

It is not only the ISI-BNP-Jihadi combine that wants to see the political end of Sheikh Hasina, there are extra regional powers who want the same for strategic reasons. As elsewhere on the globe, these powers are not averse in using the same jihadi organization that they decry otherwise. In the past they have done it with Al Qaeda and they have done it with Taliban. Al Qaeda has not been dismantled after the elimination of Osama bin Laden. Instead, the new chief al-Zawahiri has established Jamaat Qaidat al-jihad fi’shibhi al-qarrat al-Hindiya or Organisation of The Base of Jihad in the Indian Sub-Continent under Asim Umar, who is an Indian. This new outfit has strong Bangladesh and West Bengal underpinnings. The leader of the Afghan-Taliban, Mullah Omar is still at large due to deliberate oversight of the US and its allies.

Just as Taliban was financed in the early 90s by American Oil Company Unocal to convert them into pipeline police, certain jihadi outfits are possibly being courted to dislodge Sheikh Hasina so that the dispensation in waiting could provide the much needed foothold and access in the Bay of Bengal. Bangladesh and China have been engaged in serious negotiations for construction of deep water port at Sonadia near Cox’s Bazar. Reportedly, China has offered $5 billion for construction of this port. Reports suggest that the proposal was very much on the agenda of Sheikh Hasina during her recent visit to China in June 2014, but finally refrained from signing an MoU in deference to the security sensitivities of India and under enormous pressure by the US. The US has been vying for a presence in the Bay of Bengal (Chittagong), wherein China is active by its presence in Kyaukpyu port on Myanmar’s western coast. There are apprehensions in India that Sonadia may turn out to be another Gwadar for China. Bay of Bengal has overbearing security imperative of India not only in respect of its eastern coast, but also for the criticality of retaining sea based second strike nuclear capability.

The overall manifestation of the geopolitical flux in the Bangladesh – West Bengal region is its descent into hub of jihadi terrorism. Earlier, India blamed Bangladesh for harbouring Indian terrorists and insurgents, now the reverse is happening, not because of the omissions and commissions of the Union Government but arguably because of the commissions of the state government.

In West Bengal, some of the madrasas (500 recognised and 4,000 unrecognised) are engaged in indoctrination, recruitment and training of jihadis. As per the NIA, there are 58 terror modules operating in the state. The objective of the jihadi outfits present in West Bengal is not only to dislodge Sheikh Hasina government, but also serve as a conduit for manpower resources to Al Qaeda and ISIS. It is not mere coincidence that some Indian youth, especially from Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, willing to join the two organizations headed for West Bengal for their onward jihadi journey.

The most worrisome part is the criminalization of women and children in West Bengal by the jihadi organisations. The NIA has identified more than a dozen woman cadres in two madrasas of Burdwan and Murshidabad districts, who are being trained in arms and jihadi activities. The Chief Minister of West Bengal should worry that JMB aims at establishing an Islamic Caliphate comprising Bangladesh, Murshidabad, Malda and Nadia districts of West Bengal. If politics blinds her, neither she nor the state will be spared from being consumed by jihadi fire.

(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. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)