BHUBANESWAR: Is Odisha turning into an easy sheltering ground or is it becoming a soft target? The recent spate of incidents point at an alarming trend whatever may be the case.
Before Abdul Rehman Kataki’s arrest, it was Puri train coaches burning which grabbed the eyeballs since the main accused Ramachandran Subash claimed a terror plot, hatched in Mumbai, and to be executed in different parts of the country.
Last year, two Indian Mujaheedin operatives were found to have travelled to the State and stayed at Puri and Bhubaneswar without raising alarm before they were arrested in Delhi.
Earlier this year, Iswar Chandra Behera, a contractual cameraman at DRDO’s ITR, had brought the international terror outfit’s focus on Odisha. The outlawed group SIMI also had a sleeper cell in the State.
One thing is clear. Abdul Rehman Kataki has busted the myth that the State is safe and that it not a target. While the State’s profile has kept it away from the terrorist outfit’s strike targets, it seems to have gradually caught their fancy because it is considered ‘safe’ to hide.
Though Delhi, Mumbai or Kolkata have always been on the radar of jihadi outfits for high-profile operations, Odisha presents a perfect setting for sleeper modules and Rehman’s case exemplifies it.
While he was booked in just one case of disturbance in a mosque in Cuttack four year’s back, Rehman managed to lay low and give shape to Al Qaeda’s plan of spreading its network in India. All the while, Odisha Police remained blissfully unaware of his devious plans. Although aware of the Maulvi’s presence, police were not successful in pinning him down till the IB tip off and the Delhi Police came calling because of poor intelligence network at the ground level.
Besides, the State Police was also found to be lax when it came to keeping a watch on its coast. Although Bangladeshi infiltrators have been a cause of concern and seaways provide a perfect route, the State Police has not been able to activate its marine police stations in absence of manpower and equipment.
There are contrary views too. Terrorism experts say Al Qaeda’s network in Odisha seems too far-fetched. “The jihadi group, at its peak, failed to mobilise Indian Muslims to join its network and when IS emerged as the number one outfit, it declared formation of its Indian Subcontinent unit because the two groups were engaged in a turf war. It is too early to conclude anything,” an expert said.