Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh: Designs and Network in India

07 Nov, 2014    ·   4731

N Manoharan writes about the need for increased cooperation between India and Bangladesh, in the wake of the Burdwan blasts

In the wake of Burdwan blast, the Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh recently ordered an immediate neutralisation of the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) terror modules in India. What is the JMB? What are its designs and network in India?
JMB, meaning ‘Assembly of Holy Warriors in Bangladesh’, is a Bangladesh-based terror outfit. Formed in 1998, the principal objective of the JMB is to establish an Islamic state in Bangladesh on the basis of Sharia laws. With a strong belief in Salafist ideology, it is opposed to modern principles of governance such as democracy, liberalism, socialism and secularism and considers them anti-Islamic. In the initial stages, funding to the JMB came from various sources: robbery, smuggling, donations, patronage, subscriptions and “taxations.” Very soon, it turned to more lucrative foreign sources and counterfeit currencies.

The then Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) government’s political patronage also helped in the JMB’s phenomenal growth and influence. The government did not realise the gravity of the JMB’s designs until the terror group triggered country-wide serial bombings in August 2005 (500 bombs in 63 of 64 districts of Bangladesh in a span of half-an-hour). 

In the ensuing crackdown, many of the JMB’s leaders and cadres were arrested or killed, especially by the Rapid Action Battalion of Bangladesh. It was at this stage that the JMB decided to shift some of its operations to India. Abdur Rahman (alias Shahadat), who sneaked into India in 2006, was instrumental in building the outfit’s network across the India-Bangladesh border. Around the same time, the operational wing of the JMB in West Bengal was declared as the “65th Unit.” The JMB has been operating a bomb-making units in Burdwan, West Bengal, India, in which grenades have also been manufactured and transported to Bangladesh in consignments. The fact that bomb blasts at Chennai and Patna in May this year have had JMB signatures indicate that the IEDs might have been diverted within India as well.

India is being used by the JMB not just for hideouts, but for recruitment as well. Recruitment is done through madrasas, mosques and effective use of social media. The JMB’s network is especially active in West Bengal’s districts of Murshidabad, Malda and Nadia and in parts of Muslim-majority districts in Assam. These areas are closer to the JMB’s stronghold of northern and north-western Bangladesh. Also, the JMB’s traditional strategy of creating networks of matrimonial alliances across the border helped in easy establishment of bases in India. Going by call records and visits of those JMB members who have now been arrested, the outfit appears to have footprints in southern India and Jammu and Kashmir as well. There are an estimated 50 modules operating in India. 

What is more concerning is the JMB’s linkage with other terror groups in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and even beyond. The common thread that connects all these groups is their anti-Indian, anti-democratic and pro-Salafist ideology. It is difficult to operate in India without the assistance of Indian militant groups. Some of the JMB’s known collaborators are the Indian Mujahideen, al Jihad, al Ummah and the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). In the case of Pakistan, the JMB has a good network with the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Harkat-ul Jihad-al Islami (HuJI); and with the Taliban and al Qaida in Afghanistan. For its operations in Myanmar, the JMB relied on Rohingya Solidarity Organisation (RSO), based in the Rohingya refugee camps in southern Bangladesh. Going by the latest slogan of JMB – “Jihad from Bangladesh to Baghdad” – such a wide network is obvious. The scope of the engagement among these terror groups ranges from training, recruitment, funding, information-sharing, arms procurement, operational assistance, manpower, and logistics. Funding to the JMB has been traced to NGOs based in countries of West Asia and Europe. This shows that the JMB’s network involves a section of the Bangladeshi Diaspora and other jihadi groups.

Bangladesh-based terror groups acting against India is not a new development. What is new is that the this is a Bangladeshi terror group based in India acting against both India and Bangladesh. This is a serious development. It is of utmost concern that the activities of the JMB in India have gone unnoticed for over half a decade. It would have remained so for long had blasts at Burdwan not taken place accidentally. Vote bank and communal politics, lack of capability of the state police forces, lack of proper of coordination between the Centre and the States, and lack of cooperation between India and Bangladesh are few reasons for the JMB’s successful hiding. These issues have to be addressed on an urgent basis.

Border guarding cannot afford to be slacked off on, and requires attention. A substantial amount of the JMB’s purpose is lost, if its cross-border activities are curtailed. This aside, India could consider strengthening Bangladesh’s counter-terrorism capabilities, especially in dealing with radical groups. The present government in Dhaka has been helpful in stifling North-east India-based militant groups that took shelter in Bangladesh. A weak and pro-Islamist regime in Bangladesh is not in the interest of India. Robust counter-terrorism cooperation between India and Bangladesh is imperative to tackle common enemies like the JMB.