|Yasin Bhatkal being brought to the Patiala House Courts
in New Delhi on Friday. Picture by Yasir Iqbal
Patna, Aug. 30: Arrested Indian Mujahideen (IM) co-founder Yasin Bhatkal has been extensively questioned about the “Darbhanga module” of terror which he is believed to have ideated, sources in the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Intelligence Bureau (IB) have told The Telegraph.
The issue is particularly sensitive for the ruling JD(U) as Nitish Kumar, during a meeting of chief ministers in New Delhi last February, had criticised the central security agencies for coining the term “Darbhanga module” or “Bihar module” of terrorism perpetrated by the IM. “This is highly objectionable. How can a responsible agency describe a particular region or a community or a state as a module of terror?” Nitish had then asked.
However, both the NIA and the IB chose to grill Bhatkal mainly on the Darbhanga module — when it became active, its present members and the number of active sleeper cells and the recruitment process et al, sources told this newspaper today.
Bhatkal, according to sources, spent a restless night at the headquarters of the Bihar Military Police (BMP)-5 in Patna on Thursday. He had a dinner of roti, fried rice, dal, vegetables and salad — his only respite from the intense questioning by sleuths of the NIA and the IB.
The questions thrown at Bhatkal yesterday and this morning, before he was taken to New Delhi by a special chartered aircraft around 12.40pm, centred around three points. First, extensive information on the Darbhanga module; second, the IM’s involvement in the pumping of fake currency into India via Nepal and Bangladesh and third, the outfit’s network across the country.
Once in Delhi, Bhatkal and his close aide Asadullah Akhtar were brought to the Patiala House Courts with their faces covered. They were produced before district judge I.S. Mehta amid tight security.
The court remanded Bhatkal and Akhtar to police custody for 12 days. The duo, arrested by officers of Bihar police and the NIA from the India-Nepal border in Raxaul early on Thursday morning, have been kept at the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) facility in the capital’s Lutyens’ zone.
“Yasin Bhatkal is one of the most wanted terrorists and we do not need to take any chances. We have kept him and his aide at the safest place possible in the heart of Delhi. Over 50 armed policemen and commandos are deployed to keep a check on them and their safety. They are our prized catch,” said a senior police official.
During the in-camera court proceedings, M.S. Khan, counsel for both the accused, told the judge that there was no material evidence against the duo. He went on to argue that one of the accused person’s name was Mohammed Ahmed and not Yasin Bhatkal.
“What proof do they have to corroborate that he is also Yasin Bhatkal,” Khan contended in the court.
After hearing the arguments for 15 minutes, the judge ordered 12 days’ custody. “In these circumstances and looking into contents of the application, I grant police custody to the NIA for 12 days for further investigation,” he said.
The duo are being interrogated by officials of the NIA and other central security agencies.
“Initially, Yasin was proving to be a hard nut to crack but now he has started to open up... He is being put through sustained interrogation and we will get to know many things about the IM and its birth. He is the right person to tell the story from the beginning to the end,” the official added.
In Patna too, the interrogators attempted to do exactly that with the focus being on the Darbhanga module.
A source in the investigation team said Bhatkal told them that the IM had identified Darbhanga because of its location (close to Nepal) and socio-economic conditions. Being a good motivator, Bhatkal had been successful in getting followers, most of who were unemployed persons. It was cheap labour for the group, the source explained.
In a bid to earn the trust of the people, the IM men used the “marriage” bait, the sources said.
“Yasin himself got married to a girl from Samastipur a few years ago. He said that some IM members had also married locals. The idea was to win the trust of the people. With Darbhanga being the epicentre, there is a strong suspicion that the IM has its cells in neighbouring Madhubani, Samastipur and Madhepura districts, all close to the India-Nepal border,” a source said.
NIA director-general Sharad Kumar, who was in Bihar since Thursday, also questioned Bhatkal before he met state DGP Abhayanand. The two held a closed-door meeting.
Additional reporting by Imran Ahmed Siddiqui