Two people, arrested from Burhanpur district of Madhya Pradesh on Sunday, supplied pistols – possibly made by Sikligars -- to men who planned to kill top VHP and other saffron leaders in Gujarat to avenge Godhra riots, police said on Tuesday.
Sikligars are a Sikh blacksmith community that has been making guns for generations.
Those who hatched the plot to kill saffron leaders had links with terror outfits such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, and Pakistan’s inter-services intelligence (ISI), police said.
Gujarat’s anti-terror squad (ATS) arrested Abdul Razaq (35) and Mohd Shaqil (36), who earlier worked as welders in a Surat unit, from a petrol pump in Nagjhiri area.
In 2003, the Ahmadabad police lodged cases against around 80 people for plotting to kill top saffron leaders. The arrested two supplied pistols made by Sikligars in Burhanpur jungles, police officials said.
Courts, including a POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) court in Ahmadabad, had issued two warrants in August 2003 and September 2004 to arrest Razaq and Shaqil for supplying pistols for the attack.
The arrested fled from Surat to native Burhanpur in 2004 and since then were working as mechanics in a motor garage.
A Burhanpur police officer said a team would be sent to Gujarat to track the source of the firearms.
Police said the pistols supplied to Gujarat for the terror plot could have been sourced from a Sikligars’ den in Burhanpur or other hideouts in Khargone, Dhar and Barwani districts.
MP police officials, investigating gunrunning operations of Sikligars since 2010, said the guns could have been sourced from an illegal arms factory at Pachauri village in Khakhnar area of Burhanpur.
“Sikligars illegally make firearms at the village, located on a densely forested hillock and crisscrossed by a river, and supply them to criminals mostly based in Maharashtra and Gujarat,” said a police officer in Bhopal.
“Interrogation of Razaq and Shaqil could expose possibly the first terror link of MP’s Sikligars, who have customers in 20 states, including terror-hit Jammu and Kashmir, and Maoist-affected Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal.”
Investigations by the MP police STF between 2010 and 2015 revealed that around 1000 Sikligars were in business of making revolvers, semi-automatic pistols and carbines in Dhar, Barwani, Khargone and Khargone.
In January 2015, the STF detected a gunrunning racket from which D-Company and Chota Shakeel gang shooters had sourced pistols to eliminate BJP leader Varun Gandhi during 2009 Lok Sabha poll campaign.
Shakeel’s hitmen got pistols from a West UP-based gunrunner Mahendra Pal Singh Jat who procured them from a Barwani-based gun-maker Pyar Singh.
In July 2015, Hussain Suleman Mohammad (35), an accused in 2002 Sabarmati Express train burning case, was arrested by Godhra police from MP’s Jhabua district.
Suleman, who was on the run since the Godhra carnage, turned an auto-rickshaw driver and was living in Jhabua for 13 years in disguise.