NIA seeks OFB help to check design of rocket launchers

Stepping up its probe into the seizure of rocket launchers from Maoists in Kolkata, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has sought the help of Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) at the West Bengal capital to examine the ‘designs’ and parts of the rocket launchers seized from Central Technical Committee member Sadanala Ramakrishna and his associates in February this year.

The NIA took over the probe from the West Bengal Police after it was learnt that Ramakrishna has been operating in Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal and running operations all over the country.

Investigators have also found links between Ramakrishna and Asim Bhattacharya, a senior Maoist leader arrested by the Maharashtra ATS in March this year. Sources said parts of rocket launchers stocked in a godown in a Raipur hideout have been seized after NIA took over the probe.

The agency also seized Rs 1.20 crore during the arrests in Kolkata and Mumbai, highest ever in anti-Naxal operations. Ramakrishna’s questioning also revealed that he has been running the programme to manufacture sophisticated launchers which could hit a target within the range of 1 km.

“An engineer from REC Warangal, Ramakrishna had roped in Bhattacharya, whose elder brother is also a supporter of Maoist ideology and presently lodged at an Andhra jail. Bhattacharya, also an engineer by profession, was arrested with Rs 23 lakh which was allegedly being used to manufacture parts of the launchers. They used to take the parts of the launchers to different vendors around Maharashtra and got them specifically designed,” explained an NIA officer. Bhattacharya and three others were booked by the Maharashtra ATS in a 2007 case at Gadchiroli.

The agency now plans to jointly question Ramakrishna and Bhattacharya along with other Naxals arrested from Mumbai and Kolkata.

Said an MHA official, “Apart from Bhattacharya, we have taken remand of Raju alias Dinesh Kailash Wankhede, Hirondi alias Sumantha M Gawade and Vijaya alias Parubhai.” The sources said Vijaya’s husband, Krishna Charu, another top Naxal commander, was caught in Madhya Pradesh in 2007 running a similar operation and has been sentenced to life imprisonment.

The seizure of huge amount of cash from the Naxal operatives has even startled the MHA which immediately confiscated the money and described it as ‘proceed of terrorism’.

“The confiscation order was passed under section 2 (1) (e) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act according to which one month was given to the arrested person to claim and legally explain the money found from the possession. However, Ramakrishna and his aides refused to accept the cash seized as their own after which the order was passed,” explained an MHA official. Ramakrishna’s aide and top Naxal commander Dipak Kumar was found in possession of Rs 18.50 lakh while another Naxal commander Sukumar Mondal was found with Rs 55,70,000.

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