By Prasun Maitra
The news of kidnapping of Tuktuki Mondal, the 14-year-old daughter of Subhas Mondal, a poor labourer from a nondescript village in West Bengal, for the second time by Babusona Ghazi, could have gone unnoticed. The story could have ended much like the thousands of girls who vanish from rural West Bengal every year. But destiny had it otherwise. Tuktuki’s father did not submit to the threats of her abductors and the radical Islamist gangs that they were representing. Instead, he decided to risk it all and head for the capital city of Kolkata. There he met Hindu Samhati president, Tapan Ghosh, who assured all help.
Thus began a global movement. Activists have seen in Tuktuki the plight of thousands of girls who have been disappearing in West Bengal every year (28,000 in 2010 alone) and organised global solidarity rallies in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington DC and Atlanta. #Justice4Tuktuki was the top trending hashtag on Twitter in India and among the top six in the world. A civil society group, Jan Adhikar Manch (JAM), of which I am part, called for a rally at Kolkata on July 10 to demand the recovery of Tuktuki. Police denied permission for the rally at the very last moment. Yet the activists of the JAM went ahead with the programme. Around 60 people were detained by police. Thirteen out of them were arrested and taken into custody.
Later, on July 13, all the accused were acquitted of all charges by the Alipore Police Court. The Nirbhaya Kranti Dal, another civil group, organised a hunger strike demanding the recovery of Tuktuki while the high court passed an order asking the state government to produce Tuktuki in court by July 27 (the next hearing is on August 5), severely reprimanding the administration and praising Devdutta Maji, the vice president of Hindu Samhati for helping out the family. The opposition BJP, waking up after two months, has rallied around the cause and termed West Bengal a “jihadi hub”. While politics played out in the streets, experts have been looking deep to see what exactly is the problem with the state of West Bengal. Meanwhile, representatives of the National Commission for Women, led by chairperson Lalitha Kumaramangalam came to West Bengal on July 20. The NCW members heard the entire matter in detail from the parents of Tuktuki. They took notes and asked some questions for clarifications. Later they went to Mograhat, the native place of Tuktuki. During interaction with the representatives of the media, the NCW chief questioned women safety in West Bengal. The current situation might have had its roots during the Left Front rule under Jyoti Basu and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, but it became more evident under the Mamata Banerjee regime in the last four years with appeasement politics becoming the centrepiece of all politics in the state. The single-minded focus of all politicians across all parties in the state to secure the Muslim vote bank at any cost has created a very dangerous situation of terrorism in the state along with human trafficking and ethnic cleansing of Hindus.
In recent years, West Bengal has emerged as the hub of terror activities in India. Reports suggest that politicians in the state have strong connections with jihadi elements in India and abroad. The ruling party, for example, nominated to Rajya Sabha (upper House in the Indian Parliament), SIMI (Student Islamic Movement of India) founderAhmed Hassan Imran in 2014. The SIMI has been a banned terrorist organisation in India since 2001. Activities of Imran and his hobnobbing with Islamist radical elements in Bangladesh had forced the Indian high commissioner in Bangladesh, Pankaj Saran, to submit a dossier to the Indian government. The dossier states that Imran presented himself as the SIMI’s West Bengal chapter head even after the organisation was banned by the government. Imran also ran a mouthpiece for the SIMI called Kalam, which he had started in 1981, and which was a monthly magazine. He ran it till 1994. By then he had established SIMI chapters all over West Bengal and became an important figure in the Islamist world. This led him to be appointed as the chief official of the Saudi Arabia-sponsored Islamic Development Bank. The managing director of the bank, Mamul Al-Azam is the son ofGulam Azam, former chief and founder of Bangladesh’s radical Islamic organisation Jamaat-e-Islami whose leaders were involved in several war crimes against the Hindus in Bangladesh.
After the appointment, the SIMI mouthpiece Kalam began to be published as a weekly and in 1998 it became a daily newspaper. Also Imran was acting as the Indian representative for Naya Diganta, the mouthpiece of Bangladesh’s Jamaat-e-Islami. His writing used to be published in the paper on a regular basis. He was also in touch with Jaamat -e-Islami leaders like Abdul Quader Mollah who have been sentenced to death by Bangladesh for war crimes against Bangladeshis and the Hindu minority in particular. This clout of running a daily newspaper and links to terror organisations in Bangladesh helped him get in contact with Sudipto Sen, the prime accused in the Saradhascam, a Ponzi scheme that defrauded four-six billion dollars from 1.7 million investors. Imran struck a deal with Sen. According to the deal, money deposited by retail investors would be converted and smuggled into Bangladesh using the armed couriers of radical Islamist organisations and then deposited in European banks. Sen, in turn, would fund radical Islamist organisations in Bangladesh. The investigation agencies in India have learnt that hundreds of crores of rupees collected from poor investors who were eventually duped were transferred through this route.
According to one report, the enforcement directorate (ED) informed the national intelligence agencies on October 30 that this money might have ended up in the hands of terrorist organisations like JMB(Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen), which is involved in several acts of violence, is banned in Bangladesh and has alleged links with the Islamic State (ISIS). The money most likely have ended in the hands of terrorists prompting the Bangladesh government to urge the government of India to investigate links between politicians in West Bengal and Jamaat-e-Islami. A leading Bangla daily had alleged that Mamata as the chief minister and the home minister of West Bengal has allowed the scam to flourish under her watch, funded the extremist Jamaat-e-Islami in Bangladesh and in turn, her party received funds from the outfit during the 2011 Assembly election and 2014 Lok Sabha polls. It is also alleged that her party members, despite being in power and beingaware of the scam and the links of Imran with the fundamentalists promoted him as a Rajya Sabha member in 2014, thereby giving Imran access to sensitive documents and information. Intelligence agencies consider this to be a threat to national security and have warned of serious consequences. The cancer of appeasement politics in West Bengal today stretches across all political parties. It was initially started by the communists and engaged in even by the so-called pro-Hindu parties like the BJP. Recently state BJP leaders were canvassing for opening more madrasas in the state while their counterparts in Maharashtra banned ones which did not offer secular subjects.
Appeasement politics gets support from Bangladesh-based organisations working under the patronage of the politicians in the state. They, in turn, help the politicians in the state win elections using on-ground cadres and violence as a tool. Probe by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has revealed that by laundering money generated through various scams in West Bengal, Rs 15-16 crore (around $2.5 million) has been transferred to West Bengal and Assamto fund several jihadi modules. Out of an annual budget of one crore rupees (around $1,50,000) earmarked for West Bengal by the JMB for purchasing of weapons, explosives, network expansion, cadre recruitment and training, Rs 40 lakh (around $70,000) was set aside to give salaries to jihadis. Many of these jihadis are the workers of political parties in the state as the Burdwan blasts revealed. In this incident, an explosion occurred in a house in the Khagragarh locality of Burdwan. Two suspected Indian Mujahideen (IM) terrorists were killed and a third was injured. The police seized 55 improvised explosive devices, RDX, wrist watch dials and SIM cards. The house where the explosion occurred was owned by Nurul Hasan Chowdhury who used to stay in another house across the road. Chowdhury was a leader of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the ground floor of the building was used as a TMC party office. According to NIA investigations, IM’s al-jihad module operating from the house had planned a series of ten blasts in Kolkata during the Durga Puja, and if the terrorists would have succeeded, it would have caused an enormous carnage.
The tentacles of the jihadi units have spread to kidnapping, human trafficking, and sex slavery of girls from rural West Bengal where local thugs that enjoy political patronage owing to their ability to bring in votes virtually run the administration of the state. This helps them raise funds for jihadi activities by running the kidnapping industry, intimidate Hindus, causing exodus from their ancestral lands, and convert Hindu girls to be used as sex slaves and reproductive machines. According to a UN report, West Bengal tops the list of missing children and women. The UN report says in one year (2010) 28,000 women and children went missing in West Bengal. These girls, many of them minors, are brought to places like Sonagachi, the largest red light district in Asia. Sonagachi is located in Kolkata, and more than 11,000 women are cramped up in this red light area and forced into prostitution. These women are trafficked by international trafficking gangs operating across different cities in India, into Bangladesh and other places like the Middle East.
There is a village in West Bengal called Sandeshkhali run by a radical Islamist ganglord, Shahjahan Shaikh. He presently belongs to the ruling TMC. Earlier, he was a member of the CPI(M). Women are bought and sold every day in Sandeshkhali like cattle. At the same time, Hindus are subjected to inhuman torture and murders. As a mark of protest, when Hindus decided to vote for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and celebrate his victory, Shahjahan Shaikh unleashed a reign of terror on the Hindus. According to an article in Daily Mail, UK, dated January 21, 2014, 20,000 girls per year are kidnapped and forced into sex trade from West Bengal alone by human trafficking gangs in India. A Times of India article dated July 15, 2013 said, “13,000 women and children in West Bengal were untraceable in just 2011 alone, with highest prevalence in three districts of West Bengal – Murshidabad, North and South 24 Parganas”. All these areas have suffered from daily riots and looting by radical Islamists. According to media reports, West Bengal refuses to give national agencies annual reports of trafficked children. An article by the well-known investigative journalist Ross Kemp in The Telegraph, UK in July 12, 2015 said, “This guy – who I’ll call Mr Khan – was trafficking thousands of girls a year. He said he had lost count of how many he’d killed, but estimated it was around 400 and was helped by authorities”. India Facts, dated July 31, 2014provide accounts of how Babu Mondal (son of Ali Mondal), the kidnapper of a 14-year-old girl even wrote a note (reproduced in the article) to the mother of the girl that he had kidnapped her daughter as part of a bet with his friends and even married her. On May 26, 2015, Delhi Police busted a human trafficking ring involving Shahjahan Molliya and Nafees from North 24 Parganas in West Bengal who used to lure young girls with the promise of marriage and forced them into prostitution.
To give more ammunition to the jihadis, support to rape and rapists has been periodically provided by the political class in the state. It is often alleged that the state police refuses to register FIRs and delay chargesheets when the perpetrators of the crime are Muslims. As an example, in the Kamduni rape case in which the 20-year-old daughter of a daily wage earner was raped and murdered, the high court has even questioned if the chargesheet filed by the administration is at all worth being called one. Nine men gang-raped her, tore apart the victim’s legs up to the navel, slit her throat and dumped the body into a nearby field. With cases of rape being reported almost daily, those who have taken on the rapists and have sacrificed their lives have been referred to as gang members instead of being treated as heroes by the administration. Even the Member of Parliament from West Bengal,Tapas Pal has openly threatened the Opposition in the state, saying that he would send his boys to rape them. The incidents of rape has increased substantially over the years. Over time, West Bengal which once prided itself as a safe state for women has become the most dangerous state for women to live in.
Ethnic cleansing of Hindus
Not only is Imran, who is a Member of Parliament from West Bengal, involved in money laundering and a part of radical Islamist organisations, but he has been also involved in deadly riots targeted against the Hindus of West Bengal, according to police reports. He is accused of being involved in the riots of February 21, 2013 in which 200 Hindu homes were burnt in Naliakhali, Herobhanga, Gopalpur and Goladogra villages in the ambit of the Canning police station. Two dozen Hindu-owned shops were looted in the area falling under the Jaynagar police station in Baruipur subdivision. Repeated violence against the Hindus in West Bengal, particularly in the rural countryside has become commonplace in the last few years. Recent large scale organised violence targeted against the Hindu community has been reported from Usti in South 24 Paraganas. In all, 34 large and small known incidents of organised violence have been reported in the state in recent times. All these incidents of ethnic cleansing have resulted in an exodus of Hindus from their ancestral land resulting in the further depletion of Hindu population from these areas. Just a few weeks ago, there were four riots reported in a matter of three weeks. With the mainstream media deciding not to report violence against Hindus, particularly when committed by Muslims, it has been left to organisations like Hindu Samhati to report it at a great risk to their lives. According to Tapan Ghosh, there are about 32,000 villages in West Bengal where active ethnic cleansing is going on and there are multiple riots in many places daily and only some get noticed. In many villages and towns, the Hindu population has dropped below 50 per cent because of an exodus of middle class Hindus with only poor Hindus bearing the brunt of Islamic ethnic cleansing.
Muslim vote bank politics and winning elections seem to be the only goal of the politicians in West Bengal today even if it requires taking the help of Islamic fundamentalists, thereby making many wonder if Tuktuki Mondal is just the tip of the iceberg of a larger malice that has engulfed all of West Bengal.