By Ajit Kumar Singh*
On May 29, 2020, Abdul Karim, a top leader of the Bangladesh-based terror group, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen (JMB), was arrested from Jangipuar in the Murshidabad District of West Bengal in India. “He is one of the top JMB operatives in India. We had been looking for him for quite some time,” an unnamed Police officer stated.
Karim was reportedly involved in a case relating to recovery and explosion of an improvised explosive device (IED) near Kalachakra Maidan in Bodhgaya in the Gaya District of Bihar on January 19, 2018. The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which registered the case on February 3, 2018, filed a charge sheet on September 27, 2018, against three accused. In the supplementary charge sheet filed on January 28, 2019, the NIA included the names of another five accused, including Karim.
Investigation in the case by the NIA have revealed:
…accused formed a terrorist gang and hatched a conspiracy to carry out the incident of planting the IEDs in Bodhgaya temple complex and other symbols of Buddhist faith. The motive was to attack symbols of Buddhism in retaliation to the alleged atrocities committed on the Rohingyas in Myanmar and to overawe the Government of India by the terrorist act.
A JMB militant was arrested on March 18, 2020, from Raghna village in North Tripura District in Tripura. The arrestee was identified as Abdul Malik. Police stated that “during preliminary interrogation by the police and intelligence officials, the JMB cadre confessed that he is a Bangladeshi national and settled in India with fake documents.”
According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), since the October 2, 2014, Burdwan Blast, the Security Forces (SFs) have arrested at least 96 JMB cadres in 62 incidents of arrest from across India. 11 JMB cadres were arrested (six incidents) in 2014, 19 (13 incidents) in 2015, 27 (12 incidents) in 2016, one (one incident) in 2017, eight (six incidents) in 2018, 28 (22 incidents) in 2019, and two (two incidents) in 2020 (data till May 29, 2020).
The JMB came under the scanner of India’s security establishment more prominently subsequent to the October 2, 2014, blast in a rented house at Khagragarh in Burdwan in West Bengal. Two persons were killed and another was injured in the incident. It was found that those killed and injured and others who were present in the house were JMB cadres.
A case was registered by the Burdwan Police on the same day. The NIA took over the case on October 10, 2014. So far it has filed one charge sheet and three supplementary charge sheets against a total of 22 persons in the case. The NIA investigations, inter alia, have also revealed that
The members of JMB had established a network of terrorist training camps at selected Madrasas and other hideouts in India where selected Muslim youths were indoctrinated into violent Jihadi ideology and trained for violent action by using explosives/IEDs and firearms. This was undertaken with the larger objectives of subverting a section of vulnerable Indian population, exploiting their common religious and linguistic identities across the border, in Indian states and districts bordering Bangladesh, to join the JMB and utilise them for their movement to overthrow the existing democratically elected Government in Bangladesh and to establish a hard-line Sharia based Islamic rule in Bangladesh.
The NIA took over three JMB-linked cases in 2019. These include:
Bengaluru (Karnataka) JMB Module Case: Five improvised hand grenades, three fabricated grenade caps, three circuits of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), one timer device, two rocket bends, one rocket body, one 9mm bullet, and various other incriminating materials used in fabrication of hand grenades/IEDs, were recovered from a place rented by JMB cadres in the Chikkabanawara area of Bengaluru in Karnataka on July 7, 2019. A case was registered by the local police on the same day. The NIA took over the case on July 29, 2019.Tripura JMB Case: On March 6, 2019, a JMB cadre identified as Najir Sheikh aka Patla Anas, was arrested from West Tripura District. A case was filed by the Police on the same day. The NIA took over the case on March 22, 2019.Recovery of Arms at PS Barpeta, Assam: On July 30, 2019, seven JMB militants who were associated with Sahanur Alam aka Md. Sahanur Alom (charge sheeted accused in the Burdwan Blast Case) were arrested from Barpeta District in Assam. The local police registered the case on the same day. The NIA took over the case on December 21, 2019.
On April 3, 2020, the NIA filed its first supplementary charge sheet in the Barpeta case. According to an NIA release:
Investigation has revealed that the accused persons have undergone training as JMB cadres in Barpeta at the house of Sahanur Alom and some of the accused were also trained at Simulia Madrasa in West Bengal. Accused persons procured weapons and ammunitions in a conspiracy to commit terrorist act in pursuance of Jehadi Ideology of JMB.
Earlier, on January 1, 2020, the NIA had filed the charge sheet in the case.
In between, on February 18, 2020, the NIA filed a charge sheet in the Bengaluru (Karnataka) JMB Module Case. In a release dated February 18, 2020, the NIA stated,
Today, NIA filed a charge-sheet against eleven accused… Investigation revealed that A-1 to A-12 being members of JMB, a proscribed terrorist organization were involved in a criminal conspiracy to commit terrorist acts or preparation thereof, raising funds by committing dacoities for their terrorist activities, organising terrorist camps, recruiting persons for committing terrorist activities, harbouring group members, procurement of explosive and ammunitions for anti-national activities. Further investigation against absconding accused B.D. Arif @ Nasim (A-4) and other suspects whose names surfaced during investigation continues u/s 173(8) of CrPC.
Since 2014, JMB has been making all efforts to create trouble in India has become more relentless in its approach in recent years. Concerned over these developments, the Government of India banned JMB in May 2019. A press release dated May 24, 2019, stated,
The Central Government vide notification dated 23rd May, 2019 has banned the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh or Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen India or Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Hindustan and all its manifestations under clause (a) of sub-section (1) of section 35 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 with immediate effect. The notification states that the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh and its formations like Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen India or Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Hindustan and their manifestations have committed acts of terrorism, promoted acts of terrorism and have been engaged in radicalisation and recruitment of youth(s) for terrorist activities in India.
According to the notification, the JMB had plans for
…making permanent bases within 10-kilometres, along the India-Bangladesh border in the districts of states of West Bengal, Assam and Tripura and of spreading its network in South India with an overarching motive to establish Caliphate in Indian subcontinent.
Later, on October 12, 2019, raising concern over the outfit’s activities in India, NIA chief Y.C. Modi said JMB had spread its activities in Jharkhand, Bihar, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala as well, in the guise of Bangladeshi immigrants, adding, “The NIA has shared with states concerned a list of 125 suspected activists who have close links with the JMB leadership.” On the same day, Alok Mittal, Inspector General, NIA, disclosed that JMB had started its activities in India, first in 2007, initially in West Bengal and Assam, and then in other parts of the country. He added, further, that from 2014 to 2018, JMB had set up 20-22 hideouts in Bengaluru and tried to spread its bases in South India.
The SFs have so far been able to thwart all attempts by JMB to make any major inroads in India. However, continuing efforts will be needed on the ground to destroy the remaining active cells of the group, to ensure that it fails in its efforts to cause disruption in India at any point in the future.
*Ajit Kumar Singh
Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management