Kolkata is a long way from Pakistan and not merely in terms of distance. The spate of ISI arrests in the city over the past few days has been extremely worrisome for the state government, though the leadership has thus far been muted in its response. 

The fact that has set alarm bells ringing is the revelation that one of the arrested Pakistani agents was till last month doubling up as general secretary of the Trinamul Congress Chhatra Parishad students’ union at Harimohan Ghosh College in Garden Reach. It would be pertinent to recall that a sub-inspector of police was shot during the students’ union election in this college in February 2013. 

It is hard not to wonder whether the ISI has been active in a particularly volatile area of Kolkata, where the DC (Port), Vinod Mehta, was done to death by the dock mafia in March 1984. No less sinister must be the fact that the young man&’s father – also under arrest – is a contractual labourer of the Kolkata Port Trust. While the alleged sins of the son ought ordinarily not to visit the father, it does raise a question on how he could be engaged by a Central undertaking in a sensitive dock area.

A raid on their residence has yielded maps of Netaji Subhas Dock and Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers – the public sector undertaking tasked with the manufacture of anti-submarine corvettes for the Navy, fast-track attack craft, and other vessels. Altogether, it is a sensitive defence sector in which suspicious persons would seem to be fairly well-entrenched. The seizure of fake Indian currency valued at Rs 4 lakh is just as much a matter of concern.

Clearly, there was little or no check on the identity  and antecedents of those arrested, indeed the fundamental points of enquiry that can harass the genuine citizen when he applies for a passport or LPG connection. Suspicions that a conduit, with ISI links, has been functioning in the port area are not wholly unfounded. The arrests over the weekend can be contextualised with the detention during the past fortnight of two ISI-trained brothers from Pakistan, who were operating in central Kolkata. 

The second round of arrests has caused a flutter in the political roost, but governments both at the Centre and in the State need to get to the bottom of this trans-border operation. It is of vital importance that the extent of penetration be unveiled.