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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Cops stealing bullets for Maoists to kill men in khaki



The big question after every big Naxal attack is how Maoists are arming themselves to strike with such ferocity. Part of the answer may have been found, with UP cops stumbling on a massive ring involving UP police and CRPF men which allegedly supplied weapon parts and ammunition to Maoists.

In a crackdown on Friday, the Special Task Force (STF) of UP Police arrested four serving and a retired armourer of the state police and two Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel for allegedly stealing government issue weapon spares and bullets and giving them to criminal gangs and possibly Maoists.

"Though it's yet to be established if the arrested people were supplying ammunition and arms spares to the Maoists, we are sure that the supplies were not meant only for gangsters," said additional director general (ADG), STF, Brij Lal, who supervised the operation.

More than 5,500 live rounds, 245 kg of bullet shells, nearly 2.5 quintals of `used cartridges', 16 bullet magazines and around 100 kg spares of Insas, AK-47 and self-loading rifles (SLRs), 9mm and .38 and .303 bore, apart from Rs 1.73 lakh cash were recovered from their possession, raising suspicion that the huge quantity of ammunition was meant for guerrilla outfits like the Maoists.

The modus operandi of the gang was to convert the `used cartridges' into live ones at different firing ranges in UP. The gang inflated the number of rounds fired during practice and reclaimed more bullets from the armoury and sold these.

According to sources, the STF operation came after probes by central security and intelligence agencies into the Dantewada massacre threw up pointers to such a supply chain. Searches were conducted at 26 locations across eight districts of UP, including the residential quarters of four serving UP policemen and two CRPF personnel posted at the Group Centre and CWF in Rampur.

CRPF director general Vikram Srivastava told TOI that the paramilitary force was in constant touch with the UP Police and was extending all help.

"We have already suspended three CRPF personnel (including the two arrested ones) and ordered an immediate Court of Enquiry," Srivastava said, adding that UP cops in Basti, Moradabad, Lucknow, Allahabad, Jhansi and Gorakhpur might also be involved.

"A third CRPF personnel - Chote Lal Verma - was detained. He was, however, not arrested as no recovery was made from him," said an officer.

The arrested people were identified by cops as Yashoda Nand Singh, retired Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) armourer; police armourers Nathi Ram, Bans Lal and Akhilesh Pandey; Vinod Paswan and Dinesh Singh of CRPF units in Rampur. Bans Lal's son Virendra was also held.

Lal told TOI that interrogation of Yashoda of Dandi area under Naini police circle of Allahabad led to the arrest of two CRPF men. Then Nathi Ram, who was posted at Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar Police Academy in Moradabad, was questioned which led to the arrest of Bans Lal and Akhilesh Pandey both from Jhansi. Raids were also conducted at their native places, leading to the arrest of Virendra after bullets were recovered from his house.

On the modus operandi of the gang, STF SSP Naveen Arora said the armourers told police that the shells provided by Yashodha were mixed with those spared during the firing practice sessions at the police academy and CRPF group centres.

"For example, 800 rounds were fired in a particular training session. The spent shells of these used cartridges, as a rule, are surrendered to the armoury. They mixed 200 shells that they had got from Yashodha and showed in the records the total rounds used in the session as 1,000," Arora told TOI.

The additional SP (STF), leading the investigations, said there were reports that such practices were rampant at 30th battalion PAC Gonda, 36 PAC Varanasi and district police armouries at Kanpur, Allahabad, Varanasi, Basti, Jhansi, Police Training College in Moradabad, Chandauli, Mirzapur and Sonebhadra.

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