Riyaz Bhatkal, one of Indian Mujahideen's most dreaded terrorists, is today perceived as a traitor for siphoning off funds, reports Vicky Nanjappa
When a Karnataka police official posted in Bhatkal town was asked about Riyaz, a wanted terrorist from the Indian Mujahideen, he quipped, "He was nothing but a chindi chor (petty thief) before he was roped in to become a big time terrorist."
According to investigators who have been tracking the Indian Mujahideen, many members of the outfit were angry with Riyaz since they felt that he had betrayed them.
Riyaz Bhatkal had reportedly fled with a large amount of money from the IM's coffers.
Riyaz, who hails from the coastal town of Bhatkal, was in possession of Rs 38 lakh that was collected through hawala transactions and donations. The money was supposed to be used for terror operations in and around Karnataka.
But the blasts near Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore in April, 2010, were not a costly affair at all. The terror operation, termed as a 'flop', could not have cost more than Rs 10,000, feel investigators.
Interrogations of suspected IM operatives have revealed that Bhatkal had siphoned off quite a bit of money just before he fled the country.
The IM has also faced deep divisions within its ranks over the issue of money. While it was founded for the purpose of propagating terrorism in India, some of its members have started using it as a money spinning business.
According to sources, when the IM was floated with the help of the Inter Services Intelligence, it was very clearly stated by the Pakistani spy agency that all the funds should be used to carry out terror activities in India.
The ISI even helped the IM raise funds and the terror outfit managed to collect over Rs 10 crore through donations and hawala transactions in the first year.
The money was supposed to be used for setting up modules, terror training camps and procuring arms and ammunition.
Though the ISI's directive was followed for the first few months, things changed later on when operatives like Bhatkal decided to use the money for their personal gain.
Bhatkal, who is believed to have set up the Karnataka-Maharashtra module of the IM, considered the most dangerous one in India, is today perceived as a traitor for siphoning off funds.
During the interrogation of the stadium blasts accused, the police discovered that the organisation had been struggling due to a lack of funds in the last two years. But the IM operatives didn't have the courage to question a senior leader like Riyaz about it. They continued to make do with arms and ammunition of poor quality and lack of funds for logistics.
The stadium blasts showed the failing strength of the outfit as even though the operatives managed to penetrate through the security cordon, they could only pull off a weak attack.
According to some police officials, Bhatkal was always more interested in garnering funds for himself. He had no particular ideology and always made money by passing on information to the two communities in Bhatkal which have been at logger heads with each other.
Following Riyaz's example, many IM operatives across the country have started using the outfit's funds for their personal benefits.
The exercise to rebuild the outfit is taking a long time because the operatives have decided to operate in independent modules and they can't carry out a major operation due to lack of funds.
The ISI, which controls IM directly, is aware of the developments, say sources. The spy agency is planning to restructure the entire leadership and ensure that the IM is more ideologically driven, like it was meant to be when it was formed four and half years ago.