By Shamanth BS
The National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) special court has announced the death penalty for Indian Mujahideen co-founder Ahmed Siddibapa alias Yasin Bhatkal and four other terrorists in the Dilsukhnagar twin blasts case of 2013. Unfortunately, there are no gallows in Telangana to hang them. However, the prime accused, Riyaz Bhatkal, is believed to be seeking asylum in Pakistan. From 2005 till 2013, the ill-famed ‘Bhatkal Brothers’ have orchestrated 13 blasts killing more than 300 innocents civilians.
Sowing the seeds of radicalism
Bhatkal, 140 km north of Mangalore in coastal Karnataka was a strong base for the Indian Mujahideen. The operational head of IM, Yasin Bhatkal, trained the members of the banned terrorist outfit in covert operations and using explosives there. Riyaz Bhatkal along with Yasin had allegedly set up training camps in the jungles of Uttara Kannada District. In 2008, police reportedly spotted Pakistani flags and other implicating evidence at the training camps. NIA reports claim that Yasin Bhatkal had collected ammonium nitrate in quarries near Vittalamakki and Hakkalamane in Chickmagalur District to prepare explosives.Yasin Bhatkal, Indian Mujhadeen Operative being produced in court, amidst tight security | Picture Courtesy: Style photo service.
In the 1990’s, Bhatkal was popular as “Mini Dubai” as imported perfumes, high-end electronic devices and branded clothes were sold across the town. After the rise of IM, radical youths in this sleepy town became the poster boys of terrorism. Since November 2013, Adnan Hassan, a close aide of Riyaz and Iqbal Bhatkal was radicalizing Bhatkal-Muslim youth to the cause of a self-proclaimed caliphate in India. Yasin Bhatkal is reported to have told investigators that six men from Bhatkal were being trained in terrorist activities in the Waziristan region on the Afghan-Pakistan border. Interestingly, the home minister of Karnataka refused to brand it as a terror outfit.
The rise and rise of terrorism in Bhatkal
[su_pullquote align=”right”]Bhatkal’s relationship with Pakistan can be traced back to 1920’s.[/su_pullquote]
Bhatkal’s relationship with Pakistan can be traced back to 1920’s. The Nawayath community in Bhatkal had maintained cordial trade relations with Pakistan. After the Indo-Pak partition in 1947, some Nawayath families migrated to Pakistan. At present, many Nawayath Muslim youths in the town have married Pakistani women. Indian Muslim youth from the Nawayath community of Bhatkal also work in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. Locals of Bhatkal say that there is a massive amount of money from the Middle East through hawalas. The infamous “Bhatkal Brothers” are believed to be the fodder of Islamic radicalization to set up Indian Mujahideen.
With a population of about 65,000, the Nawayath (Muslims) and the Namdhari (Hindus) communities in Bhatkal co-existed peacefully, not witnessing a single tussle after the Babri Masjid demolition. In 1993, riots between the two communities sparked off, killing more than a dozen people and destroying property worth crores of rupees.
After the riots, Bhatkal was considered to be one of the most communally charged towns in Karnataka.
In 1996, a BJP MLA Chittaranjan was murdered by an unidentified gunman brandishing an AK-47. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and other intelligence agencies have failed to identify the suspect behind this as well as numerous other murders. However, according to published reports in some Kannada newspapers, Pakistan’s Inter-Services-Intelligence(ISI) flared up communal riots and skirmishes to form terrorist outfits in India.
Is there a silver lining?
According to intelligence agencies, Bhatkal is synonymous with terrorism. This sleepy town in North Kannada hates to be in news as a ‘Terror hub’ and the rich Nawayaths have rubbished terror allegations as the literacy rate of Bhatkal is 94.12% which is higher than the state average of 75.36%. However, since the rise of the Indian Mujahideen, people of Bhatkal are branded as “terrorists” in metropolitan cities, hotels and even at the immigration counters of airports. This is indeed a despotic state of affairs for the residents of Bhatkal and a blemish on Indian society as a whole.
Featured Image Source: Rediff
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