High security on Indo-Bangla border in Assam

Fearing possible infiltration by North-east based Islamic militants who have received training in neighbouring Bangladesh, the Cachar district administration in South Assam has clamped a two-month embargo on people\\'s movement, and trade, along the Indo-Bangla border. The local administration has clamped Section 144 of the CrPC restricting the movement of people in the area between 8 pm and 5 am. The ban includes fishing boats which will now be prevented from plying in the Surma river during the stipulated hours. The restrictions would continue \\"till the situation returns to normal\\" along the border, Cachar Deputy Commissioner PK Das said. According to highly placed sources, security forces, including the Border Security Force (BSF), have been asked to intensify patrol along the porous international border also in the districts of Karimganj and Hailakandi, both of which, along with Cachar, share a common border with Bangladesh. Latest reports suggested that a group of 50 Islamic militants, that had recently completed its training in Bangladesh, was set to infiltrate into Assam through the border areas of Cachar and Karimganj.

According to the sources, the heightened security measures were being taken to neutralise a plan recently drawn up by Dhaka\\'s Directorate of General Forces Intelligence (DGFI), which, along with Bangladeshi Islamic fundamentalist organizations such as the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam and Jamiat-e-Islami, and some Assam-based Islamic rebel groups, were planning to carry out subversive activities in the three Indian districts. The plan, the sources said, was put together at a location in Bangladesh\\'s Sylhet district, in the presence of a high-ranking operative of Pakistan\\'s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), Habibur Rehman, leaders of the Bangladesh Aikya Manch (BAM), officials of the DGFI, and representatives of militant groups such as the Harkat-ul-Jehad-al-Ansar and the Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam (MULTA). The group\\'s immediate plans in India\\'s North-east included attacks on BSF outposts along the Cachar and Karimganj border, the sources said. The militants\\' final aim was to carve out an independent Islamic state out of the North-east, the sources said.

The DGFI, with active support from the ISI, at present run five training camps in the Sylhet district of Bangladesh where Assam-based Islamic militant outfits are known to have sent their cadres for training. At least 200 Muslim youths from Assam’s Nagaon, Barpeta, Cachar and Hailakandi districts have been undergoing training in five camps in Sylhet. All together, there are more than 78 militant camps that belong to various groups, including the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) and the MULTA (see list below), in areas such as Bogura, Satcharri, Rangamati, Moulvi Bazar and Cox Bazar in eastern Bangladesh. Along with other facilities, those undergoing training in the camps were also being paid a monthly stipend of 500 takas. The training, the sources was being conducted by three Jamiat leaders, eight DGFI majors and personnel of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR).

The growing Islamic fundamentalism in Assam is widely attributed to continuing illegal influx of Bangladeshis into the state, which now has a 33 per cent Muslim population, up from about 12 per cent in 1947. The growing community is believed to be in a position to directly determine the outcome in at least 30 of the state\\'s 126 assembly constituencies. According to reports, the community, in 1991 itself, comprised 49.17, 54.19 and 34.49 per cent of the total population in Karimganj, Hailakandi and Cachar respectively.

By Surajit Talukdar and Swapan Kumar Paul (newsfiledelhi@rediffmail.com)

The following is a list of Islamic militant organizations in Assam.

(i) Islamic Liberation Front of Assam
(ii) Islamic Sevak Sangh
(iii) Muslim Security Force of Assam
(iv) Muslim Liberation Army
(v) Muslim Liberation Front
(vi) Muslim Liberation Tigers of Assam
(vii) Muslim Security Council of Assam
(viii) Muslim Security Force
(ix) Muslim Tiger Force
(x) Muslim United Liberation Front of Assam
(xi) Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam
(xii) Muslim Volunteer Force
(xiii) United Reformation Protest of Assam
(xiv) Adam Sena
(xv) Harkat-ul-Jehad