The news regarding the death of India’s most wanted terrorist Riyaz Bhatkal is yet to be confirmed by Indian Intelligence agencies. There was news about him being shot dead by the Chota Rajan gang who later claimed responsibility for the same.
The case of Bhatkal is very similar to that of Shahid Bilal who belonged to the Harkat-ul-Jihadi Islami. Bilal who was wanted for his role in the deadly twin blasts of Hyderabad.
Both Bhatkal and Bilal were products of the ISI hailing from a very communally sensitive region.
Bilal was a small time social worker as per his dossier available with both the police and the Intelligence Bureau. At his area Moosrambagh in Hyderabad he was looked up to as a messaiah. He is said to have fallen out with some politicians and was fixed in a false case which made him take the extreme path. This is when some persons from the ISI roped him in and there began Bilal’s journey into terror.
Bhatkal on the other hand was a small time goon in Bhatkal. When he started out there was plenty of communal tension in the area and both communities always looked for information against each other. Bhatkal decided that he would earn his money this way and began passing on information between the two communities. A police officer who has interrogated him on various occasions says that he was very unassuming and did not hold up against interrogation and often crumbled. It was shocking to see him move into the world of terror since he did not show any signs of carrying out such big operations. Things began to change for Bhatkal in the year 1999 when there was a major ISI programme in Bhatkal where several youth including Bhatkal towed the line.
The IB says that the similarity between Bhatkal and Bilal were their organizing capabilities and hence at a very young age the two managed to move up the ladder. The ISI was looking for modules down South and their answer lay in Bilal and Bhatkal. Both the old city of Hyderabad and Bhatkal had extreme potential and these two youth were capable of drawing the youth towards them.
Bilal carried out his job to perfection and managed to set up a perfect module for the Harkat-ul-Jihadi in Hyderabad. According to the police and the intelligence, he did manage to convince several youth and even today there continues to be a section in this city who are ready to cross over and strike on Indian soil.
However the role played by Bhatkal whose actual name is Riyaz Shahbandri was much larger. He managed to set up one of India’s deadliest home grown terrorist outfit called the Indian Mujahideen. The setting up of this outfit changed the terror set up in India and Bhatkal who ran operations under the alias of Sharukh Khan became India’s most wanted man.
According to the IB, he has been more effective when compared to a Bilal. While Bilal managed to set up a deep rooted network just in areas of Hyderabad, Bhatkal on the other hand laid out the road map for the IM. His strategy of roping in the Safdar Nagori faction of the SIMI gave him the dividends and with this they managed to carry out a series of blasts in Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Jaipur and Pune.
Interestingly both started off as small time operators and grew very big in the terror set up and their deaths too were very similar in nature. Both operated in India for a considerable amount of time before slipping into Pakistan. Bilal’s death took place one and half years back and it was said that he was killed by some local gangsters in Pakistan. The Indian Intelligence however believes that it was the ISI which knocked him off since they tend to do this with people who have become a liability and when the demand for his extradition increases.
However in the case of Bhatkal it appears that it was Chota Rajan who carried out this operation. Rajan has been looking to come off as a patriotic don and would carry out such an operation to show that he is against anyone who is anti India.
The fact however remains that while India can feel happy that two men who had become major irritants have been killed, they would have still loved to catch them alive since these men had on them a lot of information about the terror network in India which they had set up to perfection.