Dialogue October-December, 2009 , Volume 11 No. 2
The Fulcrum of Eastern Evil: DGFI Directs Terrorism and Jihad against India
Maloy Krishna Dhar*
I have extensively written about the ISI. Many other intelligence experts and authors have also written about this one fourth soul of Pakistan. Some Pakistani authors have also commented on ISI interference in domestic affairs and its jihad against democracy. However, very little attention has been paid by Indian intelligence agencies and security experts about the intelligence edifices of Bangladesh especially the Directorate General of Force Intelligence (DGFI), the spy agency intricately dominated by the Army. It also controls the political destiny of Bangladesh and interferes in Indian’s security concerns.
Bangladesh intelligence machineries are pivoted around:
· The Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI),
· The Directorate General of National Security Intelligence
· Military Intelligence (MI)
· Intelligence units of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR)
· Intelligence units of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB)
· Criminal Intelligence Department (CID)
· Presidential Security Force (PSF).
Our focus is on the DGFI, a cousin of the ISI. Before we get down to elaborate the ISI, DGFI and Jiahdi Tanzeem collaboration in spearheading jihadist terrorist actions in India, it is necessary to understand certain basics.
There is no need to panic about Bangladesh being branded as one of the exporters of Jihad to India, besides exporting people to India in a steady flow. Migration from Eastern Bengal to the more developed Western Bengal, Bihar and Assam had been a historic feature, which took a communal turn with imbalance in demographic feature in several Indian states and involvement of Bangladeshi intelligence agencies and nationals in executing terror actions in India. Export of Jihad is a new development. But the use of East Pakistan/Bangladesh soil by the Inter Services intelligence and its cousin, the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence, can be traced back to 1948, when Pakistan Intelligence bureau smuggled out A.Z. Phizo, the rebel Naga leaders from India by securing him inside a coffin. Insurgency in Indian Northeast and involvement of Pakistani and Bangladesh intelligence agencies are inseparable.
However, deep inside, the common people of Bangladesh are secular and left to the democratic elements, they would like to trim the fiery operations of the BDR, RAB, NSI etc and ask the DGFI to function as a simple foreign intelligence gathering agency and supplementing the Military Intelligence. Unfortunately for Bangladesh and India the secular forces were crippled, almost irretrievably, by the Pakistan loyalist Jamait-e-Islami and its tentacles, Pakistan oriented cardes of the Armed Forces and assassination of Bangabandhu Mujib, his Family members and most of the frontline freedom fighters. Bangladesh’s army coup was resourced by the ISI, the Pakistani State and the CIA. However, it may be noted that some Bangladeshi diaspora have started voicing opposition to the DGFI and army domination. A few political leaders have also joined the struggle in a low key manner. I would mention about a few at the end of this dissertation.
The proxy war operations against India by Pakistan IB and the ISI from East Pakistan had ceased temporarily after 1971 liberation war. However, the link was revived after President Zia-ur-Rahman, the self-proclaimed Father of the Nation, visited Pakistan in September 1977. Zia permitted the Bangla Jamait chief Ameer Ghulam Azam to return to Bangladesh and reopen his shop. The Jamait later became a political partner of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). It is also described by secular Bangladeshis as - Bangla Name Pakistan.
President Zia-ur-Rahman had the privilege of receiving in Dhaka two distinguished but low profile foreign visitors some time in late October 1977. one of them, Lt. General Ghulam Jillani Khan, the ISI chief and the architect of Afghan mujahideen war, was one time boss of Zia. The other visitor, who flew in a special flight from Bangkok, was Michael Hayden, the CIA Chief. Their discreet visit was followed by formation of the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence as a part of Military and external intelligence in November 1977.
In mid 1978 about twenty army officers assigned to the DGFI were deputed to the Camp Peary, “The Farm” training centre of the CIA in Virginia. Later in the same year another group was deputed to the Hartford training facility of the CIA in North Carolina. The DGFI also started sending its officers to the ISI training Centre in Islamabad.
Presently the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) is headed by Major General Golam Mohammed. Till 2007 Ghulam Azam’s son Brig Azam Mir was the most influential Deputy Director of the DGFI. He was removed by the present Army dominated so called caretaker Government after Mir’s hands were exposed for involvement in large scale of Bihari labour killings in Assam by the ULFA.
During the BNP regime, in which the Jamait-e-Islami was a partner, the DGFI was saturated with officers ideologically loyal to Pakistan and Jamait-e-Islami and dormant elements of the Muslim League, who took shelter under the wings of the BNP and Jatiya Oikya Party, a part of the coalition govt. Present Bureau chiefs, Brigadier General A.T. M. Amin and Brigadier General Fazlul Bari, are two of the most powerful movers-and-shakers of this current military regime headed by Army Chief General Moeen U. Ahmed. Political leaders in Bangladesh allege that General Moeen uses the DGFI for internal political manipulations. The 14 storied building of the DGFI is located near Kachukhet (arum field) Bazaar near the army GHQ. It is also known as Key Point Installation. With about 10,000 officers the DGFI is spread over 64 districts and over 50 Upa-Zillas. Besides Dhaka, its large presence has been observed in Rajshahi, Jessore, Chattagram, Sylhet and Mymensingh. In internal matters the DGFI started open interference from the time of General Zia and it was intensified by General Ershad. General Zia is considered as the father of Islamisation of Bangladesh. His father, a chemist in pre-partition Calcutta, was a prominent Muslim League leader. His Muslim League chromosomes had the better of his Bengali nationalism that had promoted him to rise in protest against Pakistani genocide. General Ershad consolidated the Islamisation process and allowed the Jamait and other Islamist organisations and gave a free hand to the DGFI to collaborate with the ISI for operations in India’s Northeast.
Two DGFI heads before Golam Mohammad, Major General ASM Nazrul Islam and Major General Sadiq Hasan Rumi played important roles in establishing firm relationship with the Northeast insurgent groups and accommodating Pakistani Jihadi groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jais-e-Mohammad, Hijbut Tehrir etc. the Pakistan branch of the Harkatal-ul Jihad al Islami was allowed to train and motivate the Bangladesh branch of the HuJI. These tanzeems were used for Joint and Loner operations inside India under guidance of the ISI’s Dhaka station and the DGFI.
The DGFI is mostly staffed by military personnel with attached field units and detachments in the Bangladesh Rifles, which are equivalent to the Border Rangers of Pakistan, and to some extent, it follows the training and functional pattern of the Indian Border Security Force. The DGFI maintains intelligence unit components in the RAB, who normally liaise with the insurgents and terrorist groups in India.
The agency is divided into twelve Bureaus, each one handling subject and territory desks. Back in November 2005 Colonel Shafiq was the bureau in-charge of India Division. In recent months, Colonel Rabiur Islam has replaced him. In India’s neighbourhood, Bureau 3 handles Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka, through there is a separate Bureau for the SAARC countries. These officers report to the chief of the South Asia Division of the agency. The India desk has four distinct sections, which handle North Eastern states, West Bengal, rest of India and Muslim affairs in India. In 2002, a new Bureau X was started for overseeing activities of the internal and international Jihadi Tanzeems. Knowledge sources in Bangladesh opine that this particular Bureau also plans and gets executed subversive operations in India. A part of the Bureau, known as Dawa Section, handles Islamic NGOs, zaqat matters and supervises internal and external money flow to these organisations. Like the ISI, the DGFI has also an ISPR division, which works as the public face for Pakistan Army.
As mentioned the officer corps of the DGFI and personnel of the NSI have been extensively trained in Pakistan and the CIA and the M16 have also imparted occasional trainings. There exist special arrangements with Pakistan for training of Bangladeshi military and civilian intelligence officers by the Inter Services Intelligence of Pakistan. The special units of the DGFI are also required to undergo CIA type commando training. Most of them are expert in handling explosives, sophisticated weapons and other black arts of intelligence trade.
Officers of the DGFI and occasionally NSI are assigned cover postings to diplomatic missions in countries considered important for strategic intelligence to Bangladesh. According to Indian intelligence departments, there are about 9 Bangladeshi cover intelligence operations in its Delhi and Kolkata missions.
With personal knowledge and knowledge borrowed from institutions it can be safely asserted that the DGFI has excellent penetration in India, including numbers of penetrations amongst the intelligentsia, academia, print and Kolkata based electronic media (TV channels), political parties, business community and certain minority organisations and institutions and institutions. The allegation that the DGFI has achieved penetration in the National Security Advisory Board cannot be shrugged off. Top Indian agencies require hard examination of these affirmative statements.
Besides the DGFI and NSI, intelligence units exist in the BDR and RAB. While the BDR generates shallow trans-border intelligence, the RAB is tasked to generate intelligence on the Communist and Maoist (santrasbadi) organisations and several Indian terrorist groups operating from Bangladesh soil. The RAB is better known for ‘cross fire’ killings of suspected ‘santrasbadi’ euphemism for groups operating against the BNP alliance. Both the BDR report to home Department but the DGFI is mandatorily kept informed.
To understand the growth and stranglehold of the DGFI and related Islamist groups on secular Bangla Muslim psyche, a little diversion to past history is necessary. Pakistan ideology was conceived in Punjabi and United Province’s Muslim minds, but the political movement was spearheaded by a section of Urdu speaking Muslims; a handful of Bengali speaking Ashraf and most other Ajlaf Muslims were mobilized by the ulama and a few Muslim landloard. Economic clashes against Hindu landlords and business and Bengali Hindu dominance in the services had strengthened the separatist tendency.
Nationalism had dawned on Bengali Muslims much earlier than the Aligarh brand renaissance was spearheaded by Sir Sayyid Ahmad, a close associate of the British rulers. Alongside Hindu renaissance in Bengal, Muslim renaissance also started through vernacular media, association with Hindu elite and faster access to educational institutions. Both urban and rural Bengali Muslims were responsible for spearheading secular, linguistic, and cultural nationalism. However, the Urban based section of the Urdu speaking Muslim Ashrafs were influenced by the Upper and Northeast Indian Muslims who, from the beginning stuck to the historic belief of separatism and the need for separate Muslim national identity. In present Bangladesh too these two distinct lines of division are clearly visible.
To make the analysis brief Pakistan had never reconciled with the break up of its territorial integrity and defeat of religion based Two Nation theory. Sooner than latter, it piloted a conspiracy to eliminate the top freedom fighters and succeeded in giving rebirth to the Islamist forces. After the Afghan saga and emergence of Islamic international jihad, Pakistan regained firm foothold in Bangladesh. Acute Islamic fundamentalism and communalism are again threatening the gasping minority that believe in secular concepts. Bangladesh is emerging as the backup replica of Islamist Pakistan.
While the Jamait-e-Islami was revived by Zia-ur-Rahman, its student wing and former Ansar and Badr loyalists rallied around Islamic Chhatra Shibir (student group) with deep connectivity with Islamic Students Organisation of Pakistan and the International Islamic Students Federation. However, proliferation in Islamist jihadi Tanzeems was intensified after the CIA, ISI, DGFI jointly recruited over 30,000 Bengali and about 5000 Rohingiya (Arakanese Muslims) for the Afghan jihad, They were flown or shipped to Pakistan and were trained in ISI managed camps in Peshawar, Quetta, Chaman and later in certain mujahideen run training facilities inside Afghanistan. It may be noted that most of these Bengali recruits were attached to the Hizb-e-Islami group of Gulbuddin Hikmetyar, an ISI stooge, close to General Zia-ul-Haq.
About 8000 remnants of the highly trained Bengali jihadis returned to Bangladesh around 1989-90 along with unaccounted number of Arab Al Qaeda fighters. Bangladesh government headed by Begum Zia denied existence of Al Qaeda members in Bangladesh, but maintained mysterious silence about the Afghan veterans. On return from Pakistan, some even from Bosnia, Kosovo and far off Chechnya, these jihadis fanned out to interior districts and gradually started establishing shop in the form of masjids and madrasas.
There are about 32 listed Islamist terrorist groups in Bangladesh. However, for our purpose brief study of the following is sufficient. I have discussed this in details in my book Fulcrum of Evil-ISI-CIA-Al Queda Nexus. These jihadi organisations are used by the DGFI and the ISI for carrying out jihadi activities in India. Recent incidents of killing of 7 armed HUJI militants infiltrating through Barpeta areas of Assam and serial explosions in Agartala indicate that besides being involved in other parts of India the DGFI supported HUJI and other groups are activating the Northeastern part of the country as well.
The main Bangladesh based Tanzeems are: Jamait-e-Islami (JeI), Islami Chhatra Shibir, Islami Oikyo Jote (IOJ), Harkat-ul-Jihad-Islami (HUJI) The Jihad Movement of Bangladesh, Arakan Rohingya National Orgainsation (ARNO), Rohingya Organisation (RSO) Jagrato Muslim Janata (JMJ), Hijbut Tehrir, Allhar Dal (Party of Allah), Jamait ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (Bangla Bhai), Shahadat-i-Alam-al-Hiqma, Tabilighi Jammat Bangladesh, Ahl-e-Hadis Movement (Hadith) Bangladesh and Sadhin Bangla Islamic Front etc.
Jamait-e-Islami was a political partner of the last BNP government (2002-2007) during whose regime the jihadi fronts escalated their activities that included attack on the British High Commissioner, Sheikh Hasina and forty-nine serial bomb blasts all over Bangladesh in a single day. Very recently HuJI has also been registered as a political party, styled as Independent Democratic Party (IDP). It is a constant factor that most of these organisations have vast madrasa and mosque network all over Bangladesh which churn out jihadi warriors. These very tanzeems have been exploited by the ISI/DGFI sleuths for carrying out attacks in India. Some of the spectacular DGFI orchestrated attacks in partnership with the ISI would be detailed in paragraphs below.
The readers may like to see the ground location of some of the major jihadi tanzeems in Bangladesh:
Jihadi Hubs in Bangladesh
Expanded forms of the abbreviations are: AD (Allhar Dal), HT (Hijbut Tehrir), HUJI (Harkat-ul-Jihad al Islam), and AQ BD (Al Qaeda-Bangladesh). For lack of space it had not been possible to show details of the locations and concentrations of other tanzeems. They are present in all the districts of Bangladesh.
The following operational aspects can be approached through brief analysis of the following:
· Mechanism of sabotage and subversion in India (Jihad),
· Operational tools and modalities of execution,
· DGFI’s loner operations,
· DGFI-ISI joint operations,
· Impact on India’s internal, external and strategic security.
· Motivation and objectives (including historiography) of the Islamist fundamentalist’s agenda and long-term vision against India.
Mechanisms for carrying out sabotage and subversive activities (insurgency, terrorism, jihad, communal actions) involve certain key tradecraft ingredients, which are not normally understood by the media, political class and general analysts. The victims react spontaneously out of pain and memory declassifies the incidents as life advances inevitably. These mechanics involve indoctrination, intensive training, establishment of secret apparatchiks and, support from foreign government/intelligence agencies and ideological fountainheads located in foreign soils.
These operations involve both Macro and Micro planning. The instances of Macro Planning by the ISI and the DGFI require some elaborations though solid instances:
1. In May 1969, a devastating explosion rocked Imphal town. The Manipur police revealed that some youths manufacturing firecrackers had accidentally caused the blast. Intelligence investigation brought out a different angle. Arambam Somorendra Singh had established the United Liberation Front of Manipur in 1964, after the broke away from Meitei State Committee and a faction of the Communist movement started by H. Irabot Singh. His deputies Oinam Sudhir and Naorekpam Biseswar had visited Pakistan in October 1968 to seek help from Pakistan for launching a Naga-type armed revolution in Manipur. Another group of three was sent in January 1969. The team was taken to Decca and was debriefed by Choudry Ghulam Hussain of the ISI, East Pakistan unit. The ISI initially tried to bring about a marriage of the UNLF with the Naga Federal Government. This was not acceptable to the Meiteis, as the slogan of Naga integration had gathered momentum. On return they started experimenting with IED fabrication. The first major venture misfired killing two activist. Police did not go into the depth and allowed the under ground network to flourish. However, the serious 1969 blast ignored as an accident later developed into full fledged armed insurgency.
2. The Varanasi bomb blasts of March 7, 2006 are a classical example of joint micro planning by the ISI and the DGFI. Police and intelligence officials have leaked details of the blasts, speculation about involvement of Lashkar-e-Qahar, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jais-e-Mohammad and HuJI of Bangladesh. Uttar Pradesh Police arrested Imam Waliullah (supposed to be a Jais follower) and six other allegedly belonging to Harkat-ul Jihad al Islami, Bangladesh. The group was reportedly working under directions from Mulana Asadullah, HuJI chief. Several probable reasons that motivated the ‘terrorists’ to mount attack on Varanasi were voiced: retaliation for arrest of a LeT activist in Varanasi in February 2006 and efforts to incite communal trouble. The matter of the fact is that no jihadi tanzeems in Pakistan and Bangladesh are allowed to operate in India on the basis of their own battle-order (ORBAT). In most cases, these are well-orchestrated and controlled operations by the ISI/DGFI, guided directly by an officer of the DGFI located in Kolkata. Indian agencies have not yet been able to trace the footsteps of ISI/DGFI planning in this dastardly attack.
External tools used by the DGFI/ISI evolve out of continuous Intelligence Estimate reports prepared by the JIM, JIX and JIN divisions of the ISI and India division of the DGFI. Each country prepares such estimates from its own strategic point of view. Convergence takes place at operational level. Collaboration between the two agencies and Loner operations depend on the objectives outlined by the higher commands in the agencies and ruling military coterie, mostly without consultations with the political masters, if they happen to be around.
The intelligence estimates pass through several stages:
1. Operational appreciation of the Intelligence Estimate of the targeted fault lines in India.
2. Political approval (in some cases as in Punjab and Assam) of the scheme of operation.
3. Finalisation of operational details by the concerned agency desk and selection of operations team.
4. identification of retired officers of the concerned agencies (in most cases) to work as buffer between the agency and the selected Tanzeem entrusted to execute the operation. This category is applicable to ‘lone operations target’ and ‘selected one time job’, like serial bomb blasts in Mumbai, attack on Ayodhya and Varanasi.
5. The same category has a variation: retired officers, businessmen having transactions in the target country and area, and leaders of the disaffected groups living outside the aimed operations area. For example, the ULFA had initially used a Bangladesh businessman to contact the ISI and DGFI in Dhaka. Later the leaders had frequented Pakistan to smoothen their transactional relationship. Earlier to this the ULFA had started with drawing sustenance from Kachin and Shan bases and later switched over to Bangladesh and Pakistan after the Shans and the Kachins joined the pro-democracy movement against the Myanmar government.
6. The religious congregations play a substantial role. Jammats like Jamait-e-Islami, Deobandi, Wahabi, Barelvi, Ahl-e-Hadith, Jamait al Salafi, Harkat-ul-Jihad al Islami and Tablighi Jammat have presence in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Protagonists of these jammats and some selected leaders, halqas, and Dawat-e-Islami Markazis (groups operating in qasbas, cluster of villages) also play significant roles in assisting the garlanded tanzeems across the subcontinent. In most cases, there is ideological convergence amongst the Salafi, Wahabi and Jamait-e-Islami and Ahl-e-Hadith protagonists. The SIMI and the Indian Mujahaideen are parts of this conglomerate. This ‘garlanding effect’ produces chain reactions and national boundaries are obliterated by the operating tanzeems. Master intelligence agencies guide them. Cells and modules of these groups (cell=1 to 3 persons; module=5 to 10 persons) are exploited for local safe housing, transaction of hardware and monetary resources, manufacturing of explosive etc.
For record it must be added that the Indian stream of Deoband do not support Jihad in the form of terror actions. Its counterparts in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan are actively involved in Jihad activities.
In case of ‘area operations’, these ‘garlanded’ fifth column elements work as important link chains with the internal forces of the insurgent groups. In cases of ‘Job specific’ operations these hubs chaperon the infiltrated agents of the ISI and DGFI nominated tanzeems, provide safe houses, arrange lines of communication, hawala transaction, surveillance of the target area, conducting dry runs and carrying out the assigned operation. After execution the local markazis and collaborators help the ‘guest performers’ to cross border and evaporate in Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan (in some cases J&K).
7. The markazis and cell and module members are gradually integrated with the tanzeems units of Pakistan and Bangladesh and various offshoots of AL Qaeda and Taliban brand Jihad Inc, which manage to set up own colonies (cells, modules) in areas dominated by favourable tanzeems. Foreign tanzeems cells often choose neutral locations to avoid suspicion. Neutral locations are normally headed by accomplished individuals (educated or underemployed),who have undergone ideological transformation by electronic propaganda (internet etc), perceived grievances of discrimination and infusion of jihadi ideology from the ambience of perceived collision of civilizations between Islam and non-Islamic forces. These aspects have been detailed in training manual of the Al Qaeda.
8. Whenever and wherever possible the local markazis and guest jihadis set up havens in open safe places amongst compatible population areas. In urban areas such population live in exclusive ghetto-type concentrated areas, which are not easily accessible to police and intelligence. Take the instance of Jamia Nagar Batla House have. There was no access to police and intelligence till the beans were spilled during interrogation of Abul Basir Azamgharia.
9. Frequently madrasas, maktabs, and mosques infiltrated by jihadi tanzeem elements are also used for sheltering and as launching bases. ISI and DGFI sponsored tanzeem members generally gravitate to Indian counterparts of their mother tanzeems. Madrasas and religious places owned and run by Ahl-e-Hadith in India are the normal and likely sheltering holes for Pakistani and Bangladeshi tanzeem members owing allegiance to Jamait Ahl-e-Hadith, Jamait-e-Islami, HuJI, JMB, LeT and Jash-e-Mohammad. For example, the Rahmani masjid (headed by Maulana Rahman) and madarssa in Delhi’s Azadpur area is known for its Salafi, Ahl-e-Hadith, and Jamait-e-Islami affiliation. Several other smaller mosques and madrasas in the NCR owe allegiance to this institute. Similarly, madrasas, and mosques dominated by Maulana Mukhtar Abbas Nadvi in Maharashtra are known as hub-centres of the same jammat conglomeration. Similar centres exist in several places in Assam, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and other places.
10. It is not necessary for the ‘visiting terrorists’ to make a beeline for the designated mosques and madrasas. Their Tanzeem and intelligence agency’s handlers give them a blue print of sympathetic hubs, cells, and modules such cell could be in a busy market place near Bandra mosque, Antop Hill, Wadala Bangali Tola, Memon Wada Bazar, and Jakarta Masjid Street in Mumbai or Batla House, Sunlight Colony and Seelampur in Delhi. In most cases, tanzeems collaborators in India arrange safe houses and provide logistics support.
DGFI Loner Operations are important from India’s long-term internal and external security considerations. Wherever necessary these operations are conducted in collaboration with National Security Intelligence, MI, BDR and RAB field intelligence units.
The DGFI runs its independent operations in West Bengal, certain areas of Bihar, Jharkhand, Nepal Terai, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, and Tripura. These operations can be broadly classified into four categories:
1. Classical intelligence gathering for political, military and commercial purposes.
2. Creation of long-term intelligence assets amongst print and electronic media, academia, literati, culterati, key business interests and general opinion makers.
3. Establishing sphere of influence among Muslim ulama, institutes, political figures, disaffected groups and correlated tanzeems operating in ‘sat bon champa’ and Indian Bengal areas.
4. Assisting Indian insurgent and terrorist groups.
I wish to confine to the last two categories.
Besides formal visits through legal channels several Bangladeshi madaris and ulama affiliated to King Faisal University, Dhaka, Jahangirnagar University, Savar, Darul Ishan University, Dhanmondi-Dhaka and Islamic Foundation, Dhaka visit mosques and madrasas in Muslim dominated areas in Assam, especially Tanjim-ul-Madaris at Hojai and Markazul Ma’arif Education & Research Centre. These informal contacts are frequent in madrasas and Islamic institutions in Barak valley. They also establish contact with several Muslim institutions in Manipur including People’s United Liberation Front, Darul Uloom, Rabita Madaris-e-Arabiya, and Madrasa Alia etc.
Unofficial movements and contacts of Bangladeshi madaris and ulama have been reported from places like Markazi Ahle Hadis Hind, Delhi, and Indian HQ of the Tablighi Jammat, Maddis-e-Azam Mission, Gujarat; Silsila Shahiya Asrariya Khanaq at Jamshedpur, Bhagalpur, Azamgarh and Mumbai.
Operations experts of the DGFI also patronize formal and informal movements of the Tablighi Jammat activists between the North eastern states, West Bengal, Nepal Terai and Bihar and Bangladesh. Such visits are used to locate and prime usable intelligence talents and talents who would promote the long-term ‘theopolitical interests of Bangladesh. Though touted as a non-political proselytizing body (born in India – 1927), Tablighi Jammat movement has assumed importance with branches in all the Muslim countries, and countries having sizeable Muslim population.
In Pakistan important leaders like Benzir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif, president Mohammad Rafique Tarar, and the former ISI chief Javed owed allegiance to the Tabilighi Jammat movement.
The DGFI’s loner operations involve disaffected Indian groups like Tripura Tribal Volunteer Force, Tripura national Liberation Front, Tripura Tribal Youth Force, (a splinter group of All Tripura Tribal Youth Force). The DGFI actively supports Achik National Volunteer Council and Hynniewtrep Achik Liberation Council of Meghalaya. However, the DGFI tries to handle the Meghalaya groups through the NSCN (IM) and ULFA, as the two big brothers of NE insurgent groups claim equal suzerainty on the Khasi-Garo and Jaintiya Hills. Besides the ULFA and the NDFB, the DGFI actively supports the Kamtapuri Liberation Organisation (West Bengal), Dima Halam Daoga, and United Peoples Democratic Solidarity of NC Hills, Assam.
Of the Manipur separatist groups the main tools of the DGFI are: United National Liberation Front, People’s Liberation Army, PREPAK, People’s United Liberation Front, United Islamic Revolutionary Army, North East Minority Front, Hmar People’s Convention-Democracy, and Indigenous People’s Revolutionary Alliance.
In Assam, besides the ULFA main clients of the DGFI are: The SIMI, Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam, United Liberation Front of Barak Valley, Muslim United Liberation Front of Assam (MULFA), United Liberation Militia of Assam, Islamic Sevak Sangh, United Muslim Liberation Front of Assam and Revolutionary Muslim Commandos etc.
West Bengal does not have any geographically localized separatist group except the SIMI and the KLO-Kamtapuri Liberation Organisation. However, intensive infiltration by Bangladesh nationals in at least 5 West Bengal districts has created a compatible demographic map. Several cells and modules of the SIMI exist alongside units of the HuJI, Bangla Bhai, Allhar Dal and JMB in the bordering districts, Kolkata and its industrial suburbs. These units facilitate infiltration by Pakistan trained terrorist, their safe housing, and transfer of explosive materials from Bangladesh to India and onward facilitation of personnel and materials to target areas to Indian heartland. There are several reports to indicate that Kolkata based DGFI based DGFI operations maintain liaison with these elements and guide their operational activities.
DGFI and ISI joint operations do not merit detailed discussion. Connectivity of the NSCN (IM), ULFA and NDFB etc with the ISI and DGFI has been amply highlighted by various authors.
ISI operatives in Bangladesh do not run independent camps for Indian terrorist groups. Some of these camps in Chittagong Hill Tracts (3), Sylhet (4), Netrokona (2), Tangail (2), Jamalpur (2) and Rangpur (2) are patronized by the ISI and some Islamic NGOs supported by Arab countries and fronted by HuJI, JMB, and Ahl-e-Hadith tanzeems. It may be remembered that except the Afghan Bureau the JIN and JIX run terrorist camps for Kashmiri youths under cover of Pakistani Jihadi tanzeems. The Afghan Bureau had conducted open camps under direct supervision and control of ISI officers.
Mission based ISI officers maintain liaison with the Bangladeshi tanzeems and some direct operational tasks are assigned to them. During last five years, only four instances of independent arms induction by the ISI through Bangladesh for Indian and Myanmar insurgents were reported. In one such case, (April 2006), the RAB had intercepted one consignment near Guimara in CHT adjacent to South Tripura border. The consignment meant for the NSCN (IM) was later released after Dhaka intervened.
Another common platform of operation involves the Rohingya rebels of Myanmar. Besides Ukhia the DGFI and the ISI run camps and training facilities for the Rohingya groups at Teknaf, Sonaichhari and Rejupara. In some of these camps Muslim separatists belonging to Barisan Nasional Pember-Basan Pattani, Pattani Islamic Mujahideen Movementand Pattani united Liberation Organization of southern Thailand are also imparted training. During the peak days of Afghan jihad these training facilities were used as transit based for the Filipino, Indonesian, and Malaysian jihadis recruited by the CIA.
The major areas of ISI and DGFI cooperation involve the following aspects of jihad inside India:
1. induction of trained LeT, JeM, HuM and HuJI jihadis from Pakistan and their safe housing with compatible Bangladeshi tanzeems cells.
2. Extensive training to Pakistan based terrorist on India-Bangladesh border for acquainting them with the terrain, people and their behavioural pattern.
3. Joint training with Bangladeshi jihadi talents for inculcating team spirit.
4. Identification of cells and modules in India for smooth passage to the target area, establishment of communication channel, preparation of retreat route.
5. Joint training in assembling of explosive devices to be used in a given operation.
Recent serial bomb blasts have proved that innumerable modules and cells have been established in India and the SIMI and newly floated Indian Mujahideen have been involved in these joint or longer jihadi ventures.
Similarly, the ISI and the DGFI scout out appropriate and motivated Indian tanzeem members with help from friendly cells and modules. In at least three cases, undercover ISI and DGFI officials were noticed contacting Indian tanzeems members belonging to SIMI, HuJI, Ahl-e-Hadith at places like Ajmer, Jaipur, Agra and Lucknow. Once chosen, these Indian tanzeem members are transported to Bangladesh and Pakistan through safe routes where they undergo tactical and motivational training for about three months. On return, these members are used for spawning new cells and modules in target areas. They later impart training in camps locally arranged by their master trainers. Some of the routes to Pakistan run through terrorist controlled routes in Kashmir and some chosen Kashmiri terrorists are used to activate these cells for carrying out selected operations.
Another aspect of joint operations includes funding of some of the Indian tanzeems through Islamic NGO based in Bangladesh. Some of the suspected NGOs are Proshika, International Voluntary Service, Bangladesh Unnayan Parishad, Akota Palli Samaj Unnayan Samity, Islamic Heritage, Dawa committees run by the Jamait-e-Islami and several other listed jihadi organizations. Such funds are liberally transferred to India purportedly for supporting poor students and enterprising unalamas. It is known that great quantity of such funds received from Arab NGOs and Pakistani sources are transferred to consolidate the separatist elements amongst Indian Muslims.
I would like to conclude these complicated technical aspects of joint ISI and GDFI operations by mentioning the tragic incidents of serial bomb blasts in Delhi on the eve of Deepavali festival in 2005.
There are plausible indicators to believe that Major Burhanuddin of the Special Operations Cell of the DGFI had crossed over to India with valid documents about ten days before the incident and spent three in days in Kolkata. About six days before the incidents, he was present in Delhi and was seen at a suspect guesthouse in Delhi with an undercover First Secretary of the Pakistan High Commission. Soon after he returned to Kolkata and exited for Dhaka. The Kolkata station chief chief of the DGFI S.A. Biswas traveled to Delhi and met another Pakistani diplomat. Biswas was present in Delhi on the day the serial blasts took place.
In the Varanasi serial blast incident both LeT and HuJI members with
the help from SIMI took leading roles after they were housed and training at Char Gopalnagar (Khulna) and traveled to Varanasi through cell-points at Behampur (WB), Bhagalpur and Bare (Bihar). They were housed at the Ahl-e-Hadith madrassa-mosque near Varanasi cantonment station and at Madanpura behind Gowdaulia market. There is supportable information that an undercover officer of the ISI at Dhaka and a Captain of the DGFI Special Operations Cell had visited Isurdi to contact the HuJI area commander Barkatul Rahman Bablu. He was supposed to be the liaison man between the spy agencies and the tanzeem members that perpetrated the Varanasi incident.
An analysis of the jihadist violent incidents in India outside Kashmir and the North- East, indicate that the ISI and the DGFI have worked out two well-defined corridors channels to infiltrate and exfiltrate their home based operators and Indian tanzeem collaborators. These corridors and pockets are likely to emerge as unbroken links of a Grand Plan to create jihadi tanzeems cells and modules all over India, carry out violent actions against targets assigned by Pakistan and Bangladesh, and finally demand other homelands for the Indian minorities.
Willy-nilly some caste based political and societal leaders are openly aiding and abetting these designs of Pakistan and Bangladesh simply for a few more votes. They even defend a known jihadi tanzeem like SIMI and describe sordid encounters at places like Jamia nagar as fake. Some of these leader finance even Hindu owned Urdu newspapers which openly publish pro-jihadist and secessionist views. It is surprising that Indian political structure has also been infected.
The basic fact remains that Islamisation of Bangladesh by Zia-ur-Rahman and DGFI collaboration with the ISI and the CIA in Afghan jihad had transformed the secular soul of Bangladesh considerably. Steve Schippert, US journalist revealed that out of the 2500 AI-Qaeda and Taliban jihadis arrested by Pakistan after 2001 war on Afghanistan by USA were released. Beside Algerians, Sudanese and Arabs this released contingent included Bangladeshi Talibans.
Abdulahdi Khalaf, Department of Sociology, Lund University, Sweden is working on a project to examine the success and subsequent fragmentation of the Afghan Jihad movement and its close connection to several simultaneous process: a) the growth of Islamism, b) the regional ramifications of the Cold War, and c) the emergence of Jihad as an alternative ‘new space for collective action’. As a trans-national movement, that has its roots in the Third World; it present some of the understudied aspects of globalisation processes.
The depth and of Islamisation of Bangladeshi Muslim can be inferred from the following excerpt. “While a great majority of the detainees on U.S. mainland are of Arab and Pakistan origin, the presence of a few Bangladeshis has been authenticated by reliable source. The American Taliban John Walker Lindh said in an interview that Afghanistan’s Mullah Omar’s bodyguards comprised of Bangladeshis also. In a CNN interview, Walker Lindh said two important languages spoken in al-Qaeda power center were Urdu and Bangali. Bangladesh born U.S. Navy Chaplain, Lt. Abu Hena M. Saiful Islam had join Task force at Guantanamo Bay more than a month ago. In a recent interview with an American news agency, Lt. Islam said his media of communication with the detainees at Camp X-Ray were Urdu and Bengali. It is quite probable that there could be a handful of Taliban or al-Qaeda detainees at the camp who are of Bangladesh descent.” Resurrection of Talibans in Bangladesh in the Face of Her Historical Burden-Faith Freedom.org, 15.02.2005.
According to US intelligence agencies, 8,000 members from different Bangladeshi orgnisations including the Freedom Party were trained in Libya in the early 1980s and 1990s. Sources said over 2000 Bangladeshi Jihadis were killed and 2000 wounded in battles in Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Palestine. When they returned from foreign frontiers a number of them set up madrasas as cover, mainly toeing the Qwami line, which is the more orthodox system of Islamic education and need no government registration. They chose the forests of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, mosques, and the Qwami madrasas mainly in the north to train their activists. They also set up their network in Dhaka, starting from Kamrangir-char, and later spreading to Karfrul, Adabar, Shekher Tek, Basila and Demra. “ Zayadul Ahsan, Daily Star, August 21,2005.
The story of jihad breeding and gradual marginalization of the secular process in Bangladesh security concern for India. The Al Qaeda and the Pakistani jihadi tanzeems aspire to convert Bangladesh as a platform for expansion of jihad amongst the eastern of India and in South East Asia countries.
From Indian point of view
political stability, restoration of secular democracy and weakening of
stranglehold of the jihadis,
and the pro-Pak army elements are desirable. While our diplomacy, trade and
other bilateral relationship should take better shape, India has a big stake in
assisting the Bangla authorities to combat jihadist forces through constructive
cooperation. Strengthening of secular democratic forces in Bangladesh alone can
thwart expansion of the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Pakistan brand of jihadist Islam
in this part of Asia.
Article based on personal research. Since this column has limited space, inquisitive readers are recommended to read my contribution to the Penguin India published book-Frontier in Flames, edited by young Assamese writer Jaideep Saikia.