Rebels in the Northeast are increasingly being caught with the raw material used to prepare lethal bombs rather than Kalashnikovs and US carbines which used to be found on them earlier. Farm fertilizers, dried and concentrated urine too, are what they carry.
Invariably accompanying the explosives they transport, RDX or TNT fuse and detonators, are ammonium nitrate and urea.
Take, for instance, the encounter between a joint army-Assam police team and a group of United Liberation Front of Asom rebels near Khoya village in Kamrup district on January 17. Two of the rebels were killed, and from them were recovered half a kilo of ammonium nitrate.
A couple of days later, the army recovered from another 500 gm of plastic explosives and a small quantity of urea from tribal militants in Karbi Anglong district 300 kms south of Guwahati. "These fertilizers are easily available at farm product outlets besides being innocuous enough to carry. They are either being used as explosives with chemical additives or to magnify the intensity of RDX and TNT," said defence spokesman Col Rajesh Kalia.
Ammonium nitrate, according to forensic experts, was used in considerable doses to maximize the damage in all the three car bombs that were triggered serially in Guwahati on October 30 last. These blasts accounted for 60 of the 92 people killed that day across Assam.
The use of fertilizers in explosives has not escaped the attention of the Assam government. "We have formulated a policy in a bid to restrict the use of potentially dangerous fertilizers," agriculture minister Pramila Rani Brahma told HT.
Assam is the highest consumer of ammonium nitrate (50,000 MT annually) and urea (2.97 lakh MT) among the eight northeastern states. While Sikkim and Mizoram declared themselves fully organic, the others (minus Assam) are "organic by default". While Brahmaputra Valley Fertilizer Corporation Ltd in eastern Assam's Namrup town provides the bulk of this urea, ammonium nitrate comes mainly from the Maharashtra-based Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers Ltd.
Security agencies, though, are aware regulating fertilizer use might not help. For, ULFA and other Northeast militants seem to have mastered the art of turning their urine into explosives. A raid near Sonari town in eastern Assam late last year had yielded a small quantity of urea nitrate. It was later found to have been processed from human or animal urine, possibly to be used with nitric acid for an explosive statement.