Patna: Terrorism has become the main electoral plank of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Mithilanchal region spread along the India-Nepal border. While NDA is seeking votes over measures taken by the Narendra Modi government to destroy terror camps in Pakistan after Pulwama attack, the opposition mahagathbandhan is trying to underplay the issue saying that it is just a tactic to distract people from core issues.
The tone of the poll narrative on terror was set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently at an election rally at Darbhanga, the nerve centre of Mithilanchal. Modi maintained that the prestige and repute of Mithilanchal has been tarnished by the terror modules, which are well-entrenched in this region and nurtured by terrorists in Pakistan.
The issue of terrorism has gained currency in over a dozen Lok Sabha constituencies in this region because it was the epicenter of the activities of a terror module called ‘Darbhanga module’ for the past one decade.
The terror tag was attached to Darbhanga after the Indian Mujahideen, a terror outfit, found a safe haven in this area and orchestrated a series of deadly blasts. The Indian Mujahideen established its base in Darbhanga and Madhubani districts after several of its modules in Pune, Beed in Maharashtra and Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh were busted.
The Darbhanga module was operated mainly by Yasin Bhatkal, who was responsible for a series of blasts including the Mumbai train bombings. Bhatkal recruited several Muslim youth of this region and trained them to become dreaded terrorists responsible for ghastly attacks.
The Mithilanchal region was on the radar of IB and NIA since long but lack of any concrete action allowed the Indian Mujahideen to create more safe hideouts in Champaran, Madhubani, Purnia and Kishanganj.
Of the 14 terrorists arrested between 2010 and 2015, altogether 13 were from Darbhanga, including Gulf-based operative Fasih Mahmood, who was involved in the stadium blast in Bangalore and the shooting near Jama Masjid in Delhi in 2010.
Though the Darbhanga module has been weakened after the arrest of Bhatkal, his aides have been trying to revive this module and stage a comeback.
Some of these constituencies will go to polls in the fourth phase on April 29 and rest in fifth and sixth phases in May. The constituencies which go the poll in the fourth phase include Munger, Begusarai, Ujiarpur, Samastipur and Darbhanga while rest will go to the polls in next phases.
As poll crescendo rises, politicians of the grand alliance argue against the existence of such modules saying the ‘Darbhanga module’ stereotype hurts the sentiments of the Muslim community in general. “What was the offense of those youngsters who played cricket with Fasih Mahmood? They were picked by an investigating agency and are since then traceless,” said RJD sympathizer Abdul Matin of Bhigo locality in Darbhanga.
But NDA leaders blamed the appeasement policy of the RJD and Congress for the rise of terrorism and creation of ‘terror factories’ in remote villages of the otherwise peaceful Mithilanchal region. The arrest of Kafil Akhtar by Karnataka police without informing the Bihar police had created a tiff between Bihar and Karnataka.
“Whenever arrests are carried out in Darbhanga villages, politicians of these outfits start crying foul and look for alibi to save the arrested persons. Such an attitude could see the resurgence of this module, which is in the sleep mode and may strike at their will,” said Darbhanga town BJP MLA Sanjay Sarawagi.
The BJP leaders often refer to the serial bomb blasts at Modi’s first election meeting at the historic Gandhi Maidan in Patna in 2013 in which five persons were killed and over 80 injured. “Right since beginning, terror modules have been patronized and used by the rivals to target the BJP. The national security should not be compromised for political benefits,” Sarawagi said.
Prime Minister Modi, too, asked the voters to ensure that the security deposit of people who have a problem with chanting ‘Vande Mataram’ or ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ is forfeited.
Not only the BJP, but Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has also been highlighting the issue of terrorism and national security at his election meetings. Though Nitish Kumar keeps himself away from controversies which may damage his secular credentials, he has been heaping praise on Narendra Modi for taking ‘appropriate’ action against terrorism and countering the separatist forces.
“This election is to choose between a strong Prime Minister who can give a befitting reply to the enemies operating terror strikes in the country and a weak Prime Minister who will compromise on national security for votes,” said Mihir Jha, a political analyst of Madhubani.
Amid election hullabaloo, it has to be seen whether a concrete step is taken to end the terror tag to Mithilanchal after polls or it just remains the poll issue to garner votes.
(Author is a senior journalist. Views are personal)