Rising Radicalism in Bangladesh

Terror Attacks in Dhaka: The Way Ahead for India

11 Jul, 2016    ·   5079

Dr Souvik Chatterji makes observations on cross-border terrorism on the India-Bangladesh border and proposes steps to tackle the problem

On 1 July 2016, suspected Islamic State (IS) militants mounted an attack in Holey Artisan café in Gulshan, Dhaka. There are indications of Jamaat-e-Islami groups being involved in the alleged terror attack.The Bangladeshi security forces intervened and after a serious fight, 13 civilians were rescued. However,  by that time, 9 Italians, 7 Japanese, 1 American and 1 Indian were brutally killed.

Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) along with police commandos fought against the terrorists in what has been named Operation Thunderbolt.

What is important at this stage is the way ahead for India. The IS is expected to create a launching pad in Bangladesh for terror attacks in India and Myanmar.They already have bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan. India being susceptible to such attacks on both its eastern and western flanks is an alarming scenario that merits discussion.

Current Scenario

For India, there is a huge course of action that needs execution. India shares a border with Bangladesh that stretches across 4,098 kilometres, passing through agricultural lands, forests, hilly areas and undulating surfaces, and it is facing a huge number of problems due to cross-border smuggling.

First, cattle smuggling has been a contentious issue over the years. In 2010, 32 Bangladeshis were killed when they were prevented by the Border Security Force (BSF) officials from smuggling cattle across the border. 2012 onwards, after India met Bangladeshi officials to discuss the issue, the BSF has started using non-lethal weapons like pump-action guns.

Second, in the guise of cattle smuggling, huge groups of Bangladeshis also smuggle fake currency. A member of Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HuJI) who was arrested in Uttar Pradesh in 2008 said that in the disguised as a cattle-smuggler, he had managed to smuggle guns and bullets for terrorists in the country. In April 2013, India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) filed a chargesheet after investigating the cattle smuggling case of a cadre of Hizbul Mujahideen (HuM). These individuals were also smuggling fake currency into India across the India-Bangladesh border.

Third, Bangladeshi legislation is also a concern. Cattle smuggling is a crime in India but not in Bangladesh. If a smuggler from India illegally takes cattle into Bangladesh, he/she will be given the status of a cattle-trader. He/she would just have to pay 500 Bangladeshi taka as customs charges for the trading of cattle across borders. Significantly in India, cow slaughter is banned in large parts of the country. Cattle is primarily used for cultivation. In Bangladesh, there is huge demand of cows for different purposes; for example, the leather and bone of slaughtered cattle are used in the leather and ceramics industry.


There are steps that can be taken at the India-Bangladesh border. First, watercraft, speed-boats and floating border outposts (BOP) should be deployed along the riverine segments of the India-Bangladesh border. The water wing of the BSF can oversee the performances of these BOPs.

Second, there should be surveillance across the Jalangi-Ganges riverfront in the Murshidabad area of West Bengal and the adjoining area of Bangladesh. There are 17 illegal entry points here, called ghats. Like liquor vends, these ghats are auctioned and the ghatmaliks (owners of the ghats) set their own rates of commission for permitting illegal activity. Suprava Panchashila Mahila Udyog Samiti (SPMUS) did a study of 300 children involved in smuggling at six spots of the border, which included Jalangi, Sheikhpara, Sagarpara, Bhagwangola, Lalgola and Shamsherganj, in 2007. The study showed that children of 8 to 14 years frequently take cattle, rice and phensedyl (a cough syrup banned in India) across the border. This study also confirmed that young girls were involved in smuggling initially but later transitioned to the sex trade.

Third, more observation posts should be deployed in the Petrapole Benapole Border. Integrated Check Posts (ICP) were inaugurated at the end of 2013. It is necessary that these check posts be equipped to act as dedicated cargo terminals and passenger terminals. Modern ICPs across states have weigh bridges, security and scanning equipment, currency exchange booths, internet facility, cargo processing buildings, cargo inspection sheds, warehouses and cold storage, health and quarantine facilities, clearing agents, banks, scanners, close circuit television, public address systems, isolation bay, parking, cafeteria, hotels and other public utilities. The ICPs that are going to be installed at the Petrapole Benapole border should have all these facilities. Additionally, surveillance equipment should be modernised. The BSF should work in close coordination with the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) to prevent inter-state smuggling. Another task that requires urgent attention is the fencing of un-fenced patches of land in the border areas.

Nadia and Murshidabad are border districts of West Bengal. Lack of land for cultivation and extreme poverty sometimes drive the bulk of the population here towards smuggling activities. Whenever the rural population face issues relating to land acquisition for a government project, their requirements should be studied. If the socio-economic causes of the problem are looked at closely, the task of the border officials and the Home Ministry of India can be addressed more comprehensively.

Finally, madrassas in West Bengal, which get grants from the state government, should be monitored. If there is information on any of the madrassas acting as grooming grounds for IS terrorists, they should be banned.