Saturday, January 3, 2009

On the Offensive---Islam in Assam, India

Monalisa Gogoi

Assam is a case study of illegal Bangladeshi migrants on the warpath, natural when the border with an overpopulated country isn’t sealed, says TSI''s Pranab Bora Sixty-five-year-old Lakhiram Bodo describes every moment of the past three months in the relief camp as ‘harrowing’. Despite belonging to the Bodo community – the earliest inhabitants of Assam, and the supposed ‘bhumiputras’, he and the entire Bodo population of Dalgaon Batabari were thrown out of their homes by Bangladeshi immigrants in a matter of minutes. Today, their existence at the relief camp has been brought down to this: a tin shed, four kgs of rice, 1.1 kg of dal, 250 ml mustard oil and some salt, “per person, per week”.

“Fifty years ago, there were hardly a hundred such families here; today there are thousands of families. When they attacked us after the first skirmishes in August this year, we couldn’t resist them; our village was burnt and they killed our people…” Bodo’s voice trails off.

Dalgaon Batabari – near Rowta in lower Assam – is one of many villages that has borne the wrath of the immigrant Bangladeshi, albeit with citizenship papers available everywhere, thanks to the corrupt babus and an apathetic administration that thrives on the Bangladeshi votebank. On August 14, the Bodos brought out a procession opposing the Assam Bandh called by the Muslim Students’ Union of Assam (MUSA) that was protesting against the “harassment of genuine Indian Muslims who were being thrown out of upper Assam districts such as Dibrugarh”, as 23-year-old Badrul Islam, MUSA president, says. The total immigrant Muslim population in lower Assam is about seven million. At the time of independence, the Muslim population in Assam stood at 1.9 million. Now, the average growth rate of Muslims in Assam stands at 18 per cent; that of Hindus at 14. Six of Assam’s 27 districts now have a Muslim majority population. While in 13 districts, the growth rate of Muslims is less than 30, in seven it is less than 40. In Karbi Anglong, it is as high as 73.6 with the population going from 10,000 to 18,000 in 10 years.

Statements from two state Governors – SK Sinha and Ajai Singh – along with the Gauhati High Court in recent times now buttress what organisations like All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), that led the six-year-long anti-foreigners’ agitation beginning 1979, have said all along: that the state has been inundated by Bangladeshis who endangered the very existence of local communities. It was the detection of hundreds of Bangladeshis in the voters’ rolls in 1979 at Mangaldoi that sparked AASU’s anti-foreigners agitation.

Yet, the modus operandi of political groups who speak for the illegal migrant remains the same. MUSA’s Islam accepts that census reports show dangerous population growths in these districts, where other indigenous communities showed normal growth. Yet, every time suspected illegal migrants moving to the upper Assam are handed over to the police, the MUSA protests against the “inhuman treatment meted out to them”. The August 14 bandh call was one such protest.
The October 30 serial bomb blasts in Assam – the state is now home to a number of Islamic militant groups – that killed 90 and injured hundreds was a culmination of events. The blasts were claimed by the militant group Islamic Security Force (Indian Mujahideen). While the Congress-led government continues to blame the blasts on militant groups like United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), till date nothing has come out of its so-called investigation.

Sitting in his small “Office of the Muslim Marriage, Divorce, Registration and Kazi” at Dalgaon, Qazi Md Afzal Hussain, an Assamese Muslim says: “During my father’s time, this was a place of forests where tigers have killed people.” Now, Dalgaon is dominated by immigrants, where Muslims have wiped out tribal belts. As for empowering the Bangladeshi migrant woman – most of them illiterate and some bearing up to 20 children, Hussain says he hasn’t heard of the new nikahnamah released by the All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board.

The results are evident. As opposed to the sparsely populated Bodo relief camp at Rowta; the displaced immigrants lodged at camps at Dalgaon lives in squalor, the camps overpacked with unthinkable living conditions. Bashid Ali, one of the inmates, claims their village was attacked by Bodo and Bengali Hindu people, an indication that the Hindu and Muslim Bangladeshis are now at loggerheads in what, all said and done, is a war for land. The rate at which the immigrant Muslim rampages through the districts of Assam is something that local communities have found impossible to resist. At the receiving end is not just the Bodos, Karbis, Assamese or Bengalis but also the original Assamese Muslim (known as goria), a community that has broken away from the so-called Muslim ‘minority’. “Expect a Bangladeshi as Chief Minister within the next 20 years in this state,” says Nekibur Zaman, Gauhati High Court lawyer, an Assamese Muslim and founder of an organisation ‘Khilonjia Muslim Unnayan Parishad.’ “They may call themselves minorities but there are 20 Bangladeshi MLAs even now in the state Assembly.”

For the “mainstream” politician, all of it is to be shrouded in skewed, convenient statistics. Maulana Fazlul Karim Qasimi, a goria Muslim and the convenor of the Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF), agrees that there is a conspiracy: “For many political parties, keeping the immigrant population an uneducated, proliferating Bangladeshi lot helps their interests, as children born today will vote after 18 years.” Its victims are both the immigrants and local communities. The toll in the August-October clashes stood at over 50. Add to that the 855 students killed during the Assam agitation, followed by the thousands who have been killed during the insurgency that was an offshoot of the agitation. And as people here point out – this is what is happening to India in its northeast, thanks to the our calloys and self-thanking politicians.

Kayani comes out of the closet

Rajinder Puri

At last, General Pervez Ashfaq Kayani has come out of the closet to vindicate an apparent truth that the world had refused to acknowledge. Namely, that it is Beijing and not Washington that calls the shots in Islamabad. America wields clout with the politicians. China has control over the army. The army controls the politicians. Ergo, China controls Pakistan.

Condoleezza Rice, John Negroponte, Richard Boucher and Admiral Mullen were at the head of a procession of US bigwigs who trooped into Islamabad to read the riot act to politicians and the army. There was no impact. Islamabad remained defiant. When politicians such as Nawaz Sharif did speak the truth they quickly retracted to toe the army's line. Worse, even in the comparatively outspoken media, with a few honourable exceptions, noted columnists endorsed Pakistan's farcical state of denial inspired by the army.

Well, China's vice foreign minister came to Islamabad and offered gentle advice to the politicians and the army. Whoosh! General Kayani deflated like a punctured balloon and somersaulted 180 degrees to promote de-escalation! Beijing therefore has left nobody in doubt about Pakistan's source of defiant strength. What lesson should India draw from this? Primarily that it should not be carried away by silly sentiment.

If China has pressured Pakistan now it is for the same reason that it reluctantly climbed down on the Indo-US nuclear deal. With America, Russia and Europe ranged against Islamabad's role in terrorism, China cannot afford to be bracketed with Pakistan which is increasingly perceived as a rogue state. So take with a bucket of salt China's newfound endeavour to restrain Pakistan. Focus instead on the fact that Pakistan's role against India during the last few decades in Kashmir and elsewhere was sustained and encouraged by Beijing.

Nothing has changed as yet. Witness the nitpicking shyster arguments parroted by Pakistani politicians and news columnists that the evidence presented by India on the Mumbai blast would not stand scrutiny in a court of law. What they need to effectively answer is whether the captured terrorist, Kasab, is Pakistani or not? Did the terrorists come by sea from Pakistan or not? The rest is irrelevant.

But Pakistan remains adamant on the core issue. General Kayani has a lot more to do than make a lame statement to restore confidence. India will smell change only after the civilian government in Pakistan visibly enforces its writ on the army. That most likely will be done only after the Communist government in Beijing succeeds in visibly enforcing its writ on China's People's Liberation Army.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

ISI of Pakistan planning to bomb Kolkata

Manan Kumar

NEW DELHI: After wreaking havoc in Mumbai, major towns of West Bengal, including Kolkata, are next on the hit list of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence.

Top sources in the Union Home Ministry confirmed that a group of Harkat-ul-Jihad-al- Islami (HuJI) terrorists has made repeated attempts to enter India recently from Bangladesh through the ‘chicken neck’ corridor.

“There is a possibility that some HuJI terrorists have already crossed over with arms and ammunition and are heading to team up with Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), Indian insurgent group, to carry out lethal terror strikes in West Bengal during end-December and early January,” sources said.

Another intelligence report on Wednesday stated that ULFA militants in Bangladesh are likely to enter through the Karimganj district of Assam, a temporary departure from their established routes of transit in Meghalaya.

Both the states have been alerted by the Centre. The alerts come close on the heels of the arrest in Jammu of three Pakistanis, one of them allegedly an army regular. The trio had come from Dhaka and apparently lived in Kolkata before proceeding to Jammu and Kashmir.

Working in cahoots with Bangladesh’s espionage agency Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI), the ISI, with its sinister plan of ‘bleeding India through thousand wounds’, has made contacts with several Indian insurgent groups.

The recently carried out blasts in Assam that killed 89 were part of this design where the handlers in Bangladesh had roped in ULFA and National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB).

KLO that came into existence in 1995 with the help of ULFA is active in six districts of West Bengal _ South Dinajpur, North Dinajpur, Coochbehar, Jalpaiguri, Malda and Darjeeling _ and four districts of lower Assam - Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Dhubri and Goalpara.

Intelligence agenciesclaim that both ISI and DGFI have made KLO an active partner with HuJI and are constantly helping it to upgrade its strike power by supplying arms, ammunitions and explosives.

“KLO chief Jeevan Singh is sheltered in Bangladesh, and is a protégé of the ULFA,” a senior official said. He hangs around in northern Bangladesh, close to his home constituency. Singh, along with Ranjan Daimary of the NDFB and Paresh Baruah of ULFA are said to be paying off the debt of protection from the HuJI-ISI nexus through "disturbing" eastern India. “Keeping them there cannot be a charitable deed, they would have to pay a price,” said a senior official.

Friday, December 26, 2008

2008 saw emergence of Islamic militancy in Assam

Sanjoy Ray / GUWAHATI

The year 2008 though witnessed lesser casualties of terrorist violence in the State compared to 2007, it, however, saw the emergence of Islamic militancy in the biggest way, even overpowering the impact of decade-old home-grown insurgency. More than 200 civilians have been killed in the State so far (Mid-December), besides 16 security personnel and about 130 terrorists taking the tally of casualties of insurgency to 369.

Of the 130 terrorists killed across the State, around ten were suspected HUJI activists, seven of them were killed in an encounter with the Army in the Dhubri district in September this year.

The month of October this year witnessed killing of around 90 civilians, eight security personnel and 18 insurgents. The month of April remained the most peaceful phase of the year with only 11 deaths taking place.

Last year, the total number of casualties of terrorist violence was around 437, which included 269 civilians.

As many as 29 blasts have rocked the State till mid-December this year, the October 30 serial blasts, which claimed around 90 lives being the biggest ever terrorist attack the region has ever witnessed.

The growing prominence of the outside players in the State came into the fore on October 30, when nine serial blasts ripped apart the State, including three in Guwahati.

Though investigations into the incident is yet to reach any logical conclusion, the preliminary investigation revealed that the perpetrator of the blasts was not the usual ULFA, but were orchestrated by powers, suspected to be the HUJI, from across the border, with Bodo militants providing logistic support.

“The State is facing a new kind of threat and the focus of law-enforcing has more or less shifted to cross-border terrorism than home-grown, with Islamic fundamentalist groups, operating from foreign lands, emerging as the new players in the game of blood and pushing the State’s insurgent outfits, including the ULFA and NDFB, to roles of side players,” concedes a senior Assam Police official while talking to The Assam Tribune.

“We, however, are not undermining the strength of any outfit, be it ULFA, NDFB or some splinter group,” the official stated.

The year 2008 saw the ULFA suffering revolt in its ranks and the proximity of its top leaders with Bangladeshi groups drew flak even from its own members, resulting in unilateral ceasefire agreement by the A and C company of ULFA’s 28 battalion. The potent wing of the outfit decided to join the mainstream with top leaders including Mrinal Hazarika, Joon Bhuyan and Jiten Dutta, leading the cadres.

The Dima Halom Daogah (Jewel faction), popularly known as Black Widow, also made its presence felt, unleashing a reign of terror with killings and blasts in the North Cachar Hills, killing at least 25 people, including police and railway personnel, within a week in May.

In the aftermath of the blasts, the NDFB leadership in designated camps in the State decided to replace Ranjan Daimary as the C-in-C with Dhiren Boro.

The All Adivasi National Liberation Army (AANLA), fighting an armed battle for rights of the Adivasi people, suffered a major setback when its ‘C-in-C’ Mangra Oran alias David was arrested this month from Jharkhand.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Crucial poll in Bangladesh

Hiranmay Karlekar

The general election in Bangladesh, scheduled for December 29, will be most critical for that country’s future. Referring to it, American Ambassador to Bangladesh, Mr James F Moriarty, told the US Commission on International Religious Freedom in Washington on December 11, “The country could achieve a peaceful transition and become a model of a relatively prosperous Muslim majority democracy… Or it could return to the winner-take-all obstructionist politics of previous years.” According to a recent report in Bangladesh’s leading English-language newspaper, The Daily Star, he further told the commission, a Government-funded advisory body created in 1998 to monitor religious freedom around the world and make policy recommendations to the US Administration, that if “Bangladesh stumbles within the coming months, it could become a breeding ground for terrorists and groups wishing to operate in South and South-East Asia”.

It is not difficult to recognise the validity of Mr Moriarty’s observations and identify the forces that could make Bangladesh a breeding ground of terrorist groups. His observation that Bangladesh could “return to the winner-take-all obstructionist politics of previous years” clearly points in the direction of the four- party alliance, of which the two principal constituents are Begum Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, that ruled the country from 2001 to 2006. The BNP was by far the senior partner with 193 seats in the 300-strong Jatiya Sansad or National Parliament, and having polled 41.4 per cent of the votes cast. The Jamaat came a distant third with 17 seats and 4.28 per cent of the votes polled, way behind the Awami League, the main Opposition party, which won 62 seats and secured 40.02 per cent of the votes.

Yet the Jamaat called much of the shots in the coalition Government, stalling action against fundamentalist terrorist organisations like the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami Bangladesh, Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh and Ahle Hadith Andolan Bangladesh. Though international pressure forced the coalition Government to ban these terrorist outfits and arrest their leaders, the organisations remained active. This, it was widely alleged, was made possible by the Jamaat’s support.

In fact, the Jamaat’s Amir, Maulana Matiur Rahman Nizami, and general secretary, Mr Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mojahid, had for a long time even denied the existence of the Operations Commander of the JMJB, Siddiqul Islam, or Bangla Bhai. Understandably, its relations with these organisations have been like those of Pakistan’s Jamaat-ud-Dawah with the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba.

Besides, the Jamaat used its participation in the Government to increase its massive business empire which funds its welfare and other activities aimed at expanding its support base and maintain its organisational infrastructure. It had its followers placed in universities, the armed forces, security agencies, the administration and the judiciary, often having the rules bent for the purpose. Also, thanks to generous help from Mr Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mojahid, who was Minister of State for Social Welfare, there was a vast increase in the number of fundamentalist Islamist NGOs while secular NGOs were subjected to crippling harassment and persecution.

Not surprisingly, Bangladesh became a seething pit of murderous Islamist violence — directed against the secular civil society, the intelligentsia and the Opposition parties like the Awami League — during the rule of the four-party coalition. The horror of the situation was dramatically underlined on April 21, 2004, when a murderous grenade attack was launched at an Awami League rally in Dhaka. Though Sheikh Hasina, the prime target, survived, 22 Awami League leaders perished.

It was symptomatic of the BNP’s visceral hatred for India that some of its leaders insinuated that New Delhi was behind the attack and an inquiry by a former judge with links with the party blamed a neighbouring country without mentioning India. Not so long after the incident, Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister, Mr Mohammad Morshed Khan, publicly warned India that if Bangladesh was India-locked, the seven States of north-eastern India were Bangladesh-locked and that he could wipe out India’s $ 3 billion annual trade with Bangladesh by just issuing one statutory order!

Needless to say, insurgent outfits like the United Liberation Front of Asom, active in north-eastern India, who had earlier been described by Begum Khaleda Zia as “freedom fighters”, received full support from Bangladesh’s Directorate General of Forces Intelligence, which has close links with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. Simultaneously, there was a sharp increase in the incidence of terrorist attacks on India emanating from Bangladesh. That the trend continues, particularly in the North-East, during the current caretaker Government’s regime, was underlined by Home Minister P Chidambaram’s statement in the Lok Sabha on December 15, “The Government of Bangladesh has a responsibility to control the HuJI. In the long run, Bangladesh is hurting itself (by not containing terrorism).

The incidence of terrorist strikes against India from Bangladesh will increase sharply if the election brings the four-party coalition to power. Given the groundswell of support for the Awami League, this will happen only if the election is rigged. Many fear the election will be rigged because both the BNP and the Jamaat managed to install their supporters in the election machinery when they were in power. They have not been weeded out.

Also, attempts at intimidating Hindus, who traditionally support the Awami League, from voting have been reported form districts like Jessore, Khulna, Satkhira, Faridpur, Madaripur, Gopalganj, Jhalakathi, Pirojpur, Chandpur, Noakhali, Pabna, Bagerhat, Narail and Barisal where pockets of Hindu population exist. Hindus are being quietly told not to vote if they want to avoid the kind of communal carnage and gang-rape of their women that occurred in the immediate aftermath of the 2001 general election. Intimidation has also been reported from districts like Sherpur, Mymensingh, Rajshahi, Dinajpur, and Sylhet, which have sizeable pockets of indigenous ethnic minority communities who also traditionally support the Awami League.

New Delhi must mount pressure through the international community to prevent rigging. Poll observers being sent from various countries must be very alert. In any event, India must further step up its fight against terrorism. An important first step will be halting cattle smuggling to Bangladesh which is paid for through hawala transactions, much of the proceeds from which goes to funding terrorist activity here. Do we have the political will for it?

India Increases Vigilance Along Border With Bangladesh Amid Terrorism Threat

By Steve Herman (Voice of America)

India government officials say they have ordered closer surveillance of land borders amid concerns of more potential terrorist strikes inside the country by militants infiltrating from either Bangladesh or Pakistan.

India has increased vigilance along its border with Bangladesh. Domestic media reports say officials made the move following intelligence that suspected militants have entered the state of West Bengal.

There are specific concerns about members of Harkat ul-Jihad-al-Islami, which operates in both Bangladesh and Pakistan, and has been blamed for urban attacks in India in recent years. There are also worries about potential strikes by separatists targeting West Bengal and Assam, who are believed to have camps across the Bangladeshi border.

The director general of the Border Security Force, M.L. Kumawat, tells reporters security has been stepped up in the wake of such intelligence.

"We have asked our people to be highly alert and see that in no circumstances people from other countries can come into our country," he said. "We have heightened our vigilance, heightened our alertness and I can assure you that border guarding forces are much more alert than they were ever before"

The border with Bangladesh is notoriously porous with smugglers routinely moving across it without challenge. Kumawat says that border is of particular concern.

"About Bangladesh border, as you know, we have 4,096 kilometers of border on our eastern frontier and there are some areas where we do not have a fence, even now," he said.

India's home minister Palaniappan Chidambaram told the parliament on Wednesday that he is ordering faster construction of additional fencing along the Bangladesh border.

The minister, who took responsibility for internal security in wake of last month's Mumbai terror attack, also says diplomatic efforts are being made to have the Bangladeshi and Burmese governments take action against anti-Indian insurgents on their soil.

India blames the Mumbai attack on at least 10 radical Islamic terrorists who infiltrated by sea from Pakistan.

That has prompted top Indian government officials to vow to upgrade and unify coastal and port security. At present India has no coordinated system for defense of its shores with security responsibilities divided among more than 20 separate ministries, agencies, departments and civilian and military forces.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

India-Bangladesh border threatens India's security

The reports point out that with easy availability of arms, ammunition and explosives from China via Myanmar and the unholy alliance of terrorists are set to wreak havoc in India as evident from the recent blasts in North India, Tripura and Assam.

by Rupam Banerjee

THE ROLE of Bangladesh has attracted serious scrutiny over the recent serial blasts in India. The Bangladesh Government’s repeated assurance of taking strong actions against terrorist groups appears to be hollow as a section of the Bangladeshi civil and military officials have been working hand in hand with the agents of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan to help out the Islamic terrorists and the militants from India’s North-eastern states and West Bengal.

In fact, according to the intelligence reports, these ISI agents and Bangladeshi officials have now been coordinating between the Indian militants and Islamic terrorists to carry out subversive activities in India.

The reports point out that with easy availability of arms, ammunition and explosives from China via Myanmar and the unholy alliance of terrorists are set to create havoc in India as it is evident from the recent blasts in North India, Tripura and Assam.

The reports have also mentioned that the militants from Assam,. Tripura, Manipur and West Bengal have already undergone a series of training along with the members of the Islamic Jihadi Council (IJC) in the use of different kind of explosives, including RDX and TNT under the supervision of some ISI and Bangladeshi experts.

According to the reports, the Islamic Jihadi Council is comprised of activists from Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI), Lashkar-e-Toiba (L-e-T), Taliban, and Al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist groups, who are now settled in different parts of Bangladesh.

The reports also point out that under the supervision of the ISI and Bangladeshi experts, the IJC members, most of whom are trained in Pakistan and Afghanistan, have been working together with the members of different militant groups from North-East India for carrying out subversive activities in India.

Besides utilising the militants from the North-eastern parts of India, it is feared that the ISI and the IJC may even use the Maoists to carry out serial blasts in different parts of the country. The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) had already arranged meetings between the ISI agents and the Maoists, both in Bangladesh and Nepal.

Reports from across the border said that at least 20 teams, comprising Indian militants and Islamic terrorists, had been formed after extensive training on use of different kinds of explosive to carry out clandestine activities in different parts of India.

These teams had reportedly established contacts with their linkmen in Jalpaiguri, Siliguri, Malda, Murshidabad, Nadia, North and South 24 Parganas and Kolkata in West Bengal. Each team is comprised of at least seven members.

The Intelligence agencies blamed the attitude of the Bangladesh Government and poor management of Indo-Bangla border for the recent spurt in serial blasts in different parts of India. The concerned officials also stated that lack of cooperation from the Bangladesh authorities and insufficient border security forces made it virtually impossible to crack down these militant groups.

They also pointed out that the recent handover of 17 ATTF militants by the Bangladesh Rifles was merely an eyewash. The seventeen militants actually belonged to a breakaway group, which wanted to surrender before the authorities in Tripura. The Bangladesh Rifles intercepted the seventeen militants and put them behind the bar. Later, they were handed over to the BSF authorities.

However, Bangladesh authorities are not leaving any stone unturned to play host to the leaders of Indian militants like Anup Chetia, Paresh Barua and Jiban Singh. Most of these leaders have been running businesses in and around Dhaka and Chittagong with the money extorted from the Indian businessmen and the so-called help from their ‘friends’ in Bangladesh Government.

West Bengal, Assam and Tripura have been demanding for a long time deployment of more Border Security Force battalions for proper manning of the Indo-Bangladesh border. But the Centre continued to turn a deaf ear to their demands.

A senior West Bengal official said that serial blasts were designed to destroy the basic fabric of the country. He further added that it is high time Centre paid more attention to the international border with Bangladesh. He also warned that any further delay would just aggravate the situation.

The official also added that the concerned authorities have intensified vigilance along the border and other vulnerable areas to prevent any subversive activity by the unholy nexus of Islamic terrorists and Indian militants.

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