Chapora: Of all the places in Goa, why did Indian Mujahideen co-founder Yasin Bhatkal chose Chapora, a village known for its narcotics trade and drug shacks, to lie low and reconnoitre the state for his terror plans?
There was a reason for this overlap between the world of terror and drugs, say top police officials, who escorted Bhatkal and National Investigation Agency (NIA) officials around Goa earlier this week for a probe.
Bhatkal revealed to the officials the places he had recced, stayed in and interacted with other members of his network.
Police say Bhatkal is responsible for more than 100 deaths from terror strikes across India. The Indian Mujahideen co-founder is a key accused in the German Bakery blast in Pune in 2012.
"The narcotics network everywhere, including Goa, works on pay-offs to the local police officials, who then turn a blind eye to places like Chapora, where drugs are openly sold," a senior police official told a news agency on condition of anonymity.
"It is a perfect hideout because police aren`t `interested` in visiting these areas for obvious reasons," he said.
Chapora, a narrow-laned, fishing village 25 km from the capital, may not be a must-visit place for most of the several hundred thousand tourists who land in Goa every year.
But for those looking for hashish, marijuana or a few pills of Ecstasy or even a vial of Ketamine, a horse-tranquiliser which doubles up as a recreational drug, Chapora is the place to be.
Some of the biggest listed drug dealers in Goa hail from Chapora or its outlying areas.
That the drug mafia is a force to be reckoned with can be gauged from local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator Dayanand Mandrekar`s speech at an official government function to inaugurate a new police station in Chapora last month.
Mandrekar, also the art and culture minister, had called an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer a "goonda" (crook) for his repeated raids on drug-laced rave parties held in the vicinity of Chapora regularly during the tourist season every year.
With the village economy driven by drugs and the obvious hostility towards sincere policing, Chapora was ideal for Bhatkal to consider as a potential place to lie low and a safe enough haven to rig together bombs for terror strikes, say police officials.
"The NIA, during the search of the house, found bomb-making equipment," Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar told a press conference on Wednesday.
The bomb-making equipment was a variety of acids and other materials.
The contraband equipment and his room had been abandoned by Bhatkal, after which his landlord stashed away his belongings and the bomb-making ingredients, NIA officials said.
The Chief Minister too did not rule out the use of Goa and its nooks and crannies like Chapora by criminals for "cooling off" after committing crimes.
"We have noticed that many wanted people from other parts of the country are staying in Goa during the cool-off period. If anyone is found giving shelter to such criminals, he will be considered as being involved," Parrikar said.
Chapora`s last tryst with fame was that it was used as a location for Bollywood film "Dum Maaro Dum", Rahul Sippy`s treatise on the narcotics industry in Goa.