Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Evaluating Jyoti Basu

"If men could see the epitaphs their friends write they would believe they had gotten into the wrong grave"

Famous English playwright and political activist George Bernard Shaw once observed, "Birth equals all men, death reveals the eminent". As to prove his dictum true, scores of paeans from across political sections, including BJP, have been sung in praise of Comrade Jyoti Basu who passed away recently. These, perhaps, have been done keeping in tune with the traditional Indian culture that nothing critical should be spoken or expressed for the person who is no more so that he can have the quantum of solace in haven. Agreed. But then, Comrade Basu was no ordinary man. He had been in active politics since independence and had served as CM of Bengal for a record making 23 years. Therefore, his track record should be thoroughly assessed before we, as patriotic citizens of India kneeled down to worship him. Nobody is perfect and so was Com. Basu. But there is certainly a good amount of difference between committing inadvertent mistakes and deliberately resorting to committing Himalayan blunders. As a leading light of the Communist movement in India and as CM of Bengal, he committed several blunders which are not only antediluvian but also anti-Indian. So, we all must assess his life and actions before resorting to ritualistic bravados of adjectives laden golden epitaphs.
Born in a wealthy zamindar family in the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), Basu's life was full of contradictions and unsavoury attitude towards India and basic foundation of its polity i.e. Indian Constitution.Everybody knows that before Bengal was besieged by the Communists, it was one of the leading industrial and prosperous states of India. But with the advent of the so-called "pro-poor" Communists, Bengal has been reduced to the one of the most industrially and economically backward states of India. And Com Basu and his hordes of cohorts were behind this tragic nemesis of Bengal in their more than 30 years of misrule. In fact, the most famous trade union jargon "gherao" has been the contribution of these bunches of Communists who in the 60's and early 70's resorted to this tactic in the name of Communism (labour rights) that led to the shutting down of various flourishing industries of Bengal. The result was for all to see.  
The Communists of India were nothing but the paid stooges of their holy fatherland of the erstwhile Soviet Russia (RIP) as exposed by the Mitrochin archive. They are also known as good drafter of pedantic and catchy phrases, albeit, for themselves only and not for the poor, illiterate masses who could not make out whether "praxis" is some food or name of a new brand of vodka!! The moment their fatherland was attacked by the Nazi Germany in 1941 the hitherto "Imperialist War" was overnight turned into "People's War" for which Communists like P C Joshi et al turned into British Government's trusted spies that led to the sabotaging of the Quit India movement launched to oust the reigning Britishers once for all. That is not all. After independence these very same Communists resorted to "armed revolution" against the Nehru led Govt screaming aloud "yeh azadi jhuthi hai". Our hard earned "azadi" was "jhutha" because they could not replicate a bloody October Revolution like coup in India to wrest power and let loose a totalitarian, anti-democratic regime, making India another "satellite" country for the benefit of their fatherland. Since then, they have been resorting to inciting anti-India/anti Indian State sentiments and armed upsurges against a democratically elected Indian Government. Time and again, they have shown where their allegiance lie. Come 1962, the undivided Communist Party of India (CPI) was divided into CPI and CPI (Marxist) in 1964. One was pro-Russia and the other CPI-M was pro-China. Sadly, none of them were pro-India!! Likes of Ranadive, A K Gopalan et al of CPM even held press conferences across India with maps supplied by compatriot China to "prove" that it was not their holy Communist China but unholy Democratic India that was responsible for the 1962 war. China waged armed aggression but these Marxists resorted to cartographic aggression against India much to the delight of the Communist China, Comrades of whom have been staunchly nationalistic, unlike Comrades of India who proved themselves at the worst as the Chinese Patriotic Musketeers. They even organized hartals, ghearos etc of the Defence Ordnance factories to sabotage India's wartime efforts. It was the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayemsevak Sangh(RSS) which came to the rescue of Govt led war efforts against the Communist trade unions. Therefore, Govt banned it andCom Basu was one of those who were sent to jail for treason against the nation. The turn of the events even surprised PM Nehru who used to have a soft corner for them and came to appreciate the selfless services rendered by the staunchly nationalistic and disciplined swayemsevaks of the hitherto "fascist" RSS. He welcomed RSS uniformed volunteers to participate in the Republic day march-past in 1963 much to the chagrin of the anti-Indian communists like Basu, who till death called it as an "uncivilized barbarian". But then, "civilized traitors" like Basu like all of Comrades and their fellow travelers, could not erase this stigma of being resident non-Indian quislers even by donning the mukhota of a Bhadralok!!  

Now, being in power uninterruptedly since 1977 via their muscled powered "scientific rigging", Basu et al even shaken the "anti-incumbency" dynamics of a democratic polity, and thus confusing not just the Aam Admis but also the students of Political Science!! Yet another astounding "feat" of Com Basu!! Jai Ho!! Operation Barga- the famous and the sole trumpeted "achievement" of land re-distribution/land reform in India by the CPM led Left Front Govt in their more than three decades old regime has been exposed as the land siphoning and cadre breeding infamousscheme as the events of Singur, Nandigram, Haripur etc. clearly showed. It does not even have a comprehensive Land Acquisition Policy (LAP) till date, then how come they "successfully" "re-distributed" lands in vast swathes of rural Bengal?? The real truth is that acres and acres of such "re-distributed" lands are at the hands of its leading cadres and their goondas who become the "benevolent" Zamindars for the poverty stricken voiceless rural proletariats of a Bengal besieged by these Stalinist hoodlums. And don't forget, Com. Basu was their much revered leader. A real sarvahara indeed!!
Now, come to their oft repeated slogan of being "pro-people" and "pro-poor". Really? A scientific and thorough work by the economists Bibek Debroy and Lavesh Bhandari entitled "A Story of Falling Behind" (2009) has revealed among others for the first time that out of the 18 districts of Bengal, 14 of these among India's 100 poorest. Uttar Dinajpur, which is Bengal's poorest district, has a per-capita SDP that is only 33.6 percent that of Kolkata, the richest district. It said-"for all its talk about equality and removal of inequalities, the Bengal Govt. hasn't been able improve the lot of the people in the worst-off and backward districts." Not only that, Bengal stands far behind in implementing MG-NREGA which they "claimed" as their own brain child and one of the many "revolutionary achievements" of their supported UPA-I Govt whose spoils of powers had been thoroughly relished by the Communists, including Com.Basu and his industrialist son Chandan Basu, without even the iota of responsibility. Now, that's called "achievement", isn't it? It is certainly an achievement for Com. Basu Sons & Co. but not for the hapless hungry people of Bengal whose development, freedom and free democratic space for dissent has been ruthlessly strangulated by the CPM led Left Front Govt which by now has lost its self-proclaimed title of being "people's party", being under the combined sway of the opposition parties and losing successive panchayat and bye-elections. They are going to lose the 2011 State election, for sure even without enjoining the customary refrain of ceteris paribusIn order to blowing a storm of sympathy wave as their last resort to save their last lal bastion, they are now, via their "eminent" fellow travelers in media, are resorting to create a demi-God like reverential halo around Godless Com. Basu. But people of Bengal are no fools; some of the elderly ones even wish to checkmate death to see the fall of the Red Brigade in their own life times. It will surely be a celebration of democracy and vibrant civil society which it wanted to give a silent burial. Lo! they are queuing up for their own burial and take it for sure that not a single drop of tear will be shed for it by the real sarvaharas of Bengal- the poor and the destitute.
Real achievements are measured by real deeds with tangible results on ground and not by cheap politicking of propaganda politics of "revolutionary feats" that what Comrades like Basu and others resorted to in all these years. His death only helps to hasten the benign fall of it and nothing else. He would scream"cholbe na" against the then Bengal Governor Dharma Vira in the day and would come to toast expensive scotch whisky with him in the evening!! Devoid of any love for his karmabhoomi India, he would occasionally went to London (thepunyabhu of his ideological indoctrination) citing the excuse of health treatment which he was so sure of not being available even in a superspeciality like AIIMS in India, his "wretched" land. He even defended the indefensible and inhuman Tiananmen massacre of pro-democracy Chinese students by the PLA of China saying "if you keep the doors open, flies will come in"!! He was certainly the Vanguard of Stalinism in Bengal which his regime had singlehandedly brought down from the pinnacle of glory as India's leading state to the nadir of being one of the worst backward states of India.
Neither as citizen of India nor as a Communist patriarch, Com. Basu never deserves our rich tributes, for he certainly reserves a Lal Salam from his fellow Comrades and Communism for which he lived and for which he died. Sorry, Com. Basu, there will be no Vande Mataram for you.

Hindu Samhati: An Movement Dedicated to Hindu Rehabilitation in West Bengal

Many small organizations are also playing role of empowering the Hindu masses at the ground level daily engaging themselves in the issues which have the potential to have larger impact in the longer run. Hindu Samhati or Hindu Solidarity is one such organisation which is creating its impact among the people mainly in West Bengal. Formed on 14th February 2008 by renowned Hindu activist and leader Shri Tapan Ghosh, Hindu Samhati has been growing fast strengthening grass root level activism through organizing the masses to resist and protest against any onslaught on Hindus. Earlier seen as a small intiative, Hindu Samhati is now increasing its support base through continuous activism and struggle and drawing people in large numbers towards its programmes.

Hindu Samhati is a non-political organization to address human rights, political rights and social rehabilitation of minorities in Bangladesh and oppressed Hindus in West Bengal. The eastern part of India is facing Islamist onslaught from Bangladesh from where ISI has been sending operatives through its well nurtured network. As the persecution of Hindus continues in Bangladesh, West Bengal is also facing aggressive form of Islamist agenda which is seeking to dominate the State politically and socially. As the vote bank politics results in increasing political clout of the Islamists the challenges before Hindu masses in West Bengal are immense and needs to be met with determination and strong will. The immigration of persecuted Hindus from Bangladesh further requires the Hindu masses of West Bengal to take their responsibilities by helping to rehabilitate them and to seek justice for them.

The founder of Hindu Samhati, Tapan Ghosh, is known for his commitment towards Hindu cause. Born in May 11, 1953, in West Bengal, he is a distinguished alumunus of City College and Maulana Azad College of Kolkata earning top honours in Physics in 1974. A life of 25 years of relentless service has further strengthened the resolve of Tapan Ghosh to unite Hindu masses to fight against injustice and oppressive attitude of the authorities in the face of ever increasing Islamist aggression. He says, "As someone who has suffered enormously from the Islamist onslaught in eastern India, both after the partition of India as well as the partition of erstwhile Pakistan to form Bangladesh, Islamic terrorism has deeply affected my life and the life of millions in the Indian subcontinent. The horrific events of 1971 where nearly 3 million Bengalis, mostly Hindus were exterminated by the Pakistani military regime left an everlasting impression on me. Since then, I have worked relentlessly for the service and upliftment of people reeling under the scourge of radical Islamic". His personal experience has helped him in understanding the plight of the Hindus who are forced to face severe repressions at the hands of Islamist fundamentalists aided by a supportive administration and government who mostly act in collusion with these subversive elements.

Hindu Samhati has been successfully engaging itself in the repatriation of young girls, kidnapped by pan-Islamic crime syndicates involved in human trafficking in South East Asia and the Middle East, by creating a grassroots information network in six border districts between India and Bangladesh, which acts as a major transit points. Apart from these activities, Hindu Samhati is organizing youths against planned atrocities targeted at Hindus, forced conversions, abduction, forcible marriage and rape by extremist elements and physical torture of Hindus. The organization has also been resisting grabbing of temple lands, attacks and demolition of temples by organising protests at the ground level. The organization also makes efforts to carry out relief and rehabilitation works wherever possible to provide succour to the persecuted Hindus in Bangladesh and west Bengal.

While Hindus are facing the brunt of Islamists and Christian missionaries, there are little efforts at the national level to understand the plight of the Hindu people in the regions dominated by so called ‘minorities' led by extremist elements. It is experienced that larger organsiations tend to ignore local incidents terming them as minor failing to understand the fact that these minor incidents are somehow linked to major designs. In such a situation, organization like Hindu Samhati play much bigger role than they are understood to be playing. They actually fill the gaps and act like cement in the system making the movement all the more strong and dynamic. People like Tapan Ghosh are undoubtedly rendering great service to the motherland in building, nurturing and taking forward such organizations at grass root level and in defending the Indian civilization and culture.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

History of Bengal

Pre-600 C.E
The region of Bengal (including present day Bangladesh), find mention in the writings of Greek historian Diodorus Siculus (90 BC - 40 BC), as the powerful kingdom of Gangaridai, which along with Prasii (present day Gangetic India), forced Alexander the Great, to abandon his advances into South Asia.

Hindu, Gupta empire (335 - 600 CE) and were responsible for establishing Bengal as a prosperous and culturally and militarily advanced region with its sphere of influence extending into Indonesia, Tibet and Myanmar. The Mallas, Devas, Chandras, Varmans and other localized dynasties, whose influence was limited to small parts of Bengal, were instrumental in developing arts and culture unique to Hinduism in Bengal. Tantric Buddhism and Shakta Hinduism under the Mimansa School of Hindu philosophy were the popular belief systems.

The Anga Mahajanapada (Greater Republic)

The earliest reference to Angas, the region which is now known as Bengal, occurs in the Atharava Veda. According to Buddhist texts like the Anguttara Nikaya, Anga was one of the sixteen great nations Mahajanapada (great Republics) which had flourished in central and north-west India in the 6th century BC. The Puranic texts like the Garuda Purana, Vishnu-Dharmottara, and the Markendeya Purana divide ancient Janpada horizon into nine divisions and place the Janapadas of the Angas, Kalinngas, Vangas, Pundras or Pundra Kingdom (now some part of East Bihar i.e. Purnea, West Bengal and Bangla Desh), Vidarbhas, and Vindhya-vasins in the Purva-Dakshina division.

Based on Mahabharata evidence, the kingdom of the Angas roughly corresponded to the region of Bhagalpur and Monghyr in Bihar and parts of Bengal; later extended to include most of Bengal. The River Champa (modern Chandan) formed the boundaries between the Magadha in the west and Anga in the east. Anga was bounded by river Koshi on the north. According to the Mahabharata, Duryodhana had named Karna the King of Anga.
The capital of Anga was Champa. According to Mahabharata and Harivamsa, Champa was formerly known as Malini. Champa was located on the right bank of river Ganga near its junction with river Champa. It was a very flourishing city and is referred to as one of six principal cities of ancient India (Digha Nikaya). Champa was noted for its wealth and commerce. It was also a great center of trade and commerce and its merchants regularly sailed to distant Suvarnabhumi for trading purposes. The ancient name of region and kingdom of Champa of central Vietnam (Lin-yi in Chinese records) apparently has its origin in this east Indian Champa.

Mauryan Dynasty 

From the 6th century BC, most of Bengal was a part of the powerful kingdom of Magadha, belonging to the Mauryan dynasty, which was an ancient Indo-Aryan kingdom of ancient India, mentioned in both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. It was also one of the four main kingdoms of India at the time of Buddha, having risen to power during the reigns of Bimbisara (c. 544-491 BC) and his son Ajatashatru (c. 491-460 BC). Magadha spanned to include most of Bihar and Bengal. The Magadha Empire included republican communities such as Rajakumara. Villages had their own assemblies under their local chiefs called Gramakas. Their administrations were divided into executive, judicial, and military functions. Bimbisara was friendly to both Jainism and Buddhism and suspended tolls at the river ferries for all ascetics after the Buddha was once stopped at the Ganges River for lack of money.
In 326 BC, the army of Alexander the Great approached the boundaries of the Nanda Empire of Magadha. The army, exhausted and frightened by the prospect of facing a larger Indian army at the Ganges River, mutinied at the Hyphasis (modern Beas) and refused to march further East. Alexander, after the meeting with his officer, Coenus, was convinced that it was better to return.

Gupta Dynasty 

The Gupta Empire is considered by many scholars to be the "golden age" of Bengal. The Rulers of the Gupta Empire were strong supporters of developments in the arts, architecture, science, and literature. The Guptas circulated a large number of gold coins, called Mudras, with their inscriptions. This period is also very rich in Sanskrit literature. Several important works were composed by well-known writers, such as Mrichchakatika or The Little Clay Cart by Shudraka, along with ones like Shakuntala, Kumarasambhava and Meghduta by Kalidasa and others. Panchatantra, the animal fables by Vishnu Sharma, and 13 plays by Bhasa, were also written in this period. Some of the best works of Sanskrit Literature, and thus of Indian Literature, were written down during this period. The most significant achievements of this period, however, were in religion, education, mathematics, art, Sanskrit literature and drama, and Kama Sutra, the principles of pleasure. Hinduism witnessed a crystallization of its components: major sectarian deities, image worship, emotionalism, and the importance of the temple. Education included grammar, composition, logic, metaphysics, mathematics, medicine, and astronomy. These subjects became highly specialized and reached an advanced level. The Indian numeral system—sometimes erroneously attributed to the Arabs, who took it from India to Europe where it replaced the Roman system—and the decimal system are Indian inventions of this period. Aryabhatta's expositions on astronomy in 499, moreover, gave calculations of the solar year and the shape and movement of astral bodies with remarkable accuracy.
In medicine, the Guptas were notable for their establishment and patronage of free hospitals. And although progress in physiology and biology was hindered by religious injunctions against contact with dead bodies, which discouraged dissection and anatomy, Indian physicians excelled in pharmacopoeia, cesarean section, bone setting, and skin grafting. Indeed Hindu medical advances were soon adopted in the Arab and Western worlds.

600-1200 C.E
The first recorded independent king of Bengal was Shashanka - reigning from 606 CE.
More concrete evidence of Bengal becoming an independent political entity is found in the 6th century, with the first recorded independent king of Bengal - Shashanka - reigning around 606.
The first Buddhist Pala king of Bengal, Gopala I came to power in 750 in Gaur by election. This event is recognized as one of the first democratic elections in South Asia since the time of the Maha Janapadas. The dynasty's most powerful kings, Dharmapala (reigned 775-810) and Devapala (reigned 810-850) united Bengal and made the Pala Empire the most powerful empire in 9th century India after expanding across much of the Indian subcontinent and parts of Afghanistan. Internecine strife during the reign of Narayanpala (reigned 854-908) and administrative excesses led to the decline of the dynasty.
A brief revival of the kingdom under Mahipala I (reigned 977-1027) ended in battle against the powerful, South Indian Chola kingdom. The rise of the Chandra dynasty in southern Bengal expedited the decline of the Palas, and the last Pala king, Madanpala, died in 1161.
The Malla dynasty emerged in Bengal in the seventh century, although they only rose to prominence in the 10th century under Jagat Malla who moved his capital to Vishnupur. Unlike the Buddhist Palas and Chandras, the Hindu Mallas worshipped first the Hindu god Shiva, then the Hindu god Vishnu. The Mallas built temples and spectacular religious monuments during their rule in Bengal.
Shashanka the first important king of ancient Bengal, occupies a prominent place in history of the region. It is generally believed that he ruled approximately between 600 AD and 625 AD, and two dated inscriptions, issued in his 8th and 10th regnal years from Midnapore, and another undated inscription from Egra near Kharagpur have been discovered. Besides Shashanka's subordinate king of Ganjam (Orissa) Madhavavarma's copper plate (dated 619 AD), Harshavardhana's Banskhera and Madhuvan copper plates and the Nidhanpur copper plate of the Kamarupa king Bhaskaravarmana contain information about Shashanka. Besides, Shashanka issued gold and silver coins. A number of independent rulers flourished in Bengal in the intervening period between the decline of Guptas and the rise of Shashanka, and their existence is known from a few inscriptions and gold coins. Besides the seal-matrix of Shri Mahasamanta Shashanka from Rohtasgarh and the contemporary literary accounts of Banabhatta and the Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang (also known as Hiuen Tsang) and the Buddhist text Aryamanjushrimulakalpa are important sources of information.
Shashanka has been described both in the inscriptions and literary accounts as the ruler of Gauda. In the narrower sense Gauda is the territory between the river Padma and Bardhaman region. But in course of time it embraced much wider area. In the Satpanchasaddeshavibhaga, the seventh patala of Book III, Shaktisangama Tantra Gauda is said to have extended from the vanga country up to Bhuvanesha (i.e. Bhubaneshwar in Orissa). It is not unlikely that the author had described the extension of Gauda country keeping in mind the kingdom of Shashanka, which also embraced a part of Orissa.
Pala Empire (8th to 11th cent. CE)
The Pala Empire was a dynasty in control of the northern and eastern Indian subcontinent, mainly the Bengal and Bihar regions, from the 8th to the 11th century. The name Pala means "protector" and was used as an ending to the names of all Pala monarchs.
The founder of the empire was Gopala. He was the first independent Buddhist king of Bengal and came to power in 750 in Gaur by democratic election, which was unique at the time. He reigned from 750-770 and consolidated his position by extending his control over all of Bengal. His successors Dharmapala (r. 770-810) and Devapala (r. 810-850) expanded the empire across the northern and eastern Indian subcontinent.
The Palas were followers of the Mahayana and Tantric schools of Buddhism. They often intermarried with the Gahadvalas of the Kannauj region. They created many temples and works of art and supported the Universities of Nalanda and Vikramashila. Their proselytism was at the origin of the establishment of Buddhism in Tibet.

Gopala (ruled 750 – 770 CE) was the founder of the Pala Dynasty of Bengal. The last morpheme of his name Pala means "protector" and was used as an ending for the names of all the Pala monarchs. Pala does not suggest or indicate any ethnic or caste considerations of the Pala dynasty.
Gopala was the first independent Buddhist king of Bengal and came to power in 750 CE in Gauda by democratic election as per evidence furnished by Taranatha. After the death of famous Gauda ruler Sasanka, there ensued a century of anarchy and confusion in Bengal. Tired of ceaseless political chaos and anarchy (known as matsyanyaya), the various independent chieftains of Bengal, in 750 CE, selected a person named Gopala to put an end to this sorry state of affairs.[2] Gopala was already a leading military general and had made a mark as a great ruler. In the Khalimpur copper plate inscription (dated 32nd regnal year of Dharmapala) Gopala's father Vapyata is described as a noted military chief of his time and his grandfather Dayita Vishnu is described as a learned man of no military distinctions.
The Palas emerged as the champion of Buddhism, and they patronized Mahayana Buddhism. The Pala universities of Vikramashila and Nalanda became seats of learning for East Asia. The famous university of Nalanda reached its height during the Pala Empire. The Palas were responsible for the spread of Mahayana Buddhism in Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and the Indonesian archipelago, and the fame of Bengal spread in the Buddhist world for the cultivation of Buddhist religion, culture and other knowledge in the various centres that grew under the patronage of the Pala rulers. Buddhist scholars from the Pala Empire traveled from Bengal to the Far-East and propagated Buddhism. A few outstanding ones among them are Shantarakshit, Padmanava, Dansree, Bimalamitra, Jinamitra, Muktimitra, Sugatasree, Dansheel, Sambhogabajra, Virachan, Manjughosh and many others. But the most prominent was Atish Dipankar Srigyan who reformed Buddhism in Tibet after it had been destroyed by king Langdharma.

Sena Dynasty (11th-13th cent. CE)

The Sena dynasty ruled Bengal through the 11th to 13th centuries. They were called Brahma-Kshatriyas and Karnata-Kshatriyas.
The dynasty's founder was Hemanta Sen, who was part of the Pala Dynasty until their empire began to weaken. He took power and styled himself king in 1095 AD. His successor Vijay Sen (ruled from 1096 AD to 1159 AD) helped lay the foundations of the dynasty, and had an unusually long reign of over 60 years. Ballal Sena conquered Gour from the Pala and expanded his empire. Lakshman Sen succeeded Ballal Sen in 1179 and ruled Bengal from Nabadwip for approximately 20 years.
1200-1500 C.E
Sometime in 1243–44 C.E, residents of Lakhnauti, a city in northwestern Bengal, told a visiting historian of the dramatic events that had taken place there forty years earlier. At that time, the visitor was informed, a band of several hundred Turkish cavalry had ridden swiftly down the Gangetic Plain in the direction of the Bengal delta. Led by a ruthless officer named Muhammad Bakhtiyar, the men overran and destroyed venerable Buddhist monasteries in neighboring Bihar before turning their attention to the northwestern portion of the delta, and then ruled by a mild and generous Hindu monarch. Disguising themselves as horse dealers, Bakhtiyar and his men slipped into the royal city of Nadiya. Once inside, they rode straight to the king's palace, where they confronted the guards with brandished weapons. Utterly overwhelmed, for he had just sat down to dine, the Hindu monarch hastily departed through a back door and fled with many of his retainers to the forested hinterland of eastern Bengal, abandoning his kingdom altogether.
This coup d'état started an era, lasting over five centuries, during which most of Bengal was dominated by rulers professing the Islam. Eventually, in Bengal, those areas with a Muslim majority would form the eastern wing of Pakistan—since 1971, Bangladesh—whereas those parts of the province with a Muslim minority became the state of West Bengal within the Republic of India. In 1984 about 93 million of the 152 million Bengalis in Bangladesh and West Bengal were Muslims, and of the estimated 96.5 million people inhabiting Bangladesh, 81 million, or 83 percent, were Muslims; in fact, Bengalis today comprise the second largest Muslim ethnic population in the world, after the Arabs.

Enforcement of Islamic authority over a Hindu society

The reliance on naked power of the new Islamic rulers of Bengal, or at least on its image, is seen in the earliest surviving Muslim Bengali monuments. Notable in this respect is the tower (minar) of Chhota Pandua, in southwestern Bengal near Calcutta. Built toward the end of the thirteenth century, when Turkish power was still being consolidated in that part of the delta, the tower of Chhota Pandua doubtless served the usual ritual purpose of calling the faithful to prayer, inasmuch as it is situated near a mosque. But its height and form suggest that it also served the political purpose of announcing victory over a conquered people. Precedents for such a monument, moreover, already existed in the Turkish architectural tradition. Bengal's earliest surviving mosques also convey the spirit of an alien ruling class simply transplanted to the delta from elsewhere. Constructed (or restored) in 1298 in Tribeni, a formerly important center of Hindu civilization in southwest Bengal, the mosque of Zafar Khan appears to replicate the aesthetic vision of early Indo-Turkish architecture as represented, for example, in the Begumpur mosque in Delhi (ce. 1343).
Clues to the circumstances surrounding the construction (or restoration) of the mosque are found in its dedicatory inscription:
"Zafar Khan, the lion of lions, has appeared,
By conquering the towns of India in every expedition, and by restoring the decayed charitable institutions.

And he has destroyed the obdurate among Hindu infidels with his sword and spear, and lavished the treasures of his wealth in (helping) the miserable". 
Zafar Khan's claims to have destroyed "the obdurate among Hindu infidels" gains some credence from the mosque's inscription tablet, itself carved from materials of old ruined Hindu temples, while the mutilated figures of Hindu deities are found in the stone used in the monument proper. Near Zafar Khan's mosque stands another structure, built in 1313, which is said to be his tomb; its doorways were similarly reused from an earlier pre-Islamic monument, and embedded randomly on its exterior base are sculpted panels bearing Vaishnava subject matter.
Entrenchment of Islamic rule in Bengal
More accounts of Muhammad Bakhtiyar's 1204 C.E, capture of the Sena capital is that of the chronicler Minhaj al-Siraj, who visited Bengal forty years after the event and personally collected oral traditions concerning it. "After Muhammad Bakhtiyar possessed himself of that territory," wrote Minhaj, he left the city of Nudiah in desolation, and the place which is (now) Lakhnauti he made the seat of government. He brought the different parts of the territory under his sway, and instituted therein, in every part, the reading of the khutbah, and the coining of money; and, through his praiseworthy endeavours, and those of his Amirs, masjids [mosques], colleges, and madrassas(for Dervishes), were founded in those parts.
The passage clearly reveals the conquerors' notion of the proper instruments of political legitimacy: reciting the Friday sermon, striking coins, and raising monuments for the informal intelligentsia of Sufi Muslims and the formal intelligentsia of scholars, or'ulama.
One of the clearest statements of the political vision of the Islamic invaders of Bengal was given by Fakhr al-Din Razi (1209 C.E) of Herat, a celebrated Islamic scholar and jurist who served several Khurasani princes, in particular those of the Ghurid dynasty of Turks. Inasmuch as Razi was at the height of his public career when his own patrons conquered North India (1193 C.E) and Bengal (1204 C.E) and had even been sent once on a mission to northwestern India himself (1184 C.E), it is probable that his political thought was familiar to the Ghurid conquerors of Bengal. Certainly, Razi and Muhammad Bakhtiyar inherited a shared tradition of political beliefs and symbols current in thirteenth-century Khurasan and the Perso-Islamic world generally.
In his Jami' al-'ulum Razi formulated the following propositions:
The world is a garden, whose gardener is the dawlat [state]; 
The state is the sultan whose guardian is the shari'a [Islamic law]; 
The Law is a policy, which is protected by the mulk [kingdom]; 
The kingdom is a city, brought into being by the lashkar [army]; 
The army is made secure by mal [wealth]; 
Wealth is gathered from the ra'iyat [subjects]; 
The subjects are made servants by 'adl [justice]; 
Justice is the axis of the prosperity of the 'alam [world].
Far from mere platitudes about how kings ought to behave, these propositions present a unified Islamic theory of a society's moral, political, and economic basis—a worldview at once integrated, symmetrical, and dogmatic.
Sufis of Bengal
The Sufi orders that migrated to Bengal under the patronage of Islamic rulers, were instrumental in bringing about massive social upheavals. In the first two centuries of Islamic rule, five major Sufi orders had been established and local Hindu and Buddhist population by fear and fraud converted into Islam in large numbers. Most Sufi Muslim orders were led by Persian or Central Asian missionaries, who faced persecution under Sunni Islamic rulers in their native land. Most of these men belonged to three organized Sufi brotherhoods, the Suhawardi, the Firdausi, and the Chishti orders. 
The political role played by these Sufi Muslims in Bengal was shaped by ideas of virulent and dangerous Sufi authorities that had otherwise failed to evolve in the contemporary Persian-speaking Islamic world in the Middle East and Central Asia but showed its efficiency by converting non Muslims in these frontier areas of Caliphate control.
Shaikh Jalal al –Din Tabrizi
Shaikh Jalal al-Din Tabrizi (d. 1244–45), was one of the earliest-known Sufis of Bengal. The earliest notice of him appears in the Siyar al-‘arifin, a compendium of Sufi biographies compiled around 1530–36, three centuries after the shaikh’s lifetime. According to this account, after initially studying Sufism in his native Tabriz (in northwestern Iran), Jalal al-Din Tabrizi left around 1228 for Baghdad, where he studied for seven years with the renowned mystic Shaikh Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi. When the latter died in 1235, Jalal al-Din Tabrizi traveled to India and, not finding a warm welcome in the court of Delhi, eventually moved on to Lakhnauti, then the remote provincial capital of Bengal. There he remained until his death ten years later. 
“When he went to Bengal,” the account records, "There was also there a (river) port called Deva Mahal, where an infidel had built a temple at great cost. The shaikh destroyed that temple and in its place constructed a (Sufi) rest-house [takya]. There, he made many infidels into Muslims. Today [i.e., 1530–36 C.E], his tomb is located at the very site of that temple, and half the income of that port is dedicated to the upkeep of the public kitchen there".
Shah Jalal Mujarrad
Shah Jalal Mujarrad (d. 1346 C.E), is Bengal’s best-known Muslim so-called 'saint’. His biography was first recorded in the mid sixteenth century by a certain Shaikh ‘Ali (1562 C.E), a descendant of one of Shah Jalal’s companions. According to this account, Shah Jalal had been born in Turkestan, where he became a spiritual disciple of Saiyid Ahmad Yasawi, one of the founders of the Central Asian Sufi tradition. The account then casts the shaikh’s expedition to India in the framework of holy war, mentioning both his (lesser) war against the infidel and his (greater) war against the lower self. “One day,” the biographer recorded, "Shah Jalal represented to his bright-souled pir [i.e., Ahmad Yasawi] that his ambition was that just as with the guidance of the master he had achieved a certain amount of success in the Higher (spiritual) jihad, similarly with the help of his object-fulfilling courage he should achieve the desire of his heart in the Lesser (material) jihad, and wherever there may be a Dar-ul-harb [i.e., Land of non-Islam], in attempting its conquest he may attain the rank of a ghazi or a shushed [martyr]. The revered pir accepted his request and sent 700 of his senior fortunate disciples…along with him. Wherever they had a fight with the enemies, they unfurled the banner of victory".
After reaching the Indian subcontinent, he and his band of followers are said to have drifted to Sylhet, on the easternmost edge of the Bengal delta. “In these far-flung campaigns,” the narrative continued, “they had no means of subsistence, except the booty, but they lived in splendour. Whenever any valley or cattle were acquired, they were charged with the responsibility of propagation and teaching of Islam. In short, [Shah Jalal] reached Srihatta (Sylhet), one of the areas of the province of Bengal, with 313 persons. [After defeating the ruler of the area] all the region fell into the hands of the conquerors of the spiritual and the material worlds. Shaikh [Jalal] Mujarrad, making a portion for everybody, made it their allowance and permitted them to get married.”
In modern Bangladesh Islamists present Shah Jalal as someone who brought about a break between Bengal’s Hindu past and its Muslim future, and to this end a parallel is drawn between the career of the saint and that of the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad. The number of companions said to have accompanied Shah Jalal to Bengal, 313, corresponds precisely to the number of companions who are thought to have accompanied Muhammad at the Battle of Badr in A.D. 624, the first major battle in Muhammad’s career and a crucial event in launching Islam as a world religion. The story thus has an obvious ideological propaganda value to it.

Bengal under Mughals: Consolidation of Islamic hegemony

In the late sixteenth century, a dynasty of Chaghatai Turks commonly known as the Mughals annexed Bengal to their vast Indian empire, thereby ending the delta’s long isolation from North India. As just one among twelve provinces, Bengal was now administered by a class of imperial officials who, regularly rotated through the realm, shared a larger, pan-Indian view of their political mission. The new ruling class lacked attachments to Bengal and its culture. This served to widen the gulf betweenashraf Muslims, identified with the new wave of outsiders who swept into the delta after the conquest, and non-ashraf Muslims, increasingly identified as native converted Bengali Muslims.
It was in Jahangir’s reign (1605–27 CE) that the Mughal enterprise in Bengal passed from an ad hoc pursuit of rebels to the establishment of a regular administration. In May 1608, aiming to crush rebellious elements once and for all, Jahangir appointed as governor ‘Ala al-Din Islam Khan, an extraordinarily able and determined commander. A man about thirty-seven years of age at this time, Islam Khan enjoyed close ties with the emperor—the two had grown up together since childhood as foster-brothers—and possessed remarkable powers of self-discipline. Taking leave of the emperor, he moved down the Gangetic Plain at the head of an immense army of cavalry, artillery, and elephants, and a huge flotilla of war boats. After entering Bengal and pausing in Rajmahal, the army made its way through the jungles of the central delta, subdued rebellious chieftains on both sides of the Ganges-Padma river system, and finally reached Dhaka in 1610.
Soon after Islam Khan’s arrival in Bengal, the Mughals succeeded in annihilating or winning over all the major chiefs entrenched in the countryside since the time of the sultans. Yet it is fair to ask how far the new rulers were able to extend their political reach beneath the level of important chieftains, or zamindars, after these had submitted to imperial rule.
In sum, by the mid seventeenth century, as both foreign observers and contemporary revenue documents attest, the Mughals had established power throughout the delta. They achieved this by means of a military machine that effectively combined gunpowder weaponry with mounted archers and naval forces, a determined diplomacy that rewarded loyalty while punishing perfidy, and the financial services of mobile and wealthy Marwari bankers. Both militarily and diplomatically, success begat success. Bengali chieftains who witnessed these successes increasingly understood that the advantages of joining the new order outweighed those of resisting it. Above all, the advent of the Mughal age, unlike previous changes of the guard at Gaur, did not represent a mere military occupation in which one ruling class simply replaced another. Nor were the changes accompanying Mughal rule merely ones of scale—that is, bigger cannons, a more dazzling court, or taller monuments. Rather, as will be seen in the following chapters, the conquest was accompanied by fundamental changes in the region’s economic structure, its sociopolitical system, and its cultural complexion, both at court and in the countryside.

During the Mughal rule Sufis saints, under the patronage of Mughal's successfully penetrated Islam into the developing agrarian social order. As state-supported pioneers established Islamic institutions in formerly forested areas, three different kinds of frontier—the economic frontier separating field and forest, the political frontier separating Mughal from non-Mughal administration, and the religious frontier separating Islam and non-Islam—fused into one.

Despite the virulent ways in which Mughals had accommodated itself to North India, with respect to distant Bengal, isolated for centuries from the north, the Mughals saw themselves as distinctly alien. In part, this was because of the delta’s wet monsoon climate, of which North Indian officers posted in Bengal frequently complained. In effect, Bengal had become a colony for outsiders, effectively reversing the long-term pre-Mughal trend whereby a Muslim ruling class had progressively accommodated itself to the Bengali environment owing to generations of forced marriages with Hindu Bengali women and centuries of isolation from the north.
Both the literature and the architecture of the period reveal the new ruling class’s profoundly foreign—that is, non-Bengali—character. In 1626 an Afghan, Mahmud Balkhi, journeyed to Rajmahal and wrote of encountering people whose family origins lay in Balkh, Bukhara, Khurasan, Iraq, Baghdad, Anatolia, Syria, and North India. These would have been remnants of the predominantly Sunni ashraf of Akbar’s day, when Rajmahal was the provincial capital. Some years later the poet-official Muhammad Sadiq Isfahani, who lived in Dhaka from 1629 to his death in 1650, kept a diary, the subh-i sadiq, in which he mentions the dozens of artists, poets, generals, and administrators he had come to know in that city. Most of these men were Shi‘as whose ancestors had migrated from distant centers of Persian culture—for example, Mashhad, Teheran, Ardistan, Isfahan, Mazandaran, Qazvin, Taliqan, Shiraz, Tabriz, Herat, Bukhara, or Gilan. This suggests that between the reign of Akbar (1556–1605), when Rajmahal was capital, and that of Shah Jahan (1628–58), when Dhaka was capital, an increasing proportion of Bengal’s urban ashraf, although born in North India, claimed Iranian ancestry.
The most striking statement of the imperial attitude toward Bengal was made by Akbar’s chief advisor, Abu’l-fazl. “The country of Bengal,” he wrote in 1579, shortly after imperial armies had routed the capital’s Afghan occupants, “is a land where, owing to the climate’s favouring the base, the dust of dissension is always rising. From the wickedness of men families have decayed, and dominions [have been] ruined. Hence in old writings it was called Bulghakkhana (house of turbulence).” Here, in this “Mughal colonial discourse,” we find a remarkable theory of political devolution: an enervating climate corrupts men, and corrupted men ruin sovereign domains, thereby implicitly preparing the way for conquest by stronger, uncorrupted outsiders. In linking Bengal’s climate with the debased behavior of people exposed to it, Abu’l-fazl’s theory of sociopolitical decay anticipated by several centuries the similar views adopted by British colonial officials.
Even immigrant Sufis harbored negative attitudes about the Bengal. Shah Ni‘mat Allah Firuzpuri (d. 1669), anashraf shaikh from the Punjab who settled down in Malatipur near Malda early in the reign of Shah Jahan, quickly grew tired (malul) of the region. Mincing no words, he revealed his thoughts in the following clumsy but blunt quatrain:
"Bengal is a ruined and doleful land; 
Go offer the prayers to the dead, do not delay. 
Neither on land nor water is there rest; 
It is either the tiger’s jaws, or the crocodile’s gullet".
While harboring such attitudes toward his adopted home, the shaikh nonetheless curried favor with the province’s ruling class, whose life-style he and his descendants adopted, and from whom he accepted substantial lands in personal endowments (madad-i ma‘ash).
The Mughals’ feeling of alienation from the land was accompanied by a sense of superiority to or condescension toward its people. In matters of language, dress, and diet, newly arrived officials experienced great differences between Bengal and the culture of North India. The delta’s diet of fish and rice, for example, disagreed with many immigrants brought up on wheat and meat, basic to the diet in Punjab. Written in 1786, the Riyazal-Salatin faithfully reflects the ashraf perspective regarding Bengali culture, and reads almost like a colonial British manual on how to survive “amongst the natives”:And the food of the natives of that kingdom, from the high to the low, are fish, rice, mustard oil and curd and fruits and sweetmeats. They also eat plenty of red chilly and salt. In some parts of this country, salt is scarce. The natives of this country are of shabby tastes, shabby habits and shabby modes of dress. They do not eat breads of wheat and barley at all. Meat of goats and fowls and clarified butter do not agree with their system[s].
Mughal officers also associated Bengalis with fishermen, whom they openly despised. Around 1620 two imperial commanders, aiming to belittle the martial accomplishments of one of their colleagues, taunted the latter with the words: “Which of the rebels have you defeated except a band of fishermen who raised a stockade at Ghalwapara?” In reply, the other observed that even the Mughals’ most formidable adversaries in Bengal, ‘Isa Khan and Musa Khan, had been fishermen. “Where shall I find a Dawud son of Sulayman Karrani to fight with, in order to please you?” he asked rhetorically, and with some annoyance, adding that it was his duty as a Mughal officer to subdue all imperial enemies in Bengal, “whether they are Machwas [fishermen] or Mughals or Afghans.” In this view the only truly worthy opponents of the Mughal army were state rebels or Afghans like the Karranis; Bengalis, stereotyped as fishermen, were categorized as less worthy adversaries.

So finally these Islamic rules change the Bengal forever.

Bangladesh - A Lengthening Shadow of Terror

Bangladeshi soil is increasingly being used for terrorist and for subversive activities by religious extremists, pan-Islamist terrorist groups, and insurgents operating in India’s Northeast, substantially through the active collusion of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and Bangladesh’s Directorate General of Field Intelligence (DGFI).

There were grave concerns about the possibility of Islamist extremists in the country acquiring radioactive materials and the technical know-how to build a ‘dirty bomb’, when on May 30, 2003, Bangladeshi police arrested four suspected members of a Islamist group, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen, at a house in the northern village of Puiya. Officers also seized a football-size package with markings indicating it contained a crude form of uranium manufactured in Kazakhstan. Subsequent tests at the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission in Dhaka confirmed that the 225-gram ball was uranium oxide—enough to make a weapon capable of dispersing radiation across a wide area if strapped to conventional explosives.

Reportage during the first quarter of 2003 indicates the existence of Al Qaeda operatives in Bangladesh, coordinating their activities with local Islamist groups, validating perceptions that the country is emerging as a major safe haven for Islamist terrorist formations.

The broad trends during the year 2002 remained largely unchanged in the first quarter of 2003. Pakistan’s external intelligence agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), further tightened its hold over Bangladesh by harnessing past linkages with Islamist fundamentalists and certain sections of the military and political establishment. Internally, various Islamist groups remained active and enlarged their subversive agenda.

Since the elections of October 2001, and the installation of a new regime headed by Begum Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) and backed by the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), communal tension and Islamist extremist mobilization has risen dramatically. The JeI, which has two Ministers in the new government, and 17 members in Parliament, allegedly receives support from the ISI, including funding and arms flows, as well as technical and training support.

A number of transnational Islamist terrorist groups, including the Al Qaeda, have established a presence in Bangladesh in alliance with various militant fundamentalist organizations there. Prominent among these is the Harkat-ul-Jehadi-e-Islami, Bangladesh (HuJI-BD), which was established with direct aid from Osama bin Laden in 1992. The HuJI-BD has very close links with the ISI, and received financial assistance from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan (under the Taliban) through Muslim Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in Bangladesh, including the Adarsa Kutir, Al Faruk Islamic Foundation and Hataddin.

Various terrorist groups operating in India’s Northeast continue to find safe haven and operating bases on Bangladesh territory. Groups like the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) have been emboldened by the new BNP Government in Bangladesh, which in its previous term was seen as supportive of insurgent formations acting against India. Many leaders of Bangladesh’s ruling party have direct business linkages, including partnerships in corporations and financial operations that are run by, or co-owned with, leaders of such terrorist organisations. During its previous regime between 1991 and 1996, the BNP provided these groups with liberal facilities, including training camps, bank accounts, facilitation for arms purchases, and freedom of operation from Bangladeshi soil. As a result these terrorist groups, on the run in India’s Northeast under persistent pressure from Army operations, found a much-needed breathing space to regroup and re-launch their offensive against India.

Although the Government has reacted fiercely to suggestions that Bangladesh has become a new theatre of the activities of Islamist fundamentalist groups, including the Al Qaeda, reports suggest otherwise:

Shortly after the fall of Kandahar in late 2001, several hundred Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters escaped by ship from Karachi in Pakistan to Chittagong. They were then trucked down – allegedly by the DGFI – to hidden camps in the Ukhia area, south of Cox's Bazaar.
Asian security services indicated that militants from the Jemaah Islamiah – which is connected to the Al Qaeda and seeks to set up a gigantic Islamic state encompassing Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and southern Philippines – were also hiding out in these camps, which were set up in the early 1990s to train rebels from the Muslim Rohingya minority in Myanmar's Rakhine State. The Jemaah Islamiah militants in hiding in southeastern Bangladesh are believed to be mostly citizens of Malaysia and Singapore.
On May 10-11, 2002, representatives of nine Islamist fundamentalist groups, including the HuJI, reportedly met at a camp near Ukhia town and formed the Bangladesh Islamic Manch (Platform). A transnational organization, it includes a group representing the Rohingyas, a Muslim minority in Myanmar, and the Muslim Liberation Tigers of Assam, a small group operating in India’s northeast. By June 2002, Bangladeshi veterans of the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 1980s were reportedly training members of the new alliance in at least two camps in southern Bangladesh.

Evidently, the new right-wing regime, which came to power after the general elections of October 2001, has created a more favourable atmosphere for the operation of various extremist forces in the country. While the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami – which is the major alliance partner of the ruling BNP – may not be directly responsible for subversive or terrorist activities, its inclusion in the coalition government has meant that other radical groups feel they now enjoy protection from the authorities and can act with impunity. The HuJI, for example, is reported to have 15,000 members of whom 2,000 are described as ‘hard core’.

Islamist extremists in Bangladesh have for long maintained operational linkages with a number of foreign Islamist groups. Investigations into the January 22, 2002, terrorist attack on the American Centre in Kolkata, capital of the Indian State of West Bengal, brought these linkages to the fore.
The Asif Reza Commando Force (ARCF), which claimed responsibility for the attack, is essentially a criminal group allied to the Harkat-ul-Jehadi-e-Islami, Bangladesh (HuJI-BD), which has very close links with the ISI.
The arrest of Aftab Ansari alias Farhan Malik, prime accused in the American Centre attack, led to further disclosures regarding the international linkages between the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and the HuJI based in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Aftab Ansari played a key role in the July 25, 2001 abduction of Kolkata-based businessman Partha Pratim Roy Barman, who was subsequently released on July 30, 2001 after reportedly paying a ransom amount of Rupees 37.5 million in Dubai through the Hawala network.
It was out of this money that Omar Sheikh – convicted by a Pakistan court in the Daniel Pearl murder case – is said to have wired $100,000 to Mohammed Atta, the alleged ringleader of the hijackers in the 9/11 multiple terrorist attacks.
KPS Gill

Bangladesh spy agency DGFI spreading roots in East India

Binnaguri: After Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), its now
Bangladesh's directorate general of forces intelligence (DGFI) that has become a concern for the security agencies.
According to Lt. Gen. K.S. Jamwal, general officer commanding-in-chief, Eastern Command, DGFI's activities in India are on the rise, with support from terror outfits in the North-East (Of India).
"Top leaders of Ulfa and other North-East terror groups are hiding in Bangladesh with DGFI's support. As payback, they are helping DGFI build a network here." Lt. Gen. Jamwal said.
He was speaking at an investiture ceremony in Binnaguri, where 32 army personnel were awarded Sena Medals, three of them posthumously.
DGFI is trying to turn its plan of establishing a sovereign Islamic state in the North-East into reality. The agency is receiving support from ISI. As part of its plan, there is a sustained effort to push in Assamese speaking Bangladeshis into the North-East. Outfits like Ulfa have been convinced to discriminate simply on the basis of language and not nationality.
According to reports from central intelligence agencies, the aim of ISI and DGFI is to create an independent Islamistan, comprising Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura and the districts of Malda, Murshidabad, South Dinajpur, North Dinajpur, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar in West Bengal.
The Times of India, Kolkata
Saturday, January-19, 2008
Reporter: Pinak Priya Bhattacharya

The Shiliguri Corridor - Question Mark on Security

By: Pinaki Bhattacharya (SATP.ORG)

A critical futuristic threat perception vis-à-vis India’s North Eastern region has long preoccupied many analysts and the Indian security establishment. The projected exercise would involve Pakistan launching an attack on Jammu and Kashmir. At the other end, China would engage India militarily in the latter’s Northeast with movement from Tibet, through Bhutan and via Alipurduar in the Jalpaiguri district and consequently cut-off what is referred to as the eastern chicken’s neck or the Shiliguri corridor. An Indian strategists’ nightmare come true. A possibility that was touched upon in the recently published novel by a former BBC journalist, Humphrey Hawksley, called Dragon Fire. 

In such a projected war scenario, while India battles Pakistan and China, behind the lines of the security forces guarding the narrow strip of land called the Shiliguri corridor, which at its narrowest is 20 kilometres long and just 20 kilometres wide in the general area south west of Shiliguri, the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), the Bodos, the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation and other subversives trained in Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan raise attrition to a feverish pitch. China could, it is projected, choose to cut the chicken’s neck with irreversible consequences vis-à-vis India’s Northeast.

A reasonable assumption of this nature reportedly influenced a group of senior Indian security officials to meet in May 2000.1 The meeting concluded that a constant vigil needed to be maintained at the Bagdogra airport in Jalpaiguri and railway stations like New Jalpaiguri and Coochbehar, as also at Kishanganj and Katihar in the State of Bihar. Such a constant vigil was directed towards monitoring the movement of those who are rather quaintly called ANEs (anti-national elements). The meeting also resolved that a joint operation of Assam and West Bengal police needs to be launched to flush out terrorists, besides beefing up the deployment of security forces. 

In case such hostilities actually broke out, one of the crucial Chinese objectives would be to capture a large amount of territory in northern Sikkim to secure a strategic hold. In tactical terms, this would translate into denying a launching pad to the Indian forces for an assault on Tibet. The other element of this thrust, it is projected, would be centred on capturing areas in Bhutan – the ones traditionally claimed by the Chinese – thus posing a direct threat to the Shiliguri Corridor, a key item on the agenda.2

The Shiliguri Corridor3 is an area of 12,203 square kilometers connecting mainland India with the outlying border States of the Northeast. An intelligence report of one of security forces operating in the area states: "As geographical configuration puts the North Eastern States of our country at a disadvantage for a lack of strategic depth, considered necessary to provide a buffer, the tenuous lines of communication (that run through this corridor) connect mainland India to the Northeast." The corridor’s dimensions extend lengthwise approximately 200 kms with a width varying between 20 and 60 kilometres. It houses the all-important feeder highways number NH 31 and 31a and the North Frontier Railways. 

During the Sino-Indian war in 1962, a division-strength of troops was moved in record time from Punjab to Shiliguri in order to protect north Bengal and Sikkim from the advancing Chinese. The Chinese were pressing ahead of the Tawang sub-division of what is now known as Arunachal Pradesh, which the Indian troops had vacated. The Chinese were also found to be amassing troops across Sikkim. As Pakistan had terminated river traffic through the then East Pakistan, all supplies for Assam had to be routed through railways from Katihar in Bihar to Baminigaon via the corridor, where the Brahmaputra river needed to be crossed by ferry.

The corridor is also significant in light of the vital installations located around it, like the airfields of Hashimara and Bagdogra, and the oil pipelines, which run through the corridor. These installations are considered to be lethal sabotage targets for insurgent groups lurking behind the lines of defence.

One of the key borders that abut the corridor is with Nepal, stretching 144 kilometres on the other side of north Bengal. Being unmanned, the long stretch of the border proves immensely conducive for infiltration and also as a point of egress for ANEs originating in Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. Furthermore, the Indo-Nepal Friendship treaty of 1950, which guarantees free and unhindered movement of Nepalese citizens between the two nations, has been handy for infiltration exercises. The absence of security forces on the Indo-Nepal border also attracts agents of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), the external intelligence agency of Pakistan, and their co-conspirators to opt for various clandestine, or even occasionally, regular or open routes in the area. Of course, in legal terms, while the Nepalese and the Bhutanese can enter and exit at any point on the border, the other nationals are required to adopt only an authorised route, which also acts as the trade route between India and Nepal. In practice, however, there is little to prevent the ANEs from crossing over at any point, virtually of their choice.

It is only in recent times that the Indian security apparatus has become aware of the situation on the Indo-Nepal border. According to reports, the Group of Ministers that scrutinised the Madhav Godbole Committee Report on border management has recommended that the 1,751-km border be policed by the paramilitary force, the Special Service Bureau (SSB)4. According to news reports, the Godbole report critically analysed issues related to "border-fencing, safeguarding of air space, checking infiltration and smuggling activities, restructuring of para-military forces guarding the borders and adoption of modern technology as a force multiplier."5 The group, headed by the Union Home Minister, L K Advani, has also suggested that the SSB’s armed wing be brought under the command and control of the Union Home Ministry to counter smuggling and ISI activities originating in Nepal.6 

According to premier intelligence agencies, the Shiliguri corridor faces threat not only from this pattern of free movement of personnel and goods through the border areas, but also from insurgents operating from Bhutan and particularly in Assam. The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) militants have been using the corridor for their movement for a long time. The recent emergence of another insurgent outfit, called the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO),7 in north Bengal, is adding to the worries of the security forces. Intelligence reports indicate that, in 1993, certain members of the Rajbongshi community belonging to the ranks of the All Kamtapur Students’ Union (AKSU) approached ULFA cadres in the Kokrajhar district of Assam and sought arms training from them. They were primarily directing their efforts towards organising an armed struggle for realising their demand of a separate Kamtapur State, carved out of the districts of north Bengal. Following their contact, 12 Rajbongshi youth were allowed to be trained in a training camp organised by the ULFA in Bhutan to the north of the trijunction of Bhutan-West Bengal-Assam. The training could not be completed due to a constant threat from the security forces and also because certain ULFA cadres had surrendered.

The Rajbongshi leadership, primarily the AKSU, however, continued their efforts. They contacted some members of the central leadership of ULFA, who in turn agreed to train them on the condition that they form a secessionist outfit. This led to the formation of the KLO. Members of the newly formed KLO were imparted arms training during 1996-97 in Samdrup Jhankar in Bhutan where the central headquarters of ULFA is situated.8 The KLO also established its headquarters near the ULFA HQ at Samdrup Jhankar. The ULFA’s agenda was to prop up the Rajbongshi militants for its own gains, and the West Bengal tribals were aiding the outfit to create safe havens in North Bengal.9 The trained KLO cadres, on their return from Bhutan mingled with the activists of the Kamtapur Peoples’ Party (KPP) and AKSU, and have been working with them. An estimated 100 KLO terrorists have received arms training at the Gelengphu and Kalaikhola camps in Bhutan, and reports also indicate that the ULFA and KLO had reached an agreement to launch a joint armed struggle.10 The movement for Kamtapur has thus turned violent with sporadic incidents of looting, extortion, killings and sabotage. Of late, the KLO and the ULFA have started an extortion drive targeting the local tea gardens.11 They are most active in Alipurduar in Jalpaiguri and Shiliguri sub-division of Darjeeling. 

Reports indicate that a large number of KLO cadres have received arms training at the ULFA camps in neighbouring Bhutan.12 There are also reports of growing terrorist and subversive activities by the KLO in league with ULFA militants. Pakistan-trained and ISI-backed ULFA insurgents are reported to have imparted arms training to three successive batches of KLO insurgents. Of the three KLO batches, one was trained in a forest in Jalpaiguri district, while the other two were trained in Bhutan.13 The arrest of a KLO activist from Matabhanga on May 29, 2001 exposed the linkages between KLO and ULFA and the training structures in the corridor.14 Earlier, three KLO insurgents arrested from Cooch Behar on December 8, 2000, confessed to having undergone advanced arms training in the ULFA camp in the Fifshu jungles of Bhutan.15 According to official sources, they were part of a 60-strong batch of KLO and ULFA cadre, who had received advanced arms training between April 15 and July 15, 2000, at ULFA’s Nichula area command camp.16 In certain instances, KLO militants have been reported to sneak into Assam after committing violent activities in West Bengal. The ULFA cadres are reportedly entering the plains of Bengal from the Kumargram village on the borders of Bengal, Assam and Bangladesh, to train KLO insurgents.17 ULFA cadres have been using north Bengal as a transit point to go from Bhutan to Bangladesh and vice versa, while some militants have also crossed over to Nepal through this area.18 The ULFA militants often visit north Bengal for medical attention and there are reports that ULFA cadres also use the area to transport arms and ammunition to their camps in Bhutan.19 

The forests on the border of the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan with West Bengal also provide ample space for the insurgent groups to operate. The recent encounter20 between security forces and the Gorkha Liberation Organisation (GLO), a radical breakaway faction of the Subhash Ghising-led Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), cadres in the Tinkatari jungles provides ample testimony of the preparedness of the insurgents in the area, as also their growing co-ordination with various groups, particularly with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland –Issak Muivah (NSCN-IM). The attempted assassination21 of the Gorkha leader, Subhash Ghising, while he was returning to Darjeeling after a meeting with Union Home Minister Advani is an indicator of this collusion. The attack is widely believed to be the handiwork of Chhatre Subba, a one-time Ghising protege who has turned against the GNLF supremo for his purported betrayal of the Gorkhaland cause. One of the slain assailants was also identified as an NSCN-IM member. And the fact that the other team members were reported to have fled to Nepal is indicative of a broader conspiracy. The NSCN-IM is also allegedly training certain Gorkha and Nepali youths.22 Two NSCN-IM cadres were killed in an encounter in the Shamsingh forest in Darjeeling district on November 12, 2000.23 According to intelligence sources in Shiliguri, the NSCN-IM cadres were part of an instructors’ group that had travelled to West Bengal to impart arms and explosives handling training to the GLO. 

Reports also suggest that the ISI was supplying a large quantity of arms and ammunition to the various Northeast terrorist outfits from the stockpiles of the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia after their defeat and eventual obliteration.24 These were picked up from the markets of Thailand and were transported to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, eventually to be used on Indian soil. The arms were shipped from Thai ports to Cox’s Bazaar and were then carried on headloads for rest of the way.25 The recipients were the NSCN-IM, ULFA and the Bodo groups. 

The NSCN-IM has gradually become the primary militant outfit in the region, providing training and resources to various other groups. Recently, however, the Myanmarese authorities initiated a crackdown on the terrorist groups operating from their soil in the area. Media reports have indicated that an NSCN-Khaplang (NSCN-K) camp was attacked by Myanmarese and Indian security forces in the Konyak region of Myanmar, adjacent to Nagaland.26 Earlier, in October 2000, a botched operation of the Myanmar Army caused the death of five Assam Rifles personnel during an encounter with the Khaplang group cadres.27 Evidently, this mounting pressure has made the NSCN-K amenable to a cease-fire, which the Indian government offered recently. 

Reports indicate that while there are no training camps of the ULFA and NSCN in Coochbehar and Alipurduar, there are indications that Bodo militants have their training camps in the adjoining areas at the tri-junction of these two districts with Bhutan, in the jungles of Kalikhola in that country. The security forces have arrested certain couriers transporting ration and also ascertained the frequent movement of Bodo militants along the banks of the Sankosh river near Kalikhola. Terrorist training camps in Bhutan also exist in the areas of Goberkundi, south of Udang river, Lungkhavgma, Merungphuc, Sukhini and Dinsing river. Even though these areas do not abut the Jalpaiguri district, arrested militants have confessed to having obtained training in these areas. An ULFA terrorist, Tarani Biasya, arrested in Alipurduar on February 9, 1998, had confessed to having been trained in Sukhini. These militants often transport small arms from Bangladesh to Bhutan through the Shiliguri Corridor on trucks that transport goods to and from Bangladesh, inducing the truck drivers and owners by threats and money. 

Shiliguri town is a gateway to Guwahati in Assam, Gangtok in Sikkim and Kishengunj in Bihar. It also shares borders with three countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal. The town’s cosmopolitan character, grown out of it being "an island of prosperity," makes it easier for outsiders to get assimilated into the local populace, thus providing perfect cover to the subversives. In fact, the West Bengal government had admitted on the floor of the State Legislative Assembly in 1999 that the Shiliguri corridor ran the risk of being sabotaged by ISI agents. This was admitted by the then Deputy Chief Minister and Minister in-charge for Home, while responding to the Opposition’s charges following a bomb blast at New Jalpaiguri Station of north Bengal on June 22, 1999. Some 10 persons, including two Indian Army personnel bound for Kargil, were killed and more than 80 persons injured in the incident.28 

Security agencies are also concerned at the mushrooming growth of mosques and madrassas (religious seminaries) in the region. According to their estimate, in the last five years the total number of madrassas that have come up in the Shiliguri Corridor area are as follows: Coochbehar – 45, Jalpaiguri – 44, Shiliguri – 63 and Islampur sub-division, North 5, Dinajpur – 467. Of these only 23 in Coochbehar are recognized by the West Bengal government; eight in Jalpaiguri; two in Shiliguri and seven in Islampur. Yet, the others are flourishing with no dearth of funds. Intelligence sources suspect that people having linkages with Pakistan-based terrorist outfits have set up at least some of these mosques and madrassas. 

Intelligence reports also state that the Pakistan-based Harkat-ul-Ansar (HuA) – renamed as Harkat-ul-Mujahiddeen (HuM) – and active in Jammu and Kashmir, has spread its tentacles in the region, with Nepal and northern West Bengal as their preferred ground. It is reportedly spreading Muslim fundamentalism and establishing a string of bases in the Northeast, as also in northern West Bengal. The HuA is reported to have succeeded in raising a large number of supporters in the Dangipara area of Shiliguri town, as also in adjoining areas like Naxalbari, Fulbari, etc. 

According to intelligence sources, another organisation called Tabligh-e-Jamaat is also reported to be active around the Shiliguri Corridor. They hold regular meetings along Champasari and Bardhaman Road near Hawra camp in Shiliguri and are also in contact with the Harkat-ul-Ansar in Nepal. There are also indications of close linkages between the two groups, with senior members of each attending the meetings of the other. Although the activity of the organisation is discreet, it reportedly includes anti-India propaganda, ‘universalisation’ of Islam and raising funds for ‘Islamic causes.’ 

Jalpaiguri and Coochbehar districts, which constitute the Coochbehar sector of the corridor, are bounded by the Bhutan border in the north, starting from Phuntsholing to Kalikhola tri-junction, and are also contiguous with 410 kilometres of international border with Bangladesh. To the east from Kalikhola the boundary runs south along the western bank of the Sankosh River, parallel to Kokrajhar and Dhubri districts in Assam. From the Bangladesh border, there are three points where the Bhutan border is at a distance of approximately 60 kilometres. This area not only has NH 31 and NH 31A running through it, but also has broad-gauge and metre-gauge railway lines passing through before entering Assam. The demographic character of the area along the Bhutan border comprises Santhals, Bodos, Nepalis and Rajbongshis. In the Cooch Behar sector live the Bengali Hindus, Rajbongshis, Bengali and Bihari Muslims. Rajbongshis, Bengali Hindus and Muslims live in the areas along the Bangladesh border.

The demographic profile within a 5-kilometre belt of the international border with Bangladesh has undergone rapid changes. According to intelligence sources, in Jalpaiguri district, while the population of Hindus and Muslims has been 1,35,938 and 1,63,522 respectively in 1981, in 1991 it rose to 1,90,805 and 2,35,733 respectively. In Coochbehar, the figure in 1981 was 2,17,588 and 1,41,001 respectively; while in 1991 it was 2,94,038 and 1,85,528 respectively. In the Shiliguri sub-division of Darjeeling district, the numbers were 48,110 and 71,215, respectively, in 1981; while in 1991, they were 72,518 and 1,12.302, respectively. In the Islampur and Raigunj sub-divisions of north Dinajpur, they were 1,78,583 and 2,60,507, respectively, in 1981; rising to 2,51,472 and 3,41,325, respectively, in 1991. 

In early 1999, a media report had indicated that a significant demographic transformation was occurring around the Corridor, causing serious concern among security agencies. The report, quoting official sources, pointed out that, while in 1971 the Muslim population was 15 per cent, in recent years it has touched a high of 70 per cent in some areas, primarily due to illegal immigration from Bangladesh. The report referred to the phenomenon of a large number of Muslim immigrants residing in Islampur of North Dinajpur district as also Kishangunj of Bihar. The report had also claimed that untrammelled passage through these areas was available to the thousands of Bihari Muslims who claim Pakistan’s nationality but remain in Bangladesh because the former refuses to take them in.29

Given the criticality of threat perceptions, one needs to discern the reasons for such an apparent laxity in vigil. It is plausible to seek explanations in the tradition of thin policing of the borders in the area. Security force levels in the Cooch Behar sector30 consist of four units of the Border Security Force (BSF) deployed along the 410 km of the international border, from border post number 814 to 1001; on the Assam-Bhutan border, a three-company strength of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) is deployed. The West Bengal Armed Police maintains a platoon and an Army unit is deployed in Cooch Behar, but is not assigned internal security duty. SSB companies are also deployed in Tufanganj, Natuarpur and Hindusthan, and in other areas in the sector. The configuration of intelligence agencies in the area has the Intelligence Bureau at the apex followed by the Field Intelligence Units (FIU) of the Army, SSB and the BSF. Efforts are currently being directed towards seeking a unified effort and greater co-ordination in operations of the security forces.

One of the key security concerns of the area is gunrunning. According to a media report, there were two routes through which this lucrative trade was being conducted. In the first, arms were first sent to certain safe havens in Shiliguri and later dispatched in small quantities by local couriers who would typically travel by road or rail. Consignments were then loaded on Dooars-bound buses heading towards Jaigaon on the Indo-Bhutan border. Gunrunners also utilise the metre-gauge railway line between Shiliguri and Alipurduar via Hashimara and Birpara. They are then transferred to hideouts in the Jayanti hills in the north or Alipurduar in the south.31 The other preferred route is through the riverine tri-junction in Kishangunj in the Coochbehar district of West Bengal. The loads are ferried by country boats at night and later transported in small numbers by local carriers to Islamabad in Madarihat and Falakata in the Jalpaiguri district. 

Another cause for concern for the security apparatus is the growing nexus between the militant groups and illegal timber traders. Along the Assam-West Bengal border, timber trading is a lucrative business due its high demand in West Bengal and in other parts of the country. Various sawmills in the area north of Bakshirhat in Cooch Behar are reported to be recipients of smuggled timber, including teak and sesame wood, from Assam. Sawmill owners enjoy the patronage of terrorist outfits based in Assam, who in turn extort large sums of money from them in return for security. In their operations, the militants also utilise various modes of transport like trucks, mini vans and motorcycles owned by the sawmill owners. Recent developments show that the Bodo militants, as also the ULFA, have shifted base to the forests of Bhutan, traversing from their earlier safe houses in Bangladesh. At the narrowest point in the region, the distance between the Bhutan border and the Bangladesh border is a mere 60 kilometres. And considering the fact that the Cooch Behar sector is relatively calm, it is policed lightly. Furthermore, there are no mobile checkposts in the region to challenge any movement of suspicious nature. 

Intelligence agencies fear that many key installations in the Shiliguri Corridor are liable to sabotage by militants. Such installations include the bridge on the national highway near Barovisha in Darjeeling district, the railway-bridge over river Raidhak, the bridge connecting the national highway and the railway-bridge over Sankosh River. 

Before 1947, the North Eastern States, especially Assam, were connected with the mainland through waterways, road and railway networks running through what was then a part of the Bengal Presidency and later named East Pakistan and, eventually, Bangladesh. Thus, linkages between that country and the Assamese were deep, and these, the ISI later sought to exploit. In fact, a Foreign Service officer of Bangladesh, Mohammad Siddique, has claimed that "India had received the corridor at Shiliguri, though Bangladesh (i.e. the then East Pakistan) had more claims over the territory because of population characteristics."32

Such a mindset has created worries in the security establishment, and these were articulated by the former Director of the Intelligence Bureau and former Governor of West Bengal, T V Rajeshwar: "It is not Kashmir alone which should cause anxiety. The Bangladeshi infiltration, which continues unabated, has changed the demographic pattern of eastern India. There is a grave danger to the Shiliguri Corridor, which is the lifeline of the seven North Eastern states and Sikkim, because of the concentration of the Bangladeshi migrants there. Bengal’s premier in 1946, Nizamuddin, wrote to Governor R.G. Casey that Bengal would soon become a Muslim majority province if left undisturbed. Even if his dream was belied because of the Partition, Dr. Henry Kissinger’s foreboding of a Muslim majority state emerging from within Indian borders is there to contend with."33

Thus, it is evident that the Shiliguri Corridor faces major threats in its geographical vicinity from the overbearing Chinese presence as also from relatively minor neighbours like Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. Furthermore, the overarching consideration in the security framework is the ability of Pakistan to subvert the regimes in these countries and consequently increase insurgent pressures in the area. 

Since the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, the architect of Bangladesh and its first Premier, every regime in that country has fostered anti-Indian forces within its territorial ambit. Indeed, Begum Khaleda Zia, the current Premier, had gone to the extent of calling the Northeast insurgents, "freedom fighters."34 The crucial leverage that Bangladesh has gained in its endeavour to create instability in India at a low cost is the large number of its own people residing on Indian soil. The Bangladeshis have a novel way of ‘legalising’ their immigration in India. The relatives who are in India reportedly get the names of those across the border included in the voters’ list during enumeration. As their names finally appear in the list, messages are then sent across to them to finally cross over. It is this population that reportedly creates a buffer of non-combatants for the militants and they utilise them as perfect cover. 

Even though an Indian protectorate, the Royal Kingdom of Bhutan has, in the recent past, played host to ULFA and Bodo militants, who have found a comfortable habitat in the southern part of the country. In fact, some reports claim that captured ULFA cadres have vouched to witnessing three visits by the King of Bhutan to their camps. However, recent reports reveal that the Bhutanese government has commenced fortification of its borders with Assam, ostensibly to deter the free passage of militants. They have reportedly deployed 3,000 troops on the border and are planning to put more forces on the ground.35 But the King and the government indicate marked reluctance to engage the militants on the grounds that "We are not sure of the kind of support these militant groups enjoy in Assam and in case there is an armed conflict between the Bhutanese security forces and the militants, it would have a major impact on the country’s economy and its age-old relations between the people of Bhutan and Assam would be seriously affected. It may take many years before the relations normalised."36

Certain analysts perceive eastern Nepal, bordering the Shiliguri Corridor, to be the springboard for Pakistan-sponsored insurgency in the Northeast. Nepal’s proximity to this passage assumes significance because of its strategic importance. Bound by Nepal and Bangladesh in the south, the use of this passage for transferring small arms and contraband from both the countries is now well established.37

The fact that Nepal has been open to subversion by ISI operatives is also beyond dispute. Yakoob Memon, one of the accused in the 1993 Mumbai blast case, was traced in Nepal,38 and then the infamous IC-814 hijacking had its origins at the Tribhuvan International Airport, causing substantial damage to bilateral relations between India and Nepal, which took some effort in mending. But the fact that the Nepalese are not adopting a laid-back attitude about taking actions against those who are using their territory for launching anti-India campaigns is evident in the recent arrest and incarceration of a senior Pakistani diplomat, who was found in possession of large quantities of explosives.39 

In 1962, when the Chinese had begun their troop concentration across the border, Indian security planners were rightly worried about the possible threat to eastern India. This had led to a decision to withdraw troops from the Punjab border with Pakistan and mass them in Shiliguri focusing on the area of the Corridor. This was a difficult decision to make because intelligence agencies were suspicious of General Ayub Khan’s intentions. Yet, the then Defence Minister, V.K. Krishna Menon, had obtained the necessary clearance from the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, to move troops from the Northwest to the East.40

One may take note that the Kamtapur Peoples’ Party (KPP), which contested the recent elections to the State Legislative Assembly in West Bengal, had failed to secure a significant mandate. Receiving an average of seven per cent of the total votes polled, the KPP has been humbled in vast tracts of North Bengal, which it wants to be a part of their ‘new State’ of Kamtapur. But now that they have failed to secure democratic sanction for themselves that could have validated their demand by providing numerical muscle, what will the party’s next agenda be? There exists a sense of collective denial about the existence of any insurgent action committed by anyone attached to the movement for a separate Kamtapur.41 Almost to a man, the KPP leadership has refused to acknowledge the existence of the KLO, even as the security agencies were equally insistent about its threatening presence. 

In the light of these developments, it is imperative to critically scrutinise the significance of the Shiliguri Corridor and to initiate steps to render it safe in the larger interest of maintaining the sovereign security and integrity of the region as also of the nation.

1. The meeting took place in Assam. Source: Intelligence reports. 

2. "Evaluation of the Chinese Threat", See 

3. The corridor comprises Islampur sub-division of Darjeeling district, Jalpaiguri Sadar and Alipurduar sub-divisions of Jalpaiguri district and Toofanganj, Mathabhanga, Coochbehar Sadar, Dinhata and Mekhliganj sub-divisions of Coochbehar district. 

4. Based on the report of the Kargil Review Committee chaired by K Subrahmanyam, the then Convenor of the National Security Advisory Board, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee constituted a Group of Cabinet Ministers (GoM) in April 2000 to review the national security system and to formulate specific proposals for implementation. The GoM set up four task forces, one each for intelligence apparatus, border management, internal security and management of defence. Madhav Godbole, a former Home Secretary, headed the task force on border management. He submitted a 499-page report to the GoM, headed by Union Home Minister L.K. Advani. 

5. See "Ministerial group gets report on border management",; The Godbole report recommended that paramilitary forces such as the Border Security Force, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and Assam Rifles should man international borders, but operate directly under the army in cases where the boundary line is unsettled or under dispute. 

6. The Telegraph, Kolkata, December 11, 2000

7. The Kamatapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) was formed in 1995 by the Koch-Rajbongshi tribes to carve out a separate Kamatapur State, comprising six north Bengal districts and Goalpara district in lower Assam through an armed struggle. For a profile of the KLO, see South Asia Terrorism Portal; India; Terrorist Groups; Assam; KLO; 

8. "WB separatists woo Assam tribals" 

9. Ibid. The decision to prop up Rajbongshi rebel outfits was taken by the ULFA in December 1995 at the initiative of Raju Baruah, a senior leader of the ULFA's military wing. Subsequently, the ULFA entrusted the then chairman of its Darrang district unit, Ajit Kachari, with the task of setting up the Koch-Rajbongshi Liberation Organisation (KRLO) in Lower Assam. Simultaneously, the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) was formed in North Bengal following a meeting at Kumargram. The first batch of 25 KRLO members went to the ULFA camps in Bhutan for training in December 1995.

10. "India: ULFA, KLO to launch joint movement in Assam". Both the outfits also decided to indulge in joint extortion drives in Assam. This decision was taken at a meeting in Bhutan in July 2001. 

11. "India: North Bengal turning into hotbed of militancy", 

12. See South Asia Terrorism Portal ; India; Terrorist Groups; Assam; KLO; 

13. "West Bengal seeks more forces" 

14. "Kamtapur-Ne Nexus Uncovered", 

15. "Ominous Kamtapur Nexus Unearthed", 

16. Ibid. Nichula base is adjacent to Kalikhola on the Indo-Bhutan border north of Uttar Haldibari. The camp, reportedly, is approximately 8 km north of Allay bust, the last Bhutanese border village, inside the Fifshu jungle. 

17. "Separatist movement in North Bengal gets Ulfa help", 

18. "Bengal CM cautions against ultras", 

19. Ibid. 

20. Two suspected militants were killed in an encounter with police at Tinkatari near Samshing, close to the Bhutan border on November 12, 2000. Those killed were reportedly cadres of the Gorkha Liberation Organisation. One security force personnel was killed and another injured during the encounter. See "Naga ultras killed in shootout", Statesman, Kolkata, November 13, 2000. 

21. On February 9, 2001, militants armed with sophisticated rifles and grenades attacked Ghising’s convoy bound for Darjeeling from Shiliguri on a narrow and winding mountain road. See "Thunder in the hills", Hindu, Chennai, February 18, 2001. Subba was arrested on March 23, 2001 near the Indo-Nepal border. 

22. "Stealthily, a rebel Gorkha group builds a base", 

23. "Bengal CM cautions against ultras", 

24. "Ultra Getting Arms from Khmer Rouge",, See also "ISI training outfits in camps across Bangladesh", 

25. See South Asia Terrorism Portal; India; Assessment; 

26. Times of India, New Delhi, May 19, 2001.

27., October 26, 2000.

28. Pioneer, New Delhi, June 23, 1999. Also see "The Islamization of West Bengal", tiowb.html 

29. Times of India, February 15, 1999.

30. Intelligence sources. 

31. Telegraph, December 13, 2000.

32. "Kathmandu Revisited", People’s Review, Kathmandu, August 7, 1997.

33. T.V Rajeshwar, "The Lessons of Kosovo", Hindu, May 5, 1999.

34. Sreeradha Dutta, Security of India’s Northeast: External Linkages", Strategic Analysis, New Delhi, November 2000, Vol. XXIV No. 8, p. 1506.

35. Times of India, May 19, 2001. 

36. Times of India, April 16, 2001.

37. Hindu, September 8, 1999.

38. Dutta, "Security of India’s Northeast", p. 1506. 

39. Police in Kathmandu arrested a senior Pakistani diplomat Mohammad Arshad with 16 kg of RDX on April 12, 2001. According to official sources, the arrested diplomat, the first secretary in the Pakistani Embassy, was due to return to his country after a posting in Nepal. See 

40. B.N. Mullik, The Chinese Betrayal, Delhi: Allied Publishers, 1971, p. 382.

41. This was made evident during the writer’s visit to the region.