Six booked in Kolkata for smuggling guns out of Ishapore Rifle Factory; INSAS, SLR rifles sold to Maoists
The Special Task Force of Kolkata Police on Monday busted an inter-state racket that has been allegedly smuggling automatic rifles and other weapons out of Rifle Factory Ishapore (RFI) for the past eight years and selling these to Maoists and criminal gangs.
Six people, including two junior officers of RFI, were arrested by an STF team at Babughat near the Hooghly river in Kolkata. Six revolvers, a 9 mm carbine (commonly referred to as Sten gun), a magazine for the carbine and some ammunition were seized from them. The carbine was partially dismantled.
The police operation bought to light serious security lapses at the factory, said STF officers. Four of the men nabbed on Monday are residents of Bihar. The two RFI employees were identified as S Murmu and Sushanta Basu.
RFI is India’s oldest defence establishment and it armed British and allied forces during two World Wars and Indian soldiers later on. The factory is located around 40 km to the north of Kolkata.
One of the accused, Ajay Kumar Pandey, a resident of Bihar, told police that he and the others used to sneak into the factory at night and smuggle out weapons from a place where these used to be kept as “scrap.”
“The gang had been operating for years. We found during investigation that between 2013 and 2018 they smuggled out 16 INSAS rifles and 4 SLRs. We suspect that these were sold to Maoists. We have to interrogate these people and get details of the operation, “ said Muralidhar Sharma, deputy commissioner of police, STF.
“We will contact the RFI authorities. Ajay Kumar Pandey told us that he has been smuggling out weapons from RFI since 2008,” Sharma added.
The 5.56 mm INSAS is the standard issue rifle of the Indian Army and is used by paramilitary forces and even some police units. The 7.62 mm SLR (self-loading rifle) used to be the standard issue rifle of the Indian military before it was replaced by INSAS in mid-1990s.
The gang had allegedly sold pistols to Maoists and criminals for anything between Rs 40, 000 and 60,000 a piece while price of the INSAS and SLRs ranged between Rs 2 lakh 4 lakh, STF officers said.
None of the top officials at RFI were available for comment. The BSNL landlines at the offices of general manager D K Mahapatra, and additional general managers O P Rawat, R N Mishra, P K Agarwal and S P Shendre were either busy or out of order on Monday.
Incidentally, this is not that first people linked to RFI have been arrested on charge of gun running.
On September 21 last year, the STF arrested Sambhu Bhattacharjee, a junior works manager, for allegedly smuggling out parts of the SLR and NSAS. These components were allegedly sold to gunsmiths who cater to the underworld.
Deepak Shaw, who allegedly dealt in illegal firearms and had links with gangs in Bihar, was arrested along with Bhattacharjee. About two dozen magazines of semi-automatic rifles and several components, including firing mechanisms and triggers, were seized by STF.
The STF went into action last year after Lalu, a contractual labourer who used to work at the pistol section of RFI, was arrested in Kolkata on September 18. A 9 mm pistol, assembled with components made at the factory, was seized from him. The discovery shocked the administration.
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