The highly sophisticated cyber wing of the Pakistan-based terror organisation, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, played a key role in fanning communal disturbance in the highly sensitive North 24 Parganas area of West Bengal, which shares an extremely porous border with neighbouring Bangladesh. Central intelligence agencies and sources within the local police, who have been monitoring the situation, confirmed this to The Sunday Guardian.
Sources said that “morphed pictures”, that were sure to hurt the Muslim community, were “planted” and shared by individuals on Facebook. The identities and locations of these individuals have been traced out of India. Even though the state police arrested a 17-year-old boy of Baduria town for allegedly sharing a morphed picture, the source of the picture was not the student, officials said.
“We have found strong e-footprints that suggest that the images originated from outside the country and were then allowed to appear on the timeline of pages and profiles that are frequented by local Muslims. Some outsiders, who are likely to be to be overground workers associated with Jamaat-ud-Dawa (the political wing of Lashkar), were also seen instigating the mostly Muslim crowd, extorting them to attack policemen and members of other community. Since border monitoring in West Bengal is extremely weak, these individuals are very easily able to enter West Bengal through Bangladesh and leave equally easily after doing their work,” an official source said.
Baduria is less than 25 km from the highly porous Indo-Bangladesh border. North 24 Parganas district is the most populous district in the country. According to the 2011 census, Muslims constitute 26% of the population. However, officials say that the figure is likely to be way more because of the influx of illegal Bangladeshi migrants, who are entering the district and settling down every day.
This newspaper in April had written that close to 3,500 Bangladesh-based radicalised elements and terror sympathisers have turned to West Bengal and Assam as their safe havens to escape the anti-terror operations that have been launched by Sheikh Hasina using the country’s elite anti-terror force, the Rapid Action Battalion or RAB. As per intelligence agencies, these highly radicalised elements had settled down in the region of Malda, 24 Parganas (North and South).
The Lashkar has a full-fledged cyber wing that employs well-qualified software engineers who are adept at propagating and spreading information that suits the organisation and it regularly “trends” topics on Twitter that are mostly anti-India. It is the first anti-India jihadi terror organisation that has learnt the art of misusing the internet to suit its objectives.
Its cyber wing is also responsible for bringing out a magazine called Invite, which is funded by Pakistan’s ISI and used as a platform to spread misinformation against India. This is not for the first time that Pakistan supported actors have successfully been able to incite communal violence in the country in recent times, while sitting safely in their own homes.
In 2012, the same forces had successfully instigated a large scale riot in the north-eastern state of Assam, which is witnessing Bodo-Muslim tensions.
The Baduria clashes are the latest communal incidents in the state. Since October last year, multiple districts of West Bengal have seen similar communal incidents including in Malda, Murshidabad, East Midnapore, West Midnapore, North 24 Parganas, Howrah and Burdwan.
Lashkar already has a well established network in Bangladesh and they have penetrated deep into West Bengal through the many illegal mosques that have come up along the Bengal-Bangladesh border, with financial assistance from Pakistan.