Raipur | Maoists in Chhattisgarh may have been procuring sophisticated foreign weapons by smuggling them through the North East, the state police suspect.
The police are investigating this aspect in the wake of the recovery of two hi-tech ‘foreign made’ firearms for the first time from Maoists in the Naxal hotbed of Bastar region. A rifle with a ‘Made in Germany’ mark was recovered on May 2 after a gun-battle with naxals in Sukma district, while a sub-machine gun of the US make was seized from them in Narayanpur district on July 4, a police official said.
“The possibility that Maoists got foreign-made weapons smuggled via the North East side cannot be ruled out as there were intelligence inputs in this connection,” Deputy Inspector General of Police (anti-naxal operations) Sundarraj P told PTI. “An investigation is on to trace sources of these weapons, which were earlier never found with ultras in Bastar region,” he said.
Earlier in December 2011 and April 2014, two 7.65 mm automatic pistols with the ‘Made in USA’ mark were recovered after encounters with Maoists in Raoghat and Bhanupratappur areas of Kanker district, he said. The questioning of Maoists who were arrested and those who surrendered revealed that they were getting weapons and advanced devices, like direction finders and China-made binoculars, from abroad. But naxals had also looted such weapons and gadgets from security forces, the DIG said.
Maoist spokesperson Abhay Devdas Nayak, who was arrested last month, revealed during his interrogation that naxals had bought arms and ammunition from abroad till 2011 before the death of their top leader Koteswara Rao alias Kishenji, he said. Kishenji was gunned down in an encounter with security forces in West Bengal in 2011.
The DIG said Nayak told the police that the extremist groups like LTTE (from Sri Lanka) and ULFA (in Assam) had also earlier supplied weapons, including AK-47, Insas and M15 rifles, to Maoists. He said weapons generally reach ultras in Bastar from North Eastern states like Assam via Jungle Mahal (West Bengal) and Malkangiri (Odisha).
But for the past couple of years, the supply chain of Maoists was choked by joint efforts of security forces from all these states, he added. “Even some documents recovered recently from naxal camps and hideouts revealed that they were running short of arms, ammunition as well as cadres,” the official said.
Since 2001, security forces have recovered about 2,600 weapons, including 92 automatic guns, from naxals after encounters and busting their camps, particularly from Bastar region. In the last five years, around 1,007 weapons, including some hi-tech ones, were seized from them, he said.
A senior state intelligence branch official said though Naxals mostly use country-made weapons looted from security forces during attacks, they have also tried to get arms smuggled through their links to foreign militants. The recovery of foreign-made arms and ammunition from the extremists is an indication that they are getting weapons from external sources, he said.
“As per the interrogation report of surrendered and arrested cadres, there are around 2,500 weapons in the possession of Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee – the deadliest formation of Maoists operating in south Chhattisgarh and parts of Telangana, Odisha and Maharashtra,” he said.
Professor Girish Kant Pandey, head of the department of defence studies in the Government Science College here, said some manufacturers of illegal weapons in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh make replicas of international models in which names of foreign gun makers are inscribed. He did not rule out the possibility of naxals possessing foreign-made weapons, but said only their top ranking cadres enjoy the privilege of carrying such firearms.
“The foreign-made weapons recovered in the two recent encounters, wherein middle-rung cadres were killed, could be replicas of the international models. A thorough investigation into it will reveal the actual origin of these weapons,” he said.