Militants in the northeast and jihadists in adjoining Bangladesh are reportedly taking advantage of idle coal mines in Meghalaya to get an industrial explosive easier to carry than RDX – a typical terrorist’s favourite.
On Wednesday night, Border Security Force (BSF) personnel seized 30 packets of class-II Neogel explosives at Bholaganj in Meghalaya’s East Khasi Hills. The explosives were being carried by a man who melted into the forest after the border guards ordered him to stop.
Bholaganj is close to the India-Bangladesh, and it is suspected that the man sourced the explosives from coal mines – closed since National Green Tribunal banned rat-hole mining in April 2014 – for Bangladeshi buyers across the border.
The NGT had cracked down on Meghalaya coal mines after green activists attributed unscientific rat-hole mining – it often involved child labour – to degradation of the hill ecology and ‘death’ of several water bodies.
It was not the first time that Neogel, an ammonium nitrate-based explosive that is used in blasting mines, was seized on the border. In February, Meghalaya police recovered 16 Neogel-enriched improvised explosive devices (IEDs) from the hideout of the outlawed Garo National Liberation Army in South Garo Hills bordering Bangladesh.
“Neogel is not difficult to transport because it is used by certain industries. The explosives we seized were manufactured by a firm at Yenvera in Maharashtra’s Nagpur district,” Harish Chandra, BSF deputy commandant, told Hindustan Times from Meghalaya capital Shillong.
Intelligence officials say criminals were either pilfering Neogel from coal mine owners or firms in Meghalaya. “This is a disturbing trend,” an officer said.
Neogel is also used for limestone and sandstone quarrying in Meghalaya. These quarries too have attracted criticism for destroying swathes of forest land.
Neogel, which is hazardous when it comes into contact with metals such as copper, was used in the Jaipur serial blasts in May 2008. This explosive was also used in the Hyderabad blasts in August 2007.