KOLKATA: In 2009, Kolkata Police arrested ‘Bulla Mullick’ and released him without verifying his identity. Four years later, they learnt it was Yasin Bhatkal – the founder of Indian Mujahideen.
That was the first hint that Kolkata may be turning a hub of the terror network. Indian Mujahideen operative Abdullah alias Nata, who was involved in the Mumbai blast, lived in Beniapukur but fled before the police realized who he was. He is now operating from Bangladesh.
And soon after the Patna blast on October 27, Kolkata Police arrested Md Ali with fake currency and a foreign passport. He is now suspected to have helped get the funds for Patna IEDs.
The January 2001 American Center shooting may be the only terrorist attack in Kolkata but that doesn’t mean the city is not on the terror radar. Insurgents are using Kolkata as a conduit for weapons, explosives and money and even as a recruiting base, say security sources. The fact that Special Task Force has seized more than Rs 15 crore fake currency since its inception indicates Kolkata is a crucial stopover in the terror map.
Kolkata is hemmed by four districts – Howrah, Hooghly, North and South 24-Parganas – that have a common border with Bangladesh. Bengal shares its borders with three states and three countries. There are so many porous areas and it is not possible to set up a foolproof security cover for the city, say officers.
Police have identified at least eight vulnerable points, particularly in North and South 24-Parganas, which give easy access to the city without using the main entry points like Howrah bridge, Vidyasagar Setu and Howrah and Seladah station that are under watch. Terrorists use Achipur, Budge Budge, Batanagar and Garden Reach as alternative routes to bypass police.
“Porous border areas are a serious problem. We have had several meetings with BSF to sort it out. Anyone who crosses the border unchecked will get easy access to the city without even boarding a train. We need to plug the gaps,” North 24-Parganas SP Tanmoy Roychowdhury said.
“There have been instances when arms and explosives were smuggled in and used in subversive activities. Unless we can stop this we cannot control terrorism. Our commandant and the North 24-Parganas SP will have regular meetings and we will follow up on the arrests made by us. We met the DGP and he has assured all assistance,” said ADG-BSF (South Bengal) B D Sharma.
“Indian Mujahideen and some Bangladeshi outfits like Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami Bangladesh (HuJI-B) Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) use Kolkata for logistics, transport, fundingand shelter. Bangladeshi outfits use this route to sneak into Nepal,” an officer said.
“There are certain areas where checking is stringent but due to the large population it is not possible to plug all entry and exit points. If there is a specific intelligence input then checking is intensified,” said joint commissioner (intelligence) Dilip Banerjee.