Assam has become the hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism, says CM Himanta Biswa Sarma | Latest India News

Assam has become a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism and five “jihadist” modules linked to al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups in Bangladesh have been dismantled in the past four months, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Thursday. .

“We have dismantled five modules of the Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), a banned terrorist organization from Bangladesh with links to Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), in the past four months,” Sarma said. during a press conference.

“The information provided by those arrested has helped to dismantle terrorist modules in West Bengal, Tripura, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. All of this was done with the active cooperation and coordination of national security agencies,” he added.

Sarma said that according to available intelligence, at least six members of the ABT from Bangladesh entered India illegally around 2016-2017 and established terrorist modules and sleeper cells by indoctrinating local Assam youths about the “jihadist” ideology.

“It has now been proven beyond doubt that Assam has become a hotbed for Islamic fundamentalism. Of the six ABT members, we only caught one and five are on the run. So you can imagine the gravity of the situation. There may be another 100, which we are not aware of,” the CM said.

“Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri was killed a few days ago in Kabul. He was the same guy who had called for jihad in Assam. This shows that Assam is already on the radar of senior al-Qaeda leaders,” he added.

Five modules, four months

On July 27, Barpeta District Police dismantled an ABT module and arrested 9 people, including 8 in Barpeta and one in Guwahati. On the same day, another module was dismantled in Karnataka with the arrest of a resident of Kathigora in the Cachar district of Assam in Bengaluru.

A day later, on July 28, Morigaon district police dismantled another module and caught Mufti Mustafa in Moirabari. The accused ran a “madrasa” where children were indoctrinated in “jihadist” ideology. Mustafa reportedly used to harbor ABT members from Bangladesh and also acted as a middleman for the neighboring nation’s financial transactions.

Mustafa earned a doctorate in Islamic law from Bhopal in 2017 and had previously studied at Islamic institutes in Maharasthra and Uttar Pradesh. After returning to Assam, he opened a madrasa at Saharigaon in Moribari, Morigaon where 43 students were studying.

“The madrasa, which was sealed on July 28, was demolished on Thursday under the provisions of the Disaster Management Act as well as the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) as it was built without the permission from the local authorities, had an illegal electrical connection and she was unsafe,” Himanta said.

“Students studying there have been admitted to public schools with the active help of their guardians and parents. Mustafa had met with key ABT leaders in Bangladesh and “jihadist” literature, electronic evidence including jihadist videos were found in his phone,” he added.

The CM said that Mustafa had links with all the “jihadist” modules that were dismantled and that he in turn had been in contact with the senior management of the ABT – he used to get information. ABT money in Bangladesh in small installments for a few years. It is suspected that Mustafa had ties to the fugitive ABT members.

On March 4, an ABT sleeper cell was broken up by Barpeta district police and 6 people, including a Bangladeshi national called Mohammed Suman, were arrested. A resident of Narayanganj district in Bangladesh, Suman entered India illegally through West Bengal, later married a daughter in Assam and moved to Barpeta in 2018.

“He worked as an Arabic teacher in a local ‘madrasa’ as well as a preacher in a mosque in Dhakalipara in Barpeta. Suman was indoctrinating terrorist ideology among young Muslims with the aim of recruiting them into jihadist attire and creating a base for al-Qaeda,” Sarma said.

On April 14, Barpeta police dismantled another ABT sleeper cell and arrested six people in connection with another case. In the same month, another module was dismantled in Bongaigaon district and five people including three residents of Tripura were arrested.

Technology and strategy

According to the police investigation, members of ABT were found using highly sophisticated technology to communicate, rarely using their phones for calls and there was complete compartmentalization of different pods with members using multiple aliases.

“We noticed extreme levels of radicalization and full allegiance to ‘Sharia’ among those arrested. Interestingly, the hub of all these activities, at present, seems to be the “madrasas”. I’m not generalizing, but everyone who has been arrested so far has had connections to ‘madrasas’ or served as preachers in a mosque,” ​​Sarma said.

“These people were working as preachers in mosques – as cover work – their aim was to wage jihad against India and establish ‘Sharia’ law. Several training camps have been organized by these people, particularly during the Covid-19 period. They were trained in craftsmanship (techniques/technology used in modern espionage), radicalization, indoctrination, firearms training and bomb making,” he said. -he adds.

Himanta said ABT members in Bangaldesh start with finding a base, followed by indoctrination of youths, then active participation in “jihadist” works and finally subversive activities.

“Their idea is to indoctrinate a large number of people as quickly as possible. These people are not interested in engaging in subversive activities until they indoctrinate large numbers of people so that there can be a rebellion against the state,” the CM said.

He informed that the state government is taking the matter very seriously and is creating a special cell in the Assam Police to specifically look into this matter. It will be a continuous activity and the police will continue to catch them and break their modules.

Calling the situation worrying, Himanta urged everyone to come and inform the police if they notice anything suspicious. He asked Muslims in the state to be careful of local mosque preachers who come from out of state.

Muslims and Madrasas

“It is wrong to suggest that all Muslims in Assam have ‘jihadist’ tendencies. Most of the information and advice on the modules we dismantled came from local peace-loving Muslims. We should not generalize that all ‘madrasas’ teach ‘jihadist’ literature or engage in indoctrination,” Himanta said.

“We are not targeting anyone without a basis. Actions have been taken on the basis of specific information with the aim of protecting India and Indians. There is no other malice or motivation. There should be more vigorous oversight by local citizens on what is taught in madrasas,” he added.

The Assam government has already closed nearly 800 government-run “madrasas” in the state and converted them into mainstream schools. According to government data, there are currently about 1,500 private madrasas – 800 ‘qawmi madrasas’, 500 ‘hafizi madrasas’ and 200 ‘banat madrasas’.

“I firmly believe that the Muslims of Assam will cooperate with us. It is not a question of defaming a community, but of alerting it and seeking its cooperation. We have never investigated those who work as preachers in mosques or other religious places. But now we will have to be aware of preachers in mosques who are not from Assam,” Himanta said.

CM suggested that in addition to religious education, ‘madrasas’ teach students math and other subjects so they can decide later if they want to pursue religious studies or join other fields . He added that there should be regular inspection of ‘madrasas’ and that they should be registered.

Himanta informed that the state government will take positive steps by setting up model public schools in Muslim areas so that the poor have options other than ‘madrasas’ where they can send their children to study.

“Although the People’s Front of India (PFI) has no direct connection to the ABT modules we destroyed, this organization creates an ecosystem. They spread lies that Muslims are victims of the state. benefits granted to Muslims over the past eight years,” the CM said.

Giving an overview of “jihadist” activities in the state, Himanta said they were first noticed in 1999 with the breakout of a module of the Bangladesh-based Harkat-ul-Mujahedin (HUM). In 2003-2004, a module of Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) was dismantled.

Between 2011 and 2016, security forces dismantled several modules of Jamat-ul-Mujahedin (JUM), Bangladesh and Hijbul Mujahedin. In 2018, a Hijbul Mujahedin (HM) module was detected.


  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Utpal is an associate editor based in Guwahati. It covers all eight North Eastern states and was previously based in Kathmandu, Dehradun and Delhi with Hindustan Times.
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