THE BATTLE against terrorism has prompted Maharashtra Police to start language laboratories where officers are being taught Urdu, Arabic and even Bangla to be part of a cadre that will help in intelligence-gathering, including tracking social media, and investigation.
“We have started language labs at an undisclosed location where we teach our people how to read that kind of language — Urdu, Arabic… we are also going into Bangla,” DGP Satish Mathur told The Indian Express. Mathur refused to reveal the location of these labs but confirmed that they were situated inside Maharashtra.
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While some police personnel have been learning Urdu and Arabic for a while, Bangla has been added to the list after the Islamic State’s terror attack on a cafe in Dhaka in July. “There are a huge number of migrants coming in (from Bangladesh) and some may be involved in anti-social activities. We don’t get to know what they are talking about,” said Mathur.
According to a security official, the Dhaka attacks exposed the growing influence of Islamic State in Bangladesh, giving rise to fears that recruits were ready to carry out attacks across the sub-continent.
“Bangladesh is traditionally known for running fake currency rackets but after the Dhaka attack, there is a threat of IS recruits from that country being used to carry out attacks in India. Therefore, learning Bangla gains significance,” said the official.
“If we know a language, it helps during ‘listening’ (telephonic surveillance),” said the official.
For those attached to the state’s counter-terrorism units, such as the anti-terrorism squad or the local anti-terror cells, the knowledge of these languages helps during investigations, too, said officials.
“The knowledge of Urdu helped us when we cracked an IS module in January. Officers were able to monitor activities online and it helped during interrogation of the accused. Usually, we get a professor or a court staffer to help us with translation or during interrogation. But if a few officers know the language, it makes the job simpler,” the official said.
In January, the National Investigation Agency (NIA), along with counter-terrorism agencies from six states including Maharashtra, arrested 14 alleged IS sympathisers.
Sources said that another reason for the state police to train in new languages is to keep a watch on online content that “influences a lot of youth”.
Other than counter-terrorism operations, officials said, knowledge of these languages will help state police connect more effectively in minority-centric pockets such as Malegaon, Jalgaon and Parbhani.