The ISI network of spies has been operating in India for over a decade, reports Indrani Roy/Rediff.com
The espionage ring busted last week is the tip of the iceberg, a senior Kolkata Special Task Force police officer told Rediff.com
On November 26, the Delhi police arrested Kafaitullah Khan and Border Security Force head constable Abdul Rasheed in Jammu on charges of spying and supplying information about the Indian Army to Pakistan's Directorate of Inter Services Intelligence, the ISI.
Khan was arrested aboard a Bhopal-bound train at Jammu railway station. Rasheed was apprehended later following Khan's interrogation.
The next day, November 27, the Uttar Pradesh Special Task Force arrested Mohammad Kalam alias Mohammad Ijaz, another alleged ISI agent, near Meerut railway station.
These arrests exposed an ISI network that has been operating in India for over a decade, the Kolkata STF officer told Rediff.com
Kafaitullah Khan is a resident of Rajouri district in Jammu and Kashmir. Abdul Rasheed, a relative of Khan, was deployed with the Border Security Force's intelligence wing in the same district.
Khan was employed as a library assistant at a senior secondary school in Majankote, Rajouri district.
Rasheed was posted in Bengal for a short period.
Khan and Rasheed allegedly sold documents related to the deployment of the army's 31st Armoured Division in Jhansi to the ISI.
The duo also allegedly passed on information about the Indian Air Force to the ISI.
Ijaz, a native of Irfanabad in Islamabad, was trained by the ISI and sent to Bangladesh in January 2013.
He sneaked into India in late 2013 with the help of a Bangladeshi national who secured a fake passport and ID for him. The STF has launched a manhunt to track down this Bangladeshi national.
The Kolkata Connection
Intercepted telephone calls Khan made and the interrogation of Rasheed and Ijaz led the STF to Irshad Ansari, his son Ashfaq and Irshad's brother-in-law Mohammad Jahangir, Kolkata police sources told Rediff.com
The trio, who were arrested from Kolkata's Ekbalpore area last week, allegedly procured confidential information and passed them on to the ISI via WhatsApp, Viber and e-mail, the sources added.
Ansari worked in the planning wing at Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers, the government-owned shipyard. He is said to have confessed that he collected torn copies of designs for ships the shipyard was building for the Indian Navy, the sources said.
Ashfaq, the most educated of the trio, would study the fragmented pieces and reconstruct the designs, the sources added.
Later, Ashfaq would take photographs of the redone designs, store them on memory cards and despatch them to the ISI handlers.
The STF has seized maps of the Netaji Subhas dock at Kolkata Port and the Garden Reach Ship Builders and Engineers and counterfeit notes worth Rs 300,000 from the trio.
Ansari is also suspected of having sent photographs of warships being built at the shipyard, including the Indian Navy's anti-submarine warfare corvette, the INS Kadmatt.
Both Ansari and Jahangir have relatives in Karachi and the two men have been working for the ISI for over a decade, sources said.
Ansari was a member of the Trinamool Congress-backed labour union in the port area while Ashfaq was general secretary of the Trinamool Congress Chhatra Parishad at a south Kolkata college.
Following their arrests, the Trinamool Congress quickly shook off its links with the father and son. The Trinamool Congress' Bengal president Ashok Rudra told the media that Ashfaq was expelled from the Chhatra Parishad a couple of months ago for 'anti-party activities.'
The arrests featured in the India-Bangladesh talks in Jessore recently, an official at Bangladesh's home ministry told Rediff.com
"Many Indians and Bangladeshis in the border areas have fake IDs," the official said. "These people cross the borders frequently and get involved in illegal activities, including spying."
According to the Indian government, more than 2,500 Bangladeshis have crossed the border to reside in several villages near Basirhat and Bongaon in recent years. Some of these individuals, sources in the Kolkata STF said, are hired by ISI modules for espionage and other illegal activities.
IMAGE: Kolkata port. Photograph: Abhiroop Dey Sarkar