Wednesday 28 October 2020

NIA arrests point to Wahhabi extremism in Bengal

The seven suspected terrorists arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) last month from Bengal’s Murshidabad district

The arrest of seven suspected Al-Qaeda terrorists from West Bengal’s Murshidabad district has opened the proverbial can of worms for investigating agencies, who are now digging deeper into the spread of radicalisation of local youths, particularly in the border districts of the state.

According to sources in investigating agencies, over the years, multiple small organisations have come up in different parts of the state. These are involved in “recruiting” young people to radicalise them and prepare them for “jihad” by teaching them the principles of Wahhabism.

The seven suspected terrorists arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) last month from Bengal’s Murshidabad district have revealed that they were going to attack important establishments and were planning to kill innocent people. A large quantity of incriminating material, jihadi literatures, documents, digital devices, circuits, sharp weapons and similar stuff were found from their homes.

A source from one of the investigating agencies who spoke to this correspondent, said, “It has come to our notice that multiple organisations have come up over the years that recruit youngsters under the garb of imparting them with knowledge and information about religious scriptures. But in reality they are teaching them fundamentalism. The agency is investigating every angle of the information it is getting.”

“We are learning about how these people were working to recruit new entrants into their group; if there are any kind of training camps present in Bengal, who their leader is and how many people are involved in this,” said the source from the investigating agency.

According to intelligence sources from Bengal, the demographic change in the border districts of West Bengal has been a cause for concern for them and they say that in the past few years, several fundamentalists and Wahhabi clerics have crossed over to India from Bangladesh through the porous borders and are working with the local population to radicalise them and prepare them for a “holy war”.

“The border districts of Malda, Murshidabad and North 24 Parganas have witnessed a major change in demographics. Several small madrasas have come up in these areas and what we have learnt is that many of these madrasas are admitting young students and imparting them with Wahhabi Islamist knowledge to turn them into hardliner fundamentalists. They are operating with funds coming from Bangladeshi fundamentalist organisations and some even from Pakistan,” an intelligence source from Bengal told this correspondent.

Over the past few years, the NIA has arrested several fundamentalists who were working in Bengal. The NIA had arrested members of the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) from different parts of the country. Intelligence sources also say that since several of the fundamentalist clerics of Bangladesh are being targeted by the Sheikh Hasina government in Bangladesh, they have crossed over to India to find a safe haven in Bengal.

“These fundamentalist clerics are finding it easy to stay in Bengal and propagate their teaching among the youth owing to rampant unemployment in the rural areas of the state. The local youths are mostly jobless and it is easy to recruit and train them. The local administration turns a blind eye to their activities, giving them a free run. We have come across several printed materials, WhatsApp forwards, posters and banners that are often circulated among the local population, asking them to come and join the noble cause of establishing the rule of Wahhabism,” the intelligence officer working in Bengal said.

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