Before the crack of dawn on September 19, the National Investigation Agency (NIA), in a joint operation with BSF, arrested six men from small towns near the Bangladesh border in West Mengal’s Murshidabad district: Abu Sufiyan, Najmus Sakib, Mainul Mondol, Leu Yean Ahmed, Al Mamum Kamal, and Atitur Rahman. In a simultaneous operation, the agency arrested three others in Ernakulam, Kerala, who hail from Murshidabad: Murshid Hassan, Mosaraf Hoseen, Yakub Biswas.
The NIA said the nine are allegedly part of an “inter-state module of Al-Qaeda operatives at various locations in India, including West Bengal and Kerala”, and the group was allegedly “planning to undertake terrorist attacks at vital installations in India”.
Nearly a month on, when The Indian Express visited their villages last week, the families and local residents appeared still as clueless about their alleged terror activities.
The nine arrested men come from Domkol, Jalangi and Raninagar — areas that are between 10 and 20 km from the Bangladesh border. Most people, including family members and neighbours, The Indian Express spoke with recalled the men as religious, courteous, humble, with most of them quiet and generally keeping to themselves.
According to Sufiyan’s elder son Wasim Akram (15), “they” came around 2.30am. “I first saw them. I informed abbu (father) — he tried to run away but they caught him near the gate. Then they beat him…” Sufiyan’s wife Nurunnisa said, “They forced me to sign on some papers. They ransacked all the rooms and snatched our mobile phones.”
Barely 500 metres from Sufiyan’s house in Madhyapara of Kalinagar is Murshid Hassan’s house — a broken, rundown structure. His mother said, “We are very poor. Like me, Murshid also has psychiatric problem. We went to Berhampore to get him treated. After he got better, we sent him to Kerala for work.”
His father Abdul Matin (55) and brothers Sohel Rana (17) Mahafuj Alam (12) work as farm labourers. “After lockdown, we are almost jobless. Now Murshid is also arrested. We do not know what to do,” Matin said.
In Paschim Naodapara village of Jalangi, local residents said Forajali Mondol, 74, volunteered in the 1962 war with China and is well-respected in the locality, has nearly slipped into depression since the arrest of son Al-Mamum Kamal (35) – third of his four children. Mondol told The Indian Express: “If he is guilty, let him be finished. Otherwise, those who caught him in this way will have to be judged.”
Forajali said: “In this village, many youths go to Kerala for better earnings…. They (residents) gave donations to the village madrasa (Al-Mamun was secretary of the madrasa committee). Now many are saying the madrasa was funded by foreign money. Is Kerala abroad?”
Brothers Mosaraf Hosen and Atitur Rahman were arrested from Ernakulam and Jalangi simultaneously. Their father, Tajimuddin Mondol, 66, said Mosaraf went to Kerala nearly 15 years ago. He works at a garment shop there and got married in Ernakulam. He last came home three years ago. Atitur is studying English (Honours) at Ramna Basantapur College in Jalangi.
Mondol said, “Let the court judge. If they are found guilty, both my sons should be punished. I have nothing to say. But why are they being made militants before their trial?”
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