LUCKNOW: Once a breeding ground for homegrown terror, resulting in the creation of dreaded militant outfit Indian Mujahideen (IM), eastern Uttar Pradesh's Azamgarh town is now focusing on Kaushal Vikas -- the Centre's skill development scheme for unemployed youths.
Although the IM, which bombed several cities across the country a decade back, has been eliminated, the terror networks seem to be shifting from the east to the west of the state.
Pakistan's spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), continues to exploit communally sensitive pockets, particularly in Muslim dominated towns of Amroha, Sambhal, Kairana, Nagina, Dhampur, Deoband and Bijnore in west Uttar Pradesh, reveals a report of State Intelligence Department. ISI, according to the report, has been trying to recruit agents who in turn provide funds to sleeping terror modules.
Apprehending the revival of sleeping modules fostered by the ISI, the Yogi government instructed its Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) to activate its radar in communally sensitive pockets.
The ATS, with the help of National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Operations Cell of Intelligence Bureau, not only identified the troubled areas but busted a new terror module, Harkat-ul-Harb-e-Islam, in Amroha last December.
"On July 10, we seized weapons from a madrasa in Bijnore. Several persons with shady backgrounds were arrested. We now have a zero tolerance policy on syndicates and terror crimes. Such raids (like the one in the madrasa) were not possible in earlier regimes. Police was not allowed to raid certain localities, despite credible inputs on criminal activities," said an Inspector General rank police official.
In fact, the previous Akhilesh Yadav government in 2012 had contemplated dropping charges of terror crimes against 15 undertrials accused of killing 43 people in Uttar Pradesh. The charge against the 15 accused mainly related to serial blasts in Lucknow, Faizabad (now Ayodhya), Varanasi in 2007, and a bomb explosion in Gorakhpur in the same year.
However, the Allahabad High Court later intervened in the matter saying that most of the terror accused were booked in Central Acts and such heinous cases of terror crimes cannot be withdrawn without the consent of the Union government.
In 2017, after the arrival of Yogi Adityanath as Chief Minister, the ATS was re-activated. One of the main tasks given to the ATS was to ensure that the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, (a mass Hindu pilgrimage at the banks of River Ganga) passes peacefully. Coordinating with various state and central agencies, the ATS went out of the way to bust terror and espionage modules located as far as Gujarat.
After the Kumbh, the ATS, at present is on strict vigil to oversee the Kanwar Yatra, where several lakh Hindu devotees march on foot from various parts of the state to Haridwar.
For Uttar Pradesh, the porous Nepal border too poses different types of security threats. The over 1,700-km-long border has been a source of gun-running, smuggling of fake currency and infiltration of suspected terrorists.
The state police with better teamwork along with the central para-military Sahastra Seema Bal (SSB), enhanced human intelligence and patrolling on the border, resulting in a major drop in fake Indian currency smuggling and gun-running.
"There is high alert on the Nepal border. The fake currency racket has also come down. The ATS coordinates with district police in a more effective manner, especially with the ones sharing its border with Nepal. Recently a Maoist rebel leader, having terror links across the border, was apprehended from Bareilly," said Rajesh Pandey, a founder member of ATS now serving as DIG Bareilly range.
Another reason cited for a major drop in terror crimes is Intelligence Bureau's constant vigil under the leadership of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, who in the Modi government's second term has been elevated to the rank of Cabinet Minister. Incidentally Yogi and Doval share a good chemistry as both hail from neighbouring states (Doval from Uttrakhand). Doval's closeness with Yogi is a major booster for the Uttar Pradesh Police.