Maoists have been able to acquire sophisticated weapons and cartridges from the police armoury in Uttar Pradesh to arm their cadre.
Ironically, the same cartridges and weapons are being used to kill police personnel.
Three policemen arrested on June 15 by the UP Special Task Force (STF) in Hamirpur district have revealed they stole and sold firearms and cartridges stocked in the armoury to Maoists and criminal gangs active in Uttar Pradesh and neighbouring states.
Two carbine, a rifle and cartridges were recovered from their possession.
Police department sources told HT that the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) was also probing into the theft of cartridges and weapons from the police armoury.
The NIA came into the picture after the Maoist attack on Congress leaders in Chhattisgarh recently.
It was then found that cops posted at the armoury had supplied weapons and cartridges to the Maoists, a police officer said on Monday.
When asked to comment on the issue, ADG (Law and Order) Arun Kumar said investigations were continuing and cases were being registered against the policemen who indulged in smuggling of firearms from the armoury to criminal gangs.
STF had on June 15 arrested Satya Prakash Tiwari, Jahan Singh and Brijendra Singh, all posted in the police armoury.
“Now it is trying to find out role of other cops in the racket,” a police officer said adding smuggling of cartridges and weapons from the armoury had been detected earlier too.
In 2005, around 3.47 lakh cartridges were stolen from the central armoury depot of UP police located in Sitapur.
Then the STF had taken 21 cops into custody.
In January, 2010 the STF had taken two persons -- Prakash Babu and Stephen (resident of Bengaluru) -- into custody at Gorakhpur on the charge of supplying cartridges from the police armoury to the criminal groups.
They had purchased the cartridges Rajesh Singh posted at the police line.
Two middlemen Amlesh and Kamlesh, both resident of Kushinagar, were also arrested.
After the pilferage came to light, the state government had issued an order that a gazetted rank officer will keep the record of cartridges used in practice sessions and those lying in the store.
But, according to sources, the officers rarely followed the order and left it on the junior staff to maintain the record.
In majority of the cases, it was found that junior staff and armourers sold the cartridges at higher rates to the clients, including Maoists, insurgents and mafia elements.
Weapons sold to Maoist and insurgent groups included AK-47, INSAS, SLR, .38 bore revolvers and 9mm pistols, said a source. Money played a big role to win over the armourers, who kept records of cartridges stored in the ammunition depot.
Couriers and middlemen, majority of them retired police officers or jawan, transported the cartridges from the high security police lines to the hideouts of the Maoists, said a police department source.