Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Missing: a million BanglaDesh visitors


New Delhi:

Over a million Bangladeshis who have entered India legally through Bengal since the 1970s cannot be traced, official figures said today.

The disclosure, made by the Border Security Force, swivels the spotlight from the problem of illegal immigrants who have been streaming in across the border for decades.

BSF director-general A.K. Mitra said that between 1972 and 2005, the entry of over 1.2 million Bangladeshis had been cleared by immigration counters on the Bengal border. “There is no record that they have returned,” he said.

Mitra was speaking to reporters on his return from the India-Bangladesh border co-ordination conference held in Dhaka through this week.

Concern over Bangladeshis overstaying their visa or illegally entering India took centre stage in the past two years after a series of blasts were linked to radical Islamic groups with connections in Bangladesh.

Home ministry sources said talks between the home secretaries of the two countries were on the cards, where the issue of the missing Bangladeshis would be discussed.

Thousands from Bangladesh come to Bengal every year, mostly for medical treatment in Calcutta, while hundreds visit the shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti in Ajmer Sharif. This is apart from the thousands entering Assam through the north-eastern border.

While many of these Bangladeshis are believed to have moved into Delhi, Mumbai or smaller but prosperous towns like Jaipur, the bulk of them live in Bengal.

“Yes, there is demographic and geographical closeness, but for several years the state government has been trying its best (to deal with those overstaying),” a senior Bengal police officer said.

Driving away illegal immigrants, too, has become more difficult than before, the officer admitted. State officials pin the blame on procedural changes made by Dhaka.

Suspected illegal immigrants are first tried in a court and then convicted. The state government concerned then sends the list of names to the BSF, which forwards it to Bangladesh Rifles. It is then up to the Bangladesh government to confirm the nationality of the illegal immigrants and take them back.

“There are many who have completed jail terms but have not been accepted by Dhaka. What do we do with them?” a Bengal police officer told The Telegraph.

However, experts say deportation does not pose as much of a problem as detection of illegal immigrants. BSF officers complain that investigating agencies do not inform the force of arrests, undermining security concerns. “We only come to know through newspapers,” DGP Mitra said.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

All Assam Student's Union to revive 1980’s mission

- Students gear up for fresh agitation


The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) today announced that it was gearing for another Assam Agitation to take the “oust-Bangladeshi mission” it had started in the eighties to its logical conclusion.

“We are gearing up for a vigorous agitation. We would like to tell the government that we are not going to sit quietly till all the clauses of the Assam Accord are implemented,” AASU adviser Samujjal Bhattacharyya said on the eve of 23rd anniversary of the signing of the accord.

The AASU launched a hunger strike from 6 this morning to protest the government’s failure to implement the Accord and deport Bangladeshis.

The strike will continue till the official hoisting of the national flag tomorrow.

The student organisation demanded that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and chief minister Tarun Gogoi set a time-frame for the implementation of the Assam Accord.

“The Prime Minister and chief minister, after unfurling the national flag tomorrow, should let the people know by when the government will honour the commitment they made to the people of Assam 23 years ago,” Bhattacharyya said.

By not implementing the accord, the government was dishonouring a non-violent movement spearheaded by the people of Assam, he said.

The AASU also criticised the chief minister for flaying Gauhati High Court’s remark on infiltration. “We are cautioning the chief minister against making any flippant remark on the Bangladeshi issue. It is unfortunate that to protect the interest of Bangladeshis, the chief minister is even making light of a court observation,” he said.

The Opposition AGP and BJP also lambasted Gogoi today for being dismissive of the court’s observation about Bangladeshi migrants. Gogoi had yesterday said the court’s remark that a Bangladeshi would become a kingmaker in Assam was “sweeping and provocative”.

AASU activists, along with members of the Hindu Yuva Chatra Parishad, today handed over 122 suspected Bangladeshi nationals to police in Sonitpur district.

Police said the suspected migrants were on their way to Kharupatiya in Darrang from Dibrugarh in a hired bus when the activists waylaid them at Bihaguri and took them to Tezpur police station.

A two-member division bench of Gauhati High Court, on the other hand, gave 18 persons, who were declared foreigners by the foreigner’s tribunal and the single bench of the court, one more chance to prove their citizenship.


AASU activists stage a dharna in Guwahati on Thursday. Picture by Eastern Projections.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

When a Court Verdict Ignites Assam

By Nava Thakuria

The influx from Bangladesh to Assam (India) remained a major issue of concern for the Assamese civil societies and advocacy groups since early Seventies. The All Assam Students Union (AASU) led historic Assam Agitation to the outcome of the prolonged anxiety of the indigenous people of the State against the illegal Bangladeshis living in Assam. The movement staring on 1979 to deport millions of Bangladeshis from the State that had united all social and advocacy groups for the cause.

The issue of influx once again came alive after a historical judgment by the Gauhati High Court. The court observed in one of its verdicts that illegal Bangladeshis, who used to get Indian passports because of callous approach of police and passport authorities, were slowly becoming the 'king makers' in Assam, as many politicians started using them as their traditional vote banks. The landmark judgment of the high court on July 23, also observed that a strong political will to free Assam from illegal Bangladeshis was the need of the hour. The judgment was passed while disposing the petitions of 61 petitioners after they were pronounced as foreigners by the respective Foreigners' Tribunals.

In one Md Kamaluddin's case, the court ruling said that he was in possession of a passport issued by the Pakistan government for his travel to Bangladesh. After coming to Bangladesh, he stealthily came to Assam, stayed back and even filed a nomination during the 1996 State Assembly polls. This can happen only in Assam, it said.

It also stated that in due course of time, the Bangladeshis had 'incorporated their names in the voters' lists on the basis of which they must have cast their votes'. Thus the petitioners and such other large number of Bangladeshis present in the State of Assam have a major role in electing the representatives both to the Legislative Assembly and Parliament and consequently, in the decision-making process towards building the nation. They have become the kingmakers, the judgment added.

The day, if phenomenon continues, is not far off, when the indigenous people of Assam, both Hindus and Muslims and other religious groups will be reduced to minorities in their own land and the Bangladeshis who are freely and merrily moving around the fertile land of Assam, will intrude upon the corridors of power, the court ruling warned, adding that neither the Centre nor the state governments can disown their foremost responsibility of defending the borders of the country, prevent any trespass and make the lives of citizens safe and secure.

Meanwhile, the media in Assam start pouring news, editorial and analysis on the issue. The AASU leaders have taken the advantage of the situation to materialize the public anger against the authority for their failure in detecting and deporting the illegal Bangladeshis from the State. Criticising the concerned authority and also both the governments at Dispur and New Delhi for their failure to detect and deport the illegal foreigners from Assam, the students leaders even appealed to the common people not to employ suspected Bangladeshis in any domestic and industrial works.

The initiative of the students' body has been supported by various other organisations including Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad, North East Students Organization, Assam Public Works, Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, Assam, Purbanchaliya Loka Parishad, with political parties like Asom Gana Parishad, Trinamul Gana Parishad, Bharatiya Janata Party with others, who subsequently initiated different campaigning against the Bangladeshi citizens, illegally taking shelter in various parts of India.

The AASU leaders (President Shankar Prasad Ray, general secretary Tapan Gogoi and adviser Samujjal Bhattacharyya) argue that the influx from Bangladesh have already increased the threat to the indigenous communities of the region. Moreover it has emerged as a threat to India's integrity and sovereignty with those infiltrators possessing the capacity to grab political power in Assam in near future. The student activists were also worried that the Jehadi elements might have entered Assam with the help of those Bangladeshis and could place the region at severe risk any time.

They have already launched a series of agitational programmes in support of their demands starting on August 6. The student activists demonstrated in front of the regional passport office at Guwahati on the day, as it was indicated in the court verdict that illegal Bangladeshis managed to get Indian passport from the office with false documents.

The Sentinel*, a Guwahati based English daily, editorialised the issue of Indian passport, which was managed by some Bangladeshis on false pretexts, saying, "What is the ultimate proof of Indian citizenship if even a foreigner can get an Indian passport?" It also added, "A passport is a document issued by our government permitting us to travel to other countries....How many countries will agree to give us visas on our passports once it becomes known that even a foreigner or a terrorist from another country can acquire an Indian passport without verification?"

Next phase of agitation by the student's organization begins on August 10 with public rallies in various parts of the State. It will be followed by another demonstration beginning on the early morning (6 am) of August 14 to the time of flag hoisting on August 15 on Independence Day to raise voice against the government for their failure to implement the Assam Accord effectively. The Accord was signed between the agitating leaders and the Union Government of India on August 14, 1984 to culminate the Assam movement. More public meeting and processions on August 20 and a torchlight rally on August 26 will follow it, the students' body declared. *

The Assam Tribune*, the oldest English daily of Northeast, in one of its editorials commented that the development 'brings to the fore issues that have sinister implications for the security and integrity of not just Assam but the entire country'. It also reveals that 'despite it being an open secret that unabated cross-border infiltration from Bangladesh is fast reducing the indigenous populace of Assam to a minority, the response from the Congress-led State Government as well as the Centre has been one of utter indifference'.

It also added, "Let alone admitting to the fact that more and more Bangladeshi nationals are getting themselves registered as Indian citizens - thanks to their easy access to crucial documents like ration cards and even passports - the State Government seems to be reluctant even to admit the presence of infiltrators, and has all along been maintaining a casual approach on the issue. If the State Government needed any further proof of cross-border influx as also the evil designs behind the infiltration, the High Court ruling should wake it up from its slumber."

The deportation of illegal foreigners from Assam however runs in slow pace. Statistics made available to the media reveal that only 12,846 persons were declared as foreigners under the provisions of the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act (during 1985 to 2005 July) and 1547 of them could be deported. No one knows where the rest has gone. Quoting the Border Police, the local media reported that another 30,000 persons were declared foreigners under the provisions of the Foreigners Act (during 1986 to 2008 March). Among them, 674 were deported, but once again the rest got vanished.

Facing the heat of growing public resentments, the State government has come out with declaration that it had already detected over 4 hundred thousands suspected Bangladeshis living in Assam. The Assam government spokesperson, Himanta Biswa Sarma has recently announced during a press conference that the government had also 'charge-sheeted 3,92,000 suspected Bangladeshis before the Foreigner's Tribunal Act'.

"If the Government is really serious in detection and deportation of foreigners without harassment of genuine Indian citizens, the process of updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) should be expedited and photo identity cards should be given to all genuine Indian citizens on the basis of that," commented in another editorial of the daily, adding that the Government of India must try to sign an extradition or push back treaty with Bangladesh, as at present, the Bangladesh government refuses to accept the persons sought to be pushed back.

Nava Thakuria is an independent journalist based in Guwahati, Northeast India, whose main interest is in socio-political developments of Northeast India and neighbouring Bhutan, Burma and Bangladesh.


Illegal Bangladeshi Migrants Threat To Nation: Delhi High Court


Observing that influx of illegal migrants from other countries poses a “threat to the integrity and security of India”, the Delhi High Court today allowed the Foreigners Regional Registration Officer (FRRO) to deport five members of a family to Bangladesh, reports PTI. “The largescale influx of illegal migrants has led to large tracts of sensitive borders which has serious implication for internal security,” said justice S L Bhayana in a judgement.

He dismissed a petition filed by a Bangladeshi woman, Razia Begum, seeking a stay on the deportation order passed by FRRO in April this year against five members of her family and said the ration card and nationality certificates obtained by them were forged and fabricated.

Rejecting the woman’s claim that they have been staying in Mehrauli area since 1980, Justice Bhayana said “The influx of Bangladeshi nationals who have illegally migrated poses a threat to the integrity and security of India. The FRRO is duty bound to take all necessary measure”.

On December 27 last year, the staff of FRRO had apprehended 16 Bangladeshis as they were allegedly staying in the country without valid documents. The FRRO passed an order on April 23 this year for deportation of the illegal migrants.

“The order of deportation is not a punishment but a method of ensuring the return to his own country of an alien who has not complied with conditions. Hence Bangladeshi nationals who have migrated illegally have no right to remain in India and they are liable to be deported,” the court said.

Expressing concern over the continuing influx of Bangladeshis into India, the judge said “on account of variety of reasons, including religious and economic, it is difficult to make a realistic estimate of the number of illegal migrants...”.


Monday, August 11, 2008

72 Hour Deadline To Bangladeshi Migrants to Leave Tinsukia


Twenty-two students’ and youth organisations today joined hands in Tinsukia to demand immediate detection and deportation of illegal Bangladeshis in the district, and served a 72-hour deadline to the illegal immigrants to leave the district voluntarily or face dire consequences. The groups include the Tinsukia district units of AASU, AJYCP, All Assam Muttock Yuva Chatra Sanmilan, All Moran Students’ Union, ATTSA, TMPK, Tai Ahom Yuva Parishad, Bengali Yuva Chatra Parishad, and Bhojpuri Students’ Union, among others.

Office-bearers of the 22 organisatons met this morning at Tinsukia to chalk out an agitational programme for detection and deportation of illegal Bangladeshis in the district. They later briefed the media about the decisions taken, which include the 72-hour deadline starting Tuesday morning.

Speaking to this newspaper, youth leader Birinchi Neog said: “The Gauhati High Court, a former Governor of Assam... all have expressed concern at the alarming influx of illegal foreigners. These persons have to be detected and deported at any cost.” He said Assam needs to have an Inner Line Permit system in place to discourage outsiders from settling in the State, as is enforced in Arunachal Pradesh.

Neog squarely blamed the Assam government and the district administrations for miserably failing to detect and deport the huge number of illegal Bangladeshis. He stressed on the urgent need for a special task force to detect and deport illegal foreigners in Assam.

AASU information secretary Pulok Gohain said the government should go about its task of detecting and deporting illegal foreigners with a sense of urgency, rather than issuing threats to the citizens to refrain from taking the law into their own hands. “It is because the ministers and officers are conniving with illegal foreigners which is forcing the civil population to take steps to save the state,” he added.

Migrants rounded up: Meanwhile, in keeping with the ongoing hunt for illegal Bangladeshi settlers, the district unit of AASU today compelled the district administration here to identify aliens by laying siege on a hamlet on the bank of the Brahmaputra near Chandmari Ghat. AASU workers rounded up more than a hundred suspected Bangladeshis from the settlement that housed nearly 35 families. As men were away for work, those rounded up included mostly women and malnourished children. The members of the student body also reportedly resorted to aggression as they forced entry into the homes of the suspected aliens and wrecked their huts. Huts and belongings of a few families were also set ablaze.

However, AASU activists denied committing any such violent acts.

The student body later handed over the suspects to the police for verification. Additional Superintendent of Police (Border), SR Mili also rushed to the spot to take stock of the situation. The claim of the AASU that the settlers are Bangladeshis could not be confirmed, as the police verification was going on till the filing of this report.

Tinsukia Correspondent adds: Today’s meeting held in Tinsukia urged both the district administration and police to take initiative for detection and deportation of the illegal migrants and also appealed to all the ward members of both gaon panchayats and civic bodies to keep strict vigil against the presence of foreign nationals in their respective areas.

It also urged the public in general of the district not to employ and provide any shelter to doubtful citizens and urged the civic bodies to re-examine the licenses of the rickshaw-pullers. The meeting also urged all the parties, organisations or individuals concerned not to give any communal colour to the foreign nationals issue.


'One lakh legal Bangladeshis missing in India'

PTI Shillong

Security forces are on the look-out for over one lakh Bangladeshis who had entered the country legally and have gone missing, a senior police officer has said.

"Over one lakh Bangladeshis who entered India with valid passports and visa are traceless as on date," Meghalaya'a Additional Director General of Police Kulbir Khrishna said while speaking at a seminar 'Changes in Security Perspective of Indo-Bangladesh' here. He said the number of these missing Bangladeshis could be ascertained as they had valid documents. However, the total illegal migrants in India could be astounding, he said.

Pointing that there was evidence to show the involvement of HuJI, which has proximity to Bangladesh's intelligence agency DGFI and Pakistan's ISI, in a number of terror attacks in the country in the recent past, Khrisnan said the porous border has fomented the movement of insurgent elements and illegal migrants.

"The seat of power in Bangladesh is occupied by elements who come from different streams of thoughts. This makes it further difficult to deal with the problem," he added.


Saturday, August 9, 2008

West Bengal not keen on hosting Taslima Nasrin


The controversial Bangladeshi writer, Taslima Nasrin's return to India is likely to put the Bengal government in a spot. She had to be packed off last year after a riot-like situation gripped Kolkata. Now she wants to be back in the City of Joy.

THE SPECTRE of Taslima Nasrin is back to haunt the Left Front government in West Bengal. The controversial author returned to India from Sweden and landed at New Delhi days before her visa was to expire. Her visa expires on August 17 so there was no way the Centre could have refused her entry.

The writer had to leave Kolkata in a hurry following violent protests in November, 2007 by a section of the minority community over her writings. A near riot-like situation gripped Kolkata and the army had to be called into stage a flag march. She was packed off to Jaipur by the Bengal government only to face the ire of a section of the community in Rajasthan. She was later bailed out by the Centre and put in a safe house under virtual house arrest. She left the country four months ago and is now back to the safe house in the outskirts of New Delhi.

Taslima has been pining to return to West Bengal and had complained of suffering from claustrophobia, isolated as she was at the guest house unable to meet people. She left the country because of this. Earlier, she had called the guest house a “chamber of death”.

Now she is back and is said to have expressed a desire to return to Kolkata. The home ministry is expected to write to the state government seeking a response.

However, the Bengal government is not at all happy with her return. The state chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb told the media that the state government had not received any request from her to return to Kolkata. Neither has it received any communiqué from the Union Home Ministry. He said the decision would have to come from the highest level, if there is any communication from New Delhi or the writer.

It is evident that Taslima is not welcome in Kolkata. Although equations at the Centre between the Congress-led UPA and the Left have changed and the Centre may not act with as much alacrity as it did last time in keeping her confined in New Delhi and not allowing her to return to Kolkata.

At the Indira Gandhi International Airport yesterday, she was received by security and intelligence officials and driven to the guest house.

Meanwhile, Taslima has requested for a permanent resident permit. It is yet to be decided whether her visa would be extended beyond August 17. The way things are shaping up another round of unseemly controversy over the controversial writer seems to be in the offing.


Anti-Bangladeshi wave in Assam

Syed Zarir Hussain Guwahati

  • Cops push illegal immigrants back
  • Bengali-speaking Muslims urge caution

Assam is witnessing a massive uprising against illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, commonly referred to as 'foreigners'. The State authorities have stepped up their drive to arrest and push back Bangladeshi immigrants, and student groups are busy identifying suspected foreigners and handing them over to the police.

The spurt in official action against illegal Bangladeshi immigrants and anti-foreigners activism follows stinging comments by a Gauhati High Court judge in a recent ruling. "Bangladeshi infiltrators have not only intruded into every nook and corner of Assam, but have already become kingmakers," Justice BK Sarma said in his judgement, ordering the police to detain and deport 49 foreigners, among them a Pakistani citizen, who had appealed against the ruling of Foreigners Tribunals.

Pointing out how the Pakistani man had entered Assam from Bangladesh and contested the State Assembly election in 1986, Justice Sarma commented, "This can only happen in Assam." He went on to add, "The day is not far when the indigenous people of Assam -- both Hindus and Muslims and other religious groups -- will be reduced to minorities in their own land."

The past week witnessed the arrest of seven illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in eastern Assam's Nagaon district after the Gauhati High Court pronounced them foreigners. They were pushed back into Bangladesh through the border point of Mahisasan in southern Assam's Karimganj district.

But six of them were back in Assam by Thursday. "There is no formal agreement between India and Bangladesh and hence the only way to expel such immigrants is by simply pushing them back across the border," a senior Assam police officer said.

Even as the State authorities were enforcing the court judgement, in which 61 persons were found to be infiltrators, student groups -- including the All-Assam Students' Union (AASU) and the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chhatra Parishad (AJYCP) -- also started hounding suspected foreigners. Last week, AASU and AJYCP activists rounded up nearly 50 suspected Bangladeshis from various parts of the State and handed them over to the police.

The anti-foreigners issue has gathered momentum with Opposition parties joining the protest. "Very soon, several Assam districts will be swamped by Bangladeshi Muslims and the State will be ruled by a Bangladeshi Chief Minister," warned former Union Minister and senior BJP leader Bijoya Chakravorty.

The sudden surge of anti-foreigners sentiment has resulted in apprehension among Bengali-speaking Muslims, who are at the receiving end of the AASU and AJYCP action against non-Assamese daily wage earners. "The victims being picked up by the student volunteers are mostly Bengali-speaking Muslims. This trend is dangerous, to say the least," warned Hafiz Rashid Choudhury, leader of the Asom United Democratic Front (AUDF), a minority-based political party.

"We want that all illegal immigrants who entered Assam after March 25, 1971, be expelled. But caution is needed to ensure that genuine Indians are not harassed," he added.

The State Government has also cautioned the Opposition against 'communalising' the issue. "It is unfortunate that some parties are trying to dub all Muslims as foreigners. If that happens, even Indian Muslims in Assam would oppose the anti-foreigners drive," State Government spokesperson and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said. "We must defeat such designs. A foreigner is a foreigner, be it Hindu or Muslim," he added.

The AUDF maintains that action cannot be initiated against religious minorities just on the assumption that they could be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. "We are against providing shelter to any illegal immigrant from Bangladesh. But any action such as pushing back or deporting foreigners must be carried out within the existing legal framework," AUDF president Badruddin Ajmal said.

The AUDF chief said that the Government must immediately upgrade the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and make arrangements for issuing identity cards to all citizens. "It will help genuine citizens and avoid unnecessary harassment," he said.

The AASU had led a six-year-long agitation against illegal Bangladeshi immigrants between 1979 and 1985. The movement ended with the signing of the Assam Accord in 1985 which fixed March 25, 1971 as the cut-off date for detection and deportation of East Paksitanis/Bangladeshis staying illegally in India.


Friday, August 8, 2008

Taslima Nasrin's Return "Will Not Be Accepted By Muslims In India".

Criticising the centre for facilitating return of the controversial Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen to India, Muslim organisations in Kolkata on Friday called for her immediate deportation from the country.

Holding a meeting under the banner of All-India Majlis-e Sura, the organisations said, "we are deeply disappointed and dejected by this step of the Centre, specifically Union Minister Pranab Mukherjee, that he has allowed Taslima to return to India."

Seeking her immediate deportation from India, they said, "we are looking forward to a positive response from the Centre."

"The Centre's step has definitely hurt sentiments of the Muslim community in India," said a statement signed by Aziz Mubaraki, Additional Chief Secretary to Shahi Imam of Tipu Sultan mosque.

All-India Minority Forum President Idris Ali described Taslima's return to India as "unfortunate and unexpected" and said it "will not be accepted by Muslims in India".


Taslima Nasrin returns to India

New Delhi, (PTI)

Controversial Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasrin, who was dramatically bundled out from West Bengal in November last year, returned today after spending more than four months in Sweden.
The 45-year-old Bangladeshi writer, who has been a target of Islamic fundamentalists, arrived at the Indira Gandhi International airport this morning and was immediately whisked away by security agencies to an undisclosed destination, official sources said.

The future plans of the doctor-turned writer, who shot to fame with her controversial book "Lajja", were not immediately known. Her visa is valid till August 12. She has been requesting for permanent residentship in the country but the Government has not taken any decision on the issue.

Taslima had left India on March 18 for Sweden after she was kept in a safe house in the national capital for more than four months. Taslima, who had not been allowed to see any visitors during the period, had described her confinement as living in "a chamber of death". PTI


Bangaldeshi author Taslima Nasreen returns to India

New Delhi, (ANI):

Taslima Nasreen, the controversial Bangladeshi writer, who had to leave India in March this year, arrived in the national capital on Friday and was immediately whisked off to an undisclosed location.Official sources said that her visa for India is valid till August 12, but did not disclose her future plans would be.

Nasreen was dramatically bundled out from West Bengal in November last year and eventually left the country for Paris before shifting to Sweden in April.

The 45-year-old Bangladeshi writer has been a target of Islamic fundamentalists in India and in other parts of the world for her controversial writings, including books ”Lajja” and ”Dvikhandita”.

In May this year she said she would like to stay in Tripura when she returns to India if not allowed to stay in Kolkata.

Talking to ”Ajker Fariad”, a leading Bengali daily here over telephone from Sweden, Nasreen said she felt like being buried alive in Sweden. She said that as she writes in Bengali, she should be allowed to stay in a Bengali-inhabited place.

I will request the West Bengal Government to allow me to stay in my Park Street home. If this fails, I will approach the Tripura Government, she had said then.

The controversial author has in the recent past also received full support from the writers community in India.They have said that she should be granted freedom of speech and security. (ANI)


Kolkata Police wary as Osama bin Laden tapes ‘turn up’ in city

Rajib Chatterjee & Sabyasachi Roy


An Intelligence tip-off that teenage boys from Park Circus have received some cassettes containing inflammatory speeches of Osama Bin Laden for "local circulation" has got Kolkata Police in a tizzy.

Baffled by such report, sleuths belonging to city police's Special Branch (SB) and detective department have started maintaining a close watch among the youths, aged between 15 to 18, hailing from Darapara area near Park Circus. However, no cassette were seized till today. A senior city police officer said they came to know that some audio cassettes on radical Islamic movement have reached the city recently through the India-Bangladesh borders and Attari check post in Punjub. The entire consignment of the cassettes came through trucks, said the officer, posted in Special Branch. The cassettes, which according to officials, contain inflammatory speeches of Osama Bin Laden, are being played secretly at some places near Park Circus and some other minority community dominated localities in the Central part of the city, the officer said.

He also said that surveillance has been stepped up in Kolutola and its adjoining areas after reports that some religious leaders had come to the city recently to hold meetings with their counterparts in the city. Senior city police officers admitted that surveillance has been stepped up in several pockets following the serial blasts in Bengaluru and Ahmedabad. It was learnt that sleuths belonging to the anti terrorist cell of the city police's Special Branch and detective department have been asked to identify the places where the cassettes are being played. Further, they have been instructed to trace the recipients of the cassettes. It is suspected that some recipients of the cassettes include a section of youngsters who had participated in the demonstration that took place in Park Circus area on 21 September last year over controversial writer Taslima Nasreen's stay in West Bengal.

Alarmed over reports of arrival of cassettes on Jehadi movement in the city, surveillance in all entry points to the city has been intensified. Top district police officers have also been informed about the Intelligence tip off, said an officer of Special Branch.

When contacted, Mr Jawed Shamim, deputy commissioner of the city police's detective department, said he had no reports of cassettes containing speeches of Osama Bin Laden being played in Park Circus. "The special branch officers may have such reports, by I don't know anything about this," Mr Shamim added.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Bangladesh's Muslim Migrants: No longer economic refugees but merchants of terror

Sleeper cells of the ISI are thriving all over India using Bangladeshi infiltrators as local contact points. Result: The signature of HuJi on most bomb blasts in recent times

by Wilson John

The two unstable Islamic countries flanking India have emerged as the Al Qaeda's staging posts. While Pakistan has been the epicentre of terrorism since the early 1980s, the emergence of Bangladesh as an extension of a global terror network pose serious challenges to the world, particularly India.

Though the terrorist groups targeting India (there is a hardly any difference between such groups and others with a global agenda) continue to be inspired by terrorist leaders based in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Bangladesh is where they meet, learn techniques of bomb making and collaborate for terrorist actions in India.

While the world is focussed on Pakistan's tribal areas and North-West Frontier Province as an Al Qaeda-Taliban Emirate, the Bangladesh terror network's emergence and growing power remains largely unnoticed.

This impression needs to be corrected without delay. Before September 11, 2001, no one really took seriously India's struggles to cope with an externally-aided and abetted terrorism. Pakistan, despite a huge evidence of its complicity in promoting terrorism, remained on the blind side of the Western nations, particularly the US, which, till recently, considered it as a 'strategic ally' in the war on terrorism.

Today, it is widely acknowledged that Pakistan has become global headquarters of terrorism. Similarly, Bangladesh is fast becoming a major centre of outsource for this grand coalition of terror groups which are facing intense heat in West Asia and Afghanistan.

Bangladesh has become host to various terrorist groups anxious to recruit and train young students coming out of these madarsas. One of the more prominent ones is Harkat-ul-jihad al-Islami (HuJI), widely regarded as the Al Qaeda's operating arm in South Asia. HuJI has been consolidating its position in Bangladesh where it boasts a membership of more than 15,000 activists, of whom at least 2,000 are "hardcore".

Led by Shawkat Osman (alias Sheikh Farid) in Chittagong, the group has at least six training camps in Bangladesh. According to one report, about 3,500 Bangladeshis had gone to Pakistan and Afghanistan to take part in jihad. Barring 34 who died, a large number of them returned home; of these, about 500 form the backbone of HuJI.

What should be of immediate concern to regional nations and the West (in particular the US) is, irrespective of the absence of sustained links between Islamic groups like HT, JeI and terrorist organisations, they essentially share the same ideology and anti-Western agenda. In Pakistan, the Al-Qaeda has been quite successful in co-opting various religious and sectarian groups to work for the larger "cause" of global terror. In Bangladesh such networking could be easier, making this small, impoverished country a potential sanctuary for Al Qaeda clones like HuJI.

For India, HuJI presents a clear and immediate danger. But even Indian authorities ignored the emerging evidence of HuJI's footprints. The group's activities in India were first noticed in August 1999 when four HuJI activists were detained in Guwahati -- two of them were from Pakistan, one from Kashmir and another from Muzzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh. Their interrogations revealed a cache of explosives -- 34 Kg of RDX -- hidden in a Bangladesh mosque and the recruitment of young immigrant Muslims in Assam. But it was the attack on the American Centre in Kolkata on January 22, 2002 that uncovered the growing linkages of HuJI-B within India.

Investigators found HuJI-B's links with a local group called Asif Reza Commando Force (ARCF) formed by illegal Bangladeshi migrants living in Assam and West Bengal with the help of HuJI-B and Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) activists.

Another clear evidence of HuJI's strength and alliances was revealed when a suicide bomber walked into Hyderabad's Special Task Force office on October 12, 2005, and detonated a pressure-activated bomb carried in a backpack. Investigations pointed to a joint operation by cadres of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, HuJI and LeT. Two months later, Delhi Police detained three HuJI-B militants involved in the Hyderabad attack who said they were trained at ISI-run camp in Balochistan and were sent to India to target Bangalore and Hyderabad.

The series of terrorist attacks, beginning with Varanasi (March 7, 2006), besides numerous arrests of terrorists, their supporters and seizure of weapons and explosives, exposed the contours of a grand merger of various extremist and terrorist groups and organisations within India. Of the two terrorists shot down within hours of the Varanasi explosions, one was a LeT commander in Lucknow, while the second a HuJI activist from Bangladesh living in Delhi.

This alliance could not have operated across the country without extensive local support provided often by SIMI and other small, less-known outfits. The terrorist coalition utilises the support base to plan and execute terrorist operations, besides planning a safe exit. This support base in many areas like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar rely on modules set up by ISI for gathering intelligence on Indian strategic assets.

Madarsas have also been used in providing the logistics in the past and continue to do so but more covertly than in the past. The groups seek out rooms to rent out in outlying colonies or in crowded areas where they could remain anonymous; in many cases they have set up small businesses to merge into the crowd. The objective of this coalition of terror is to create political upheaval in India.

The fast emerging linkages between LeT, SIMI and HuJI (and Jamaitul Mujahideen Bangladesh) depict the contours of a pan-Islamist network in Asia, linking groups operating in Iraq and Afghanistan to Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and several south Asian countries like Indonesia.


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

AASU: Assam providing safe corridor to Jehadis

Guwahati: The All Assam Students Union (AASU) has raised alarm once again over the infiltration of Jehadi elements through porous Indo-bangladesh border and warned that the whole country has to bear the brunt of infiltration in the form of terror strikes if it is not stopped immediately.

AASU adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya said this while addressing a press conference and added that Assam has become the safe corridor for the Jehadi elements due to the porous Indo-Bangladesh international border.

“We have been shouting for long to seal the international border and deport illegal migrants from Bangladesh. Neither the Centre nor the state governments had taken it seriously. Today the unabated influx has taken the form of terrorism, and triggering blasts across the country,” Bhattacharya said.

AASU leaders blamed all the political parties, including Congress, BJP, AGP and Left for not being serious on stopping influx of Bangladeshi nationals.

“Only for the sake of vote bank, political parties have blatantly been turning blind eye on the influx. We earnestly appeal to the political parties to give up their love for vote banks for the sake of Assam’s and indigenous people’s security. Centre became alert to the threats of Bangladeshis when terror struck near its door step. Not when we are raising the issue for such a long time,” AASU president Shankar Prasad Roy lambasted.

The student body said that the Gauhati High Court has clearly highlighted the problem of Bangladeshi migrants to Assam in its recent verdict.

A recent judgment of the High court stated that “……. large number of Bangladeshis present in the State of Assam have a major role in electing the representatives both to the Legislative Assembly and the Parliament and consequently, in the decision making process towards building the nation. They have become kingmakers.”

AASU demanded that government should set up detention camps in the state so that if someone is detected as Bangladeshi national, could not abscond.

“If influx continues days are not far when Assam will have foreign national as Chief minister,” AASU general secretary Tapan Kumar Gogoi warned.


Monday, August 4, 2008

“Taslima must not be allowed to return”

Staff Reporter

KOLKATA: Syed Mohammad Noorur Rahman Barkati, Shahi Imam of Tipu Sultan Masjid here, said on Friday that External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Minister for Chemicals and Fertilizers and Steel Ram Vilas Paswan considered Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen’s return to India a serious threat to the country’s secularism.

“The Ministers acknowledged that the provocative text of the controversial Bangladeshi writer insulted not only Islam, but also people belonging to other religions,” the Imam claimed.
“Chances of Taslima’s coming back to India are slim as people who are secular and respect all religions will not allow it,” he said. “We will launch a massive campaign if she tries to return back by any chance.”

The Imam had previously issued a fatwa against Taslima in August 2007 to leave the country. She was forced to leave the city, where she was residing after being exiled from Bangladesh, on November 22, 2007 following widespread violence by All India Minorities Forum supporters demanding the cancellation of her visa. Taslima is now in Europe and recently expressed hope of returning to India.


Hindu Man Set On Fire For marrying Muslim Girl

Kolkata: Close on the heels of the beheading of a Hindu man for marrying a Muslim girl at a village in Murshidabad district, another man was set on fire by his in-laws on Friday at Anarpur in North 24-Parganas district for the same reason.

With severe burns, Arka Banerjee (22), a Hindu resident of Barasat's Chowdhurybagan, is now struggling for life in Barasat district hospital, superintendent of police of North 24-Parganas district Supratim Sarkar said here on Saturday.

Arka met Rehana Sultana, a Muslim during frequent trips to Baduria where his uncle stayed. Later they fell in love and got married in 2006 at a marriage registrar's office.

Apprehending opposition from his family, Arka rented a house at Haora, away from his parents, and did odd jobs to earn his living.

However, the girl's Islamist family members traced the couple to Haora after a year and brought Rehana and her one-year-old son to Anarpur, while Arka was threatened with dire consequence if he returned to Baduria.

Early on Friday, when Arka tried to enter his in-laws' house to get his wife and baby back, he was severely beaten up. Later Rehana's brother Monirul allegedly took out a tin of kerosene, poured it on him and set him on fire.

Some local people later rescued him by pouring water to douse the flames. He was then admitted to a local hospital and subsequently shifted to Barasat district hospital.

Arka's brother in-law Monirul was on Saturday arrested by the police on the basis of a statement by Arka at the hospital bed, the SP said.


Sunday, August 3, 2008

‘Bomb’ in Malda, experts a day away

- Police put suspected explosive device in water

Police recovered a suspected improvised explosive device fitted with a timer from the bank of the Ganga in Malda’s Biharitola village on the Bengal-Jharkhand border this morning.

However, the nearest bomb squad of the CID is based in Siliguri and the experts are not expected to reach Malda till tomorrow. The police have placed the device in a bucket of water, but has not been able to defuse it.

“We cannot say if it is an explosive and how powerful it may be till the bomb squad arrives,” Malda police chief Satyajit Bandyopadhyay said.

Sources said residents of Biharitola, 35km from Malda town, spotted the spherical object wired to a small clock on the edge of the village close to the riverbank around 6am. They reported the matter to the Baishnabnagar police.

“We do not know who placed the bomb there and are asking the villagers for leads. Biharitola is located on the bank of the Ganga and on the other side is Jharkhand,” said the officer-in-charge of the Baishnabnagar police station, Nepal Sen.

“We are trying to find out if any militant outfit is behind this,” the Malda police chief said.

District intelligence sources said militant outfits consider Malda to be a “safe corridor”.

“In fact, the Students Islamic Movement of India — or Simi, a banned outfit — is quite active in this area with some cells operating here,” an intelligence officer said.

A central intelligence agency had recently drawn the attention of the Malda police to four active Simi members who had even been to Bangladesh to attend a meeting of the outfit.

“The activity of fake note smugglers and members of militant groups have increased in this area recently,” the deputy inspector-general of the BSF, Malda sector, P. S. Tomor, said. He added that a list of cross-border operatives had been handed over to the director-general of the Bangladesh Rifles.

The police have stepped up vigil at the Farakka Barrage, railway stations and along tracks after the discovery of the device in Biharitola.

Officials of the district intelligence bureau take out the suspected explosive device from a bag in which they carried it to the Baishnabnagar police station on Sunday before putting it in a bucket of water (right). Pictures by Surajit Roy


Friday, August 1, 2008

Lashkar-e-Toiba sets up base in West Bengal district

Underground Islamic fundamentalist terrorist groups have extended their network in several Bengal districts along Indo-Bangladesh border under the garb of frontal welfare organisations, a Bengal police report says.

The most alarming of such networks is by Lashkar-e-Toiba, which over the past couple of years, has extended their network through the frontal welfare organisation, Ahl-e-Hadis.

A confidential study by the intelligence branch of the state police reveals that over the years, these frontal organisations have gained substantial popularity among the local populace through their development activities in the region.

According to IB sources, the local police and the undercover sleuths never suspected them because these groups avoided all religious talks.

“Their real face was uncovered after we recently arrested two Lashkar persons from Murshidabad district, who were part of the Ahl-e-Hadis. Investigations revealed that this frontal organisation is also operating in a similar manner in Bangladesh for the past few years,” a senior IB official said.

The IB also recovered from them several incriminating documents including maps of some vital defence installations.

The investigators say further interrogations of the two Lashkar militants may provide some vital clues to the recent blasts at Bangalore and Ahmedabad. “One thing was clear during their interrogation that besides travelling to Bangladesh, the two suspects often frequented Mumbai and Ahmedabad,” the IB official said.

They further pointed out that unlike Harkat-ul-Jihadi-Islami (Huji), the Lashkar under the garb of Ahl-e-Hadis never made an attempt to expand its network to all the Indo-Bangladesh bordering districts of Bengal. “They only concentrated in Murshidabad and Maldah districts because of the sheer multi-connectivity advantages these two districts enjoy over other bordering districts,” the IB official said.

He said that unlike any Bengal district along Bangladesh border, Maldah and Murshidabad provide easy access to Bangladesh and Nepal.

“At the same time, from both these districts, one can easily move out to Bengal’s neighbouring state of Jharkhand. Also, Murshidabad and Maldah are the only two Indo-Bangladesh bordering districts of Bengal, which have direct railways connectivity to major stations of Howrah and Sealdah,” he said.