From Patna blast suspect’s confessions, it seems this was a Ranchi group of 10-15, says ADGP

Even as several suspects in the Patna blasts were rounded up here this week, Jharkhand police officials said the State was ill-equipped to tackle what may be an emerging terror module. The State’s security apparatus is focused fully on counterinsurgency operations against the banned CPI (Maoists). It lacks the capacity for gathering intelligence of terror activities, said the officials.

Of the six suspects arrested, Imtiaz Ansari and Tariq alias Ainul were caught when a bomb carried by the latter exploded in a toilet at the Patna railway station. Tariq, believed to be under 20, succumbed to his blast injuries in Patna on Friday.

“Of the six suspects, four lived in Ranchi. Two others, Tehseen Akhtar and Hydar Ali, who seem to have planned and led this attack, and are absconding, visited Ranchi regularly. There is a clear link with planning and funding organised with Jharkhand as a base,” said DGP Rajeev Kumar.

Jharkhand, the police officials claimed, was being used as a recruitment ground by terror groups. On March 4, the National Investigation Agency arrested Manzar Imam from Kanke in Ranchi for his alleged role in the February 21 Hyderabad blasts. In June 2011, Danish Riyaz from Bariatu here, was arrested in Vadodara, Gujarat, for his alleged role in the Ahmedabad blasts. Earlier in 2002, two men were gunned down in Kheergaon, Hazaribagh, for their alleged role in the attack on the U.S. consulate in Kolkata that year.

“In all previous instances, even if they were people from Jharkhand, they got involved in the activities while living elsewhere. At most, they were raahgeer [passersby], and they used places known to them in Jharkhand as shelter while passing through. From Imtiaz’s confessions and subsequent arrests, it seems this was a Ranchi module of 10-15 persons though its extent may still be unravelling,” said Additional DGP and police spokesperson S.N. Pradhan.

“Manzar Imam and Danish had most likely started recruitment and Tehseen and Hyder carried on their activities. Hyder spotted and cultivated Imtiaz and informed Tehseen. This is a home-gown module where those working or studying here got trained while living here. We will need deep intelligence to check this,” said the official.

According to data from the Home Ministry, four Counter-Insurgency and Anti-Terrorists Schools were proposed for Jharkhand in 2008. Three were set up in Ranchi (Rural), Latehar and Hazaribagh at over Rs. 6 crore. With 17 of Jharkhand’s 24 districts categorised as Left Wing Extremism-affected, all three centres focus on counter-insurgency-operations-training.

A focused anti-terrorist squad was proposed two years ago but with indecision over whether its strength should be 400 or 200, the proposal remained on the drafting table.

There are massive vacancies at the sub-inspector and constables levels — the first tier of policing. Officials estimate the gap at between 10,000 and 16,000. This week, 247 sub-inspectors, who act as Investigating Officers, completed the first year of their training — the first batch recruited since Jharkhand was formed.

“No one wants to initiate recruitment because every time there are dozens of writs in court which require court appearances, or there are departmental enquiries. There is also pressure from [one’s] own relatives. At one time, all Jharkhand Public Service Commission members were in jail. No other State may have faced such a situation,” said a senior police official.