Recently a joint team of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the district police reached Pathira village in Bihar to arrest a terror agent named Zafar Abbas, they were in for some sort of movie drama as Abbas dived into the village pond and hid underwater for close to 90 minutes. Finally someone spotted him in water and he was taken into arrest. The team recovered 6 mobile phones, two laptops and SIM cards from him.
Having initially started as a cybercriminal, Abbas became a terror agent while serving time at Delhi’s Tihar Jail. He was known for forgery, bank frauds and assault long before he turned into a foot soldier for a Pakistan-based terror outfit. NIA had received information that Zafar Abbas, a youth of Pathra village of Manjhagarh police station in Gopalganj district, is in contact with Pakistani terrorists associated with terror funding. Since then he was on the radar of the investigation team. The NIA team was continuously investigating about him. The youth was first investigated in a case related to cybercrime. After which it was found that he also has connections with Pakistani terrorists and he was doing terror funding. After this, the NIA team took action and arrested him.
The arrest of Abbas is not the first instance of terror activity in Bihar. Not long ago, the Patna special NIA court on November 1 had sentenced four convicts to death and life imprisonment to two for their role in the October 2013 bomb blasts in Patna. It has now been confirmed that Bihar is the state which has become the epicenter of terror activities in India.
The Modi government has been very strict towards any terrorist activity in the country. As the BJP has been known as the party which is based on nationalism and is entirely ‘Rashtrawadi’, it’s the primary duty of the government to take harsh action against any anti-national development seen in the country. Recently Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had said that since the Modi government has come into power, there has not been any major terror attack in India. “No matter what it takes, we will not let terrorists succeed. Leave alone Jammu and Kashmir, no major terrorist attack took place in any part of the country after the arrival of Modiji. This is our major achievement... This is not a small thing,” he said. Recalling the surgical strike the Indian forces had conducted targeting terrorists and their infrastructure in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in 2018, Singh said it was a clear message that India would not allow safe harbours for terrorists either in its own territory or outside. However, some of the recent developments in Bihar drag our attention towards the other side of the coin.
During 2014, six people were killed and more than 80 were injured in multiple blasts that rocked Patna’s Gandhi Maidan during a rally by Narendra Modi, who was being projected as the BJP’s PM candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Indian Mujahideen bomb-making expert Tehsin Akhtar, the mastermind behind the plan to create mayhem in India before the Lok Sabha polls, belongs to Maniyarpur village of Bihar's Samastipur district.
Another big verdict was delivered on December 17, when a special NIA court convicted eight out of nine terrorists of Jamat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) for their role in the IED explosion in Bodh Gaya in 2018 when Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, along with several Buddhist pilgrims, was camping in the town to participate in the month-long Kalachakra puja. Court awarded life sentences to three terrorists, while the other five were sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment. Those who were pronounced guilty were identified as—Arif Hussain, Dilwar Hossain, Adbul Karim, Mustafizur Rahman alias Shaheen (WB), Jahidul Islam alias Kaisar (Bangladesh national), Mohammad Paigambar Sheikh, Ahmad Ali alias Kalu, Nur Alam Nomani and Mohammad Adil Sheikh under Sections 121, 121A, 123 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), Explosive Substances Act and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
According to the special public prosecutor (NIA) Lallan Prasad Sinha, eight of the nine accused had filed a joint petition before the special court on October 22 confessing their crime for hatching conspiracy and executing blast, which was accepted by the court. The case was initially registered by the Gaya police following information that some suspicious objects were lying near the Kalchakra Maidan, Bodh Gaya under a generator set. The police secured the site and during the search of the whole premises, two more live IEDs were recovered. Later on, the case was taken over by the NIA. Investigation revealed accused Jahidul Islam, with the help of other co-accused, made three IEDs and two hand grenades. The IEDs were planted by Adil Sheikh, Dilwar Hossain and Arif Hussain in the premises of Bodh Gaya temple complex to cause loss to public life and property during the presence of the Dalai Lama and also during the visit of Bihar Governor at Bodh Gaya.
Incidentally, this was the second IED blast inside the Mahabodhi temple. The first incident occurred on July 7, 2013, in which the convicts—all Indian Mujahideen members—had planted 13 IEDs inside the temple. Of these, nine had exploded. The Juvenile Justice Board that held an 18-year-old boy guilty of planting explosives at the temple complex had said the attack was to avenge the atrocities against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. The juvenile and other accused planted 13 bombs at the Maha Bodhi temple complex. Two monks were injured and three unexploded bombs were recovered.
In yet another critical development, the NIA on December 23 filed a chargesheet against five persons in the June 17 Darbhanga railway station blast case in Bihar. The charge sheet was filed against Mohammed Nasir Khan and his brother Imran Malik, who are natives of Kairana of Shamli district of Uttar Pradesh. They had been living in Hyderabad. Other accused Saleem Ahmed and Kafil Ahmad are also from Kairana whereas the fifth accused Iqbal Mohammed alias Iqbal Kana is also from Shamli and currently operates from Lahore. The Darbhanga railway blast was a failed attempt by the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) to set ablaze a moving train in June this year.
NIA claimed that Nasir Khan and his brother on the instance of Iqbal Kana configured the IED by using locally procured chemicals. They placed it in a parcel of clothes and on June 15, they booked the parcel at the Secunderabad railway office. During the booking, they used a fake PAN card to hide their identity. The train departs at night and the accused had planned to trigger the blast during night hours so that fire caused by the explosion cause maximum damage. Within a week, the Centre handed over the case to the NIA, as initial police investigations hinted at a plot involving terror agents in Hyderabad. While four have been arrested, their fifth accomplice Iqbal Kana, according to the NIA, has fled to Pakistan. The agency has booked them under sections 120B, 468, and 471 of the IPC, Sections 3, 4, and 5 of the Explosive Substances Act, 1908, and sections 16, 17, 18, 18B, 20, 23, 38, 39 and 40 of the UA(P) Act.
While India, in past has witnessed some major terror attacks which have had massive influence on the overall development of the country. According to SATP (South Asia Terrorism Portal), 180 terrorist groups have operated within India over the last 20 years, many of which co-listed as transnational terror networks operating in or from neighboring South Asian countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan. Of these, 38 are on the current list of terrorist organisations banned by India under its First Schedule of the UA(P) Act, 1967. As of 2012, many of these were also listed and banned by the United States and European Union.
However, Bihar has been the most sought after place for terror activities in the past few years. Sources reveal that it has been used by terrorists all over the country as both a recruiting centre and sanctuary. Since 2006, police in separate swoops picked up at least 12 terrorists from Bihar, who were allegedly involved in various blasts in the country. These blasts have been carried out from various places around the world but the links have often led to terrorists hiding in Bihar’s backward areas.
The arrest of Pakistani national Mohammad Ashraf alias Ali, who was recently nabbed from Laxmi Nagar in New Delhi by the Delhi Police, has again turned the spotlight on Bihar after it was found that he managed to get an Indian identity through a village in the state’s eastern region. Terror links being traced to Bihar is not new, be it Dubai-based terrorist Aftab Ansari alias Farhan Mallik, whose passport was made at a Nalanda address or LTTE chief Prabhakaran, whose driving licence was traced to Dhanbad in early 1990s when the coal town was part of undivided Bihar.
In yet another development in September 2017, Tauseef alias Atik Khan, the mastermind of 2008 Ahmedabad serial blast that killed 56 people and injured over 200, was arrested from Gaya. Earlier also, there have been several instances of terror links found in Bihar.
In 2014, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) nabbed Indian Mujahideen (IM) co-founder Yasin Bhatkal and his aide Asadullah from the Indo-Nepal border. Bhatkal used to work in Bihar in the guise of an Ayurvedic physician, identifying himself as “Dr Imran”. In 2009, a Nepal-based Lashkar operative, Mohammad Omar Madni, who hailed from Madhubani, was arrested by a Delhi Police team. In 2006 also, Kamaluddin and Khalid Sheikh were arrested from Madhubani’s Basobpatti area in connection with Mumbai train blasts.
With so many terror activities occurring in Bihar and shocking revelations pointing to links of these terror attacks in Bihar suggests that Bihar has certainly become an easy target zone for terrorists and their terror activities and this is definitely a worrying sign for the Indian government.