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Red alarm over a new arms source


DANGEROUS LIAISONS: Maoists in Jharkhand (above) have had a fairly long association with PLA militants from Manipur

With insurgency groups announcing ceasefires in many parts of the Northeast, sophisticated arms from the region are now making their way to Maoist camps in the Jharkhand forests.

When the Hazaribag police recovered a US-made Colt M16 rifle from one Prafulla Malakar from the Silodar forests, it did not really surprise SP Manoj Kaushik who led the operation to nab the arms supplier following a tip off.

This was the first time that an M16 rifle meant for the CPI(Maoists) had been recovered from an illegal arms supplier but the police did have some clues that sophisticated arms were being supplied to the Red brigade here. They also knew that the supplies were coming in from insurgents in the Northeast.

Almost a year ago, a close aide of a top Maoist leader arrested by the police in Kolkata had revealed that M16 rifles had been ordered from the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in Manipur. Around the same time, security forces in Jharkhand had destroyed a Maoist hideout in the Saranda forests of West Singbhum district and recovered, apart from Maoist literature and other incriminating documents, an accounts book which revealed financial transactions between the two groups (Maoists and PLA) for arms purchased. "Though the deal must have cost crores, the Maoists' accounts revealed that an advance of Rs 20-30 lakh had already been made for the rifles, " says Inspector-General of the special branch, S N Pradhan. Following the recovery, a National Investigation Agency (NIA) team also arrived in Hazaribag and after interrogating the supplier and the buyer, Anil Yadav (the zonal commander ), collected evidence to establish links between the rebels here and PLA. "Those arrested have revealed names of several other conduits or group of arms suppliers who are couriering restricted bore arms to the rebels of Jharkhand and other states, " says a source.

"That the two groups had an understanding for training and arms supply had been established much earlier and the evidence is getting stronger everyday, " says Pradhan. Documents recovered from Saranda provided substantial evidence of the PLA having given two months training to the Maoists in 2011.

A senior police officer also revealed that only last year, in a similar operation, an arms supplier had been nabbed by the Gaya police in Bihar with a sophisticated grenade used by a foreign army.

"Though this was the first time that an M16 was recovered it was established quite some time back that there is regular arms flow between the Maoists and PLA, " reveals a senior police official. Knowledgeable sources also point out that Maoist top leader Koteshwar Rao (Kishenji) who was killed last year by the Bengal police had been instrumental in establishing a link between the two. Experts also say that with the insurgent groups announcing ceasefire in many parts of the Northeast, an arms-for-cash transaction made for a good deal.

"The Maoists have of late suffered quite a few reverses in Jharkhand with many of their top leaders and cadres either being killed or arrested. The police have also set up pickets at places so far known as 'liberated' in Saranda and Latehar. Acquiring sophisticated arms is a Maoist effort to reconsolidate their position, " says IG (provision) R K Mullick.

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