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Assam: The Bangla hand
January 19, 2007
Ministers with foot-in-mouth disease rushed to comment about ISI-ULFA involvement and ascribed various silly reasons to befuddle the people. The media has quoted ULFA vice-president Pradip Gogoi as saying that the Government of India had invited trouble by terminating the dialogue process.
The wise men of India have, as usual, fired erratically. The ISI alone has not adopted ULFA. The collateral adopter is the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence of Bangladesh, DGFI.
It is necessary to understand the quantum dynamics of inter-relationship between the ISI, DGFI and Indian terrorist groups like ULFA.
The Bangladeshi intelligence machinery pivots around the DGFI, the Directorate General of National Security Intelligence (whose chief was sacked on January 15) and Military Intelligence.
The DGFI, modeled after the ISI by then Bangladesh leader General Zia-ur Rahman in 1977, operates from its headquarters located at the BNS Haji Mohsin naval base, Jahangir Gate, a little south of Tashdique, home of the Bangladesh army chief. It has zonal offices in every district of Bangladesh.
Major General Sadiq Hussain Rumi is the present chief of the DGFI; Brigadier Azam Mir serves as his chief deputy. The agency is staffed by military personnel. Its command and control are regulated by the army chief, though the last Bangladesh National Party government won over large number of DGFI top guns through Brigadier Mir.
Mir is the son of Golam Azam, the former Jamait-e-Islami chief, who collaborated with Pakistan in carrying out the 1971 genocide.
The agency is divided into 12 bureaus, each handling subject and territory desks. The India division is headed by a colonel.
In India's neighbourhood, Bureau III handles Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka, though there is a separate Bureau for the SAARC countries. These officers report to the chief of the South Asia division of the agency.
The India desk has four distinct sections, which handle the North Eastern states, West Bengal, the rest of India and Muslim affairs in India.
In 2000 a new Bureau X was started to oversee the activities of domestic and international jihadi tanzeems, or local level outfits. Bureau X also plans and executes subversive operations in India.
A part of the Bureau known as the Dawa section handles Islamic NGOs and supervises internal and external money flow to these organisations.
Like the ISI, the DGFI has also an Inter Services Public Relations division, which works as the public face for the Bangladesh army.
Bangladeshi military and civilian intelligence officers were initially trained by the ISI. Some special units of the DGFI were trained along with ISI operatives at the Harvey Point Defence Testing Activity, a high-security compound in a quiet corner of a marshland near Hertford, North Carolina, USA. The facility, officially owned by the Pentagon, serve as the CIA's secret commando training base since 1961.
Such specially trained corps of DGFI officers initially trained some Harkat ul-Jihad-i-Islami and Jamait-ul Mujahideen top rankers. Bangla Bhai -- a Bangladeshi terrorist, who was captured and sentenced to death last year -- was originally designed by the DGFI for combating the Communist Party of Bangladesh, Janajuddha and Purba Banglar Sarbahara Party (both Naxalite outfits).
The DGFI has achieved excellent penetration amongst the Indian intelligentsia, academia, print and electronic media, political parties, business community and certain minority organisations and institutions. The allegation that the DGFI achieved penetration in the National Security Advisory Board cannot be shrugged off.
The ISI and DGFI often jointly operate inside India. Taking advantage of Pakistan's 'theopolitical' hegemony on vast sections of Bangladeshi people, specially the Afghan jihad veterans and other tanzeems, the ISI continue to operate against Indian targets in the Northeast. Nepal and Sri Lanka-based ISI outfits generally target the Indian heartland and the peninsular tracts.
The DGFI, besides handling joint ventures with the ISI, conducts 'loner operations' against India. The DGFI supports the Achik National Volunteer Council and Hynniewtrep Achik Liberation Council of Meghalaya, the National Democratic Front of Bodoland, the Kamtapuri Liberation Organisation in West Bengal, the Dima Halam Daoga and the United Peoples Democratic Solidarity of Assam.
In Manipur, the DGFI's main tools are the separatist United National Liberation Front, the People's Liberation Army, PREPAK, the People's United Liberation Front, the United Islamic Revolutionary Army, the North East Minority Front and the Indigenous People's Revolutionary Alliance.
In Assam, besides ULFA, the DGFI's main clients are the Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam, United Liberation Front of Barak Valley, Muslim United Liberation Front of Assam, United Liberation Militia of Assam, Islamic Sevak Sangh, United Muslim Liberation Front of Assam and Revolutionary Muslim Commandos etc.
Besides running classical intelligence operations the DGFI has sponsored Bangladeshi jihadi tanzeems to establish cells and modules in Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya, Manipur, Dimapur and the Tezpur foothills areas of Nagaland, West Bengal, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
These cells and modules are set up in areas inhabited by Bangladeshis.
Indian intelligence agencies and others are aware that the DGFI played significant roles in the January 22, 2002 attack on the US consulate in Kolkata, the New Delhi bomb blasts on October 29, 2005, the Varanasi blasts and the Mumbai train blasts. These were ISI and DGFI joint operations.
There are indications that a serving major of the DGFI's special operations cell crossed over to India with valid documents about 10 days before the Delhi blasts and spent three days in Kolkata. About six days before the incident, he was noticed at a guesthouse in Delhi with an undercover diplomat from the Pakistan high commission.
After he returned to Kolkata and left for Dhaka, the DGFI's Kolkata station chief reached Delhi and met another Pakistani diplomat. He was present in Delhi on the day the serial blasts took place.
In the Varanasi serial blasts both Lashkar-e-Tayiba and Harkat ul-Jihad-i-Islami members took leading roles after they were housed and trained at Char Gopalnagar, Khulna, in Bangladesh and traveled to Varanasi through cell-points at Berhampur in West Bengal Bhagalpur and Bare in Bihar.
There is supporting information that an undercover officer of the ISI at Dhaka and a captain of the DGFI special operations cell visited Isurdi in Bangladesh to contact Harkat ul-Jihad-i-Islami area commander Barkatul Rahman Bablu. He was supposed to be the liaison man between the agencies and the tanzeem members responsible for the Varanasi incident.
The story of ISI and DGFI collaboration is thus of epic proportions. However, in the context of the latest carnage in Tinsukia, Dhemaji and Dibrugarh there is reliable information that this was a joint operation by the ULFA and DGFI.
Around December 28, top ULFA leaders and DGFI officials met at a safe house in Dhaka, and an operational task was charted out to create serious disruptions in Assam and in Siliguri to divert Indian attention from the election impasse in Bangladesh.
About 10 trained DGFI special task force members infiltrated into Assam and teamed up with ULFA cadres to carry out the mass killings. The infiltration of DGFI personnel into Assam is not a new development.
To bolster sagging moral of local ULFA cadres and to bamboozle the Assam people, such special DGFI operators help ULFA cadres carry out spectacular actions. Some DGFI commandos are housed by Assam-based Muslim jihadi groups.
The ISI input cannot be discounted, as ULFA leaders Paresh Barua and Arabinda Rajkhowa returned to Dhaka from a trip to Pakistan around December 20.
Rajkhowa, who is trying to acquire an apartment in London with assistance of Dhaka-based ISI operatives, was pressurised to carry out the recent Assam task. Barua has reportedly bought apartments in Bangkok and London.
The story of DGFI and ISI motivation in jointly and independently operating against Indian targets from Bangladesh is a part of the 'unfinished agenda of the Partition of India.' But that is another story.
It is necessary for the Union and state governments to understand that after establishing 'theopolitical' hegemony in Bangladesh, Pakistan is now trying to gain joint 'geopolitical advantages' leading to the creation of a larger 'Bangistan' or 'Northeast Pakistan' as envisioned by Chaudhry Rahamat Ali in 1937 in his famous treatise 'Now or Never.'
Is there any one in India to pay adequate attention to the DGFI and Pakistan's 'theopolitical' allies in Bangladesh?
Maloy Krishna Dhar is a former joint director of the Intelligence Bureau and author of Open Secrets and Fulcrum of Evil-ISI, CIA, Al Qaeda Nexus. He is available at firstname.lastname@example.org.