Ranchi, Sept. 1: The arrest of Indian Mujahideen (IM) co-founder Yasin Bhatkal from Bihar-Nepal border has put the state police on high alert, especially in the wake of past reports of sleeper cells in Jharkhand.
“Keeping tabs on suspected terror links is nothing new. It is a standing order. Though Jharkhand has never seen a terror strike, we are always alert,” said director-general of police (DGP) Rajiv Kumar.
Sources in the state police claimed that the Union home ministry had already sent an advisory note to the state police to find out if Bhatkal had any direct or indirect link with Jharkhand.
This is not the first time when the state’s name has surfaced in the wake of the arrest of a terrorist or has been linked to banned outfits.
On March 4 this year, a key IM operative, Manzar Imam (35), was arrested from Ranchi. Before that, Imam’s close associate Danish Riyaz of Bariatu was arrested in Vadodara, Gujarat, on June 21, 2011, in connection with 2008 Ahmedabad blasts.
The DGP, however, denied that the home ministry had sent any advisory note.
Jharkhand police spokesperson ADG S.N. Pradhan said, “There are no evidences to suggest that Bhatkal has or had any direct link with Jharkhand. He may have indirect links, which needs probe.”
However, some media reports, which police neither supported nor refuted, claimed that Bhatkal had tried to obtain a forged passport as Anjar Hussain from Ranchi’s passport office in 2008. He was reportedly denied the same because of inadequate documentation.
A top intelligence officer, on the condition of anonymity, said that ruling out the state’s links with Bhatkal and Co. was wishful thinking. The officer, who was a part of the team that initially interrogated Manzar, said the IM operative had claimed that his outfit had been partially successful in lodging sleeper cells in parts of the state like Ranchi, Ramgarh and Hazaribagh.
After arrest, Imam was taken to Ernakulam in Kerala, where a case was lodged against him and 40 others for receiving training in subversive acts in 2008. A postgraduate from Ranchi University in 2007, Imam’s name surfaced in several terror attacks.
Intelligence sources claimed that Imam, during interrogations, had mentioned six Jharkhand youths whom he wanted as sleeper agents. If sources are to be believed the six are Abrar, Salahuddin and Haidar from Ranchi, and Hidayatullah, Farhatullah and Muajamin from Ramgarh. All are well educated, with no previous criminal records.
A report on the youths was dispatched to the Union home ministry that time. Intelligence agencies had suspicions pinned on Haidar, who used to visit Aurangabad in Bihar frequently, though he had no family or business there.
Jharkhand has always been considered a safe haven for sleeper cells owing to its thick forest cover, besides borders with Bengal, which is again close to Bangladesh.
The past arrests and encounters of suspected terrorists in Jharkhand vindicate it further. In 2002, a joint team of Delhi and Hazaribagh police had gunned down two terrorists, who were involved in the American Center attack in Calcutta in January 2002.
“When a person goes missing for long or his very act creates doubts it is time for the police to act. I doubt whether Jharkhand police follow this protocol,” an intelligence official gave a point to ponder.
35 years old; trained at SIMI camp ‘Jihad in India’
at Kottayam, Kerala, in 2008
Jharkhand connection: lived in Bariatu, Ranchi;
ran Indian Mujahideen
(IM) sleeper cells in
Ranchi, Ramgarh, Hazaribagh; arrested
from the state capital
on March 4 this year
Status: currently, in judicial custody in Kerala
Personal dossier: 35 years old; Imam’s trusted lieutenant and involved in 2008 Ahmedabad blasts
Jharkhand connection: born in Bariatu, Ranchi; helped run the IM network in the state
Status: in jail since his arrest from Vadodara, Gujarat, on June 21, 2011