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Hindu girl, converted to Islam, arrested in Bangladesh for recruting people for terror activities

DHANIAKHALI, 19 JULY. An alleged member of the terror group Jamatul- Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) Pragya Debnath, now called Ayesha Jannat Mohona, was arrested in Dhaka on Friday. Her mother, who remembered the day her daughter left home four years ago, said: "I want her to be punished as per law."

Pragya Debnath was arrested by the Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit of the police and charged with recruiting people for terror activities and raising funds, among others.

Hair tied back in a neat bun, she cycled every morning to college ready with a smile and a greeting every time she came across a known face -- this is how the people of Dhaniakhali remember Pragya Debnath. But that was four years ago.

One morning ahead of the Durga Puja in 2016, Pragya Debnath left home in this small town of Dhaniakhali in West Bengal's Hooghly district, saying she was going out to run errands.

"It was September 25, 2016. She went out in the morning, which was usual. A few hours later when we called her, the mobile was switched off. We searched frantically but Pragya was nowhere. Finally, we went to the police and lodged a complaint," her mother, Geeta, said.

Two days later, her mother received a call. "Pragya called me around noon and told me she is in Bangladesh and has embraced Islam," she said. "She sought my blessings and said this was the last time she was speaking to us and abruptly hung up. The number has been unreachable ever since," the 50-year-old mother said.

Pragya Debnath, now 25, was a third-year undergraduate student in Dhaniakhali College when she went missing. Her neighbours said she did not have many friends and was shy in nature but never did they thought that she could become a terrorist.

"She was a simple collegegoing girl who would always smile when she met people on the road," Sushil Bera, a neighbour, said.

Ms Geeta said her daughter would cycle a kilometre to the college every morning and return by afternoon, and there was nothing unusual in her behaviour. Pragya''s father is a daily wage labourer.

"I had no inkling what was going on with her. She was absolutely normal," she added.

Ms Geeta, who thought she won't ever see her daughter again, said she came to know about the arrest from the local media, which flashed the name of the name of the girl from Dhaniakhali, better known for cotton sarees, with "terrorist" affixed to it.

"I want her to be punished as per law," she said as she broke down.

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