The police held Indian citizen Fakir Ali from Sylhet's Beanibazar on January 25. A native of Assam's Karimganj, the person was carrying 1,000 yaba pills.
Previously on December 29, the Rapid Action Battalion apprehended another Indian named Binonda Namasudra from a remote haor area of Beanibazar frontier.
The elite force recovered 6,700 pieces of yaba, also known as the crazy pill, from his possession. Like Fakir Ali, Binonda hails from Karimganj in Assam.
Subhash Das, 49, a resident of Beanibazar was also detained with Binonda.
Law enforcers said Sylhet has become the new route of yaba smuggling and that those pills are making their way into Bangladesh through at least four points of Sylhet border.
They said the crazy pills come from India's Mizoram via Meghalaya and Assam. Police also believe that there are yaba factories in Karimganj, just on the other side of Sylhet's Zakiganj border.
Yaba seizure in Sylhet has become as common as an everyday task for the police and RAB. However, Indian smugglers have recently started entering the Bangladesh territory, bringing fresh concerns for the law enforcers.
We are concerned over Indian smugglers: RAB
Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) of RAB-9 Anowar Hosen Shamim said yaba has been making its way into Bangladesh from neighbouring India for a couple of months.
"We have intensified our vigilance. But recently we found that Indian yaba smugglers are bringing the pills in the country. It is a matter of concern," he said.
The RAB official said the identity of Subhash Das, who was held in December, shocked them. "He has a jewellery shop and is also the convener of Beanibazar Upazila Jewellers Unity."
"It is worrying how general people are getting involved in the smuggling and peddling of the crazy pills," commented the RAB official.
Yaba coming in via four points of the border
According to the police and Border Guard Bangladesh, yaba tablets are making their way into the country through four points of Sylhet border. Those points are — Zakiganj, Sunamganj's Madhyanagar and Tekerghat, and Habiganj's Balla.
Teknaf is known as the prime route of methamphetamine pills from Myanmar. However, yaba smuggling through the route has shrunk in recent times owing to an intensified vigilance of the law enforcers.
Drug couriers keep changing their tactics and have picked the Sylhet route in their latest move.
Of the four points, Zakiganj has been witnessing more yaba pills coming into the country, said police. The routes are being used since 2018, and yaba smuggling via Sylhet took a worrying turn in the mid of 2019.
At Zakiganj, Bangladesh has a 54-kilometre border with India. Though the neighbouring country has barbed-wire fencing along its border, Bangladesh side remains mostly open.
The Kushiyara and the Surma rivers flow here marking the boundary line with 15 border outposts of the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB). As the road on the river bank is dilapidated, Bangladesh border troopers run foot patrol on the river bank.
Influential people in yaba business
Sylhet police and RAB-9 said they recovered a total of 5 lakh pieces of yaba in the last six months and that they held more than 200 suspects.
Officer-in-Charge of Zakiganj Police Station Mir Mohammad Abdun Naser said as many as 70 yaba smuggling cases were lodged with his station alone.
"The accused include political activists of the ruling party and union parishad members," said the OC.
In the meantime, the Department of Narcotics Control (Sylhet Division) termed regular yaba seizure positive.
Additional Director of Sylhet Narcotics Control Department Jahid Hosen Molla said they have talked to the police and RAB and that they have requested them to intensify vigilance.
"We saw the seizure of big yaba consignments as they intensified the anti-narcotics drive," he commented.
The yaba routes were previously used for smuggling phensedyl, heroine and cattle, said Commander of BGB 19 Battalion Lt Col Sayed Hosen.
He said, "Both the BGB and its Indian counterpart the Border Security Force are working to curb smuggling at the border. Besides, leaflets were distributed among the locals for anti-narcotics awareness building."
Police looking for godfathers
Law enforcers said yaba smugglers are active on both sides of the India-Bangladesh border along Sylhet. A number of local representatives and influential people are also involved in the illicit business.
The godfathers collect retail orders and then call their counterparts in India. The money is sent through hundi. Then the Indian traders pass the consignments to the Bangladeshi side usually at night.
Local couriers collect the consignment and supply those pills to the peddlers.
RAB-9 Senior Assistant Superintendent of Police Mohammad Moniruzzaman said, "We are looking for the big fishes and hope they will be apprehended soon."
Superintendent of Police in Sylhet district, Farid Uddin said they were conducting anti-narcotic drives regardless yaba smugglers, peddlers or abusers.
"We have adopted a zero-tolerance policy in this regard," he concluded.