The recovery of sophisticated M16 rifles, the primary weapon of U.S. armed forces, and other modern arms and ammunition from Maoists in Jharkhand a few days back has set the alarm bells ringing in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) as it indicates the opening of “the northeast arms supply route” to left-wing extremists.
Stating that soon a full-fledged inquiry would be initiated by the National Investigation Agency into the inter-State nexus, and the international links, a senior MHA official said there were reports of Maoists approaching the Manipur-based People’s Liberation Army (PLA) for sourcing sophisticated arms and ammunition to take on the security forces that have been acquiring modern arms themselves.
“In 2009, an agreement was signed between top Maoist commanders and leaders of PLA [the armed wing of the Revolutionary People’s Party] where it was decided that the latter would supply arms and ammunition to Maoists … it seems that this northeast route has now been activated,” the official noted.
Apart from the M16 rifle, the recent seizure from the Silodar forest along the Jharkhand-Bihar border include AK56 assault rifle (a first from Maoists), four pistols and one heavy-duty, U.K.-made bulletproof vest. The M16 rifle, manufactured by Colt Defense, carried the ‘U.S. Army property’ mark on it and is the first U.S.-made weapon confiscated by the Jharkhand police.
Elaborating how this development was of serious concern for the Centre, the State governments and the paramilitary forces fighting the Maoists, the official said: “In recent years, Maoists have not been able to snatch arms and ammunition from State police and paramilitary personnel. With their armoury drying up and country-made weapons not sufficient to fight the security forces, the Maoists have been approaching the northeast-based insurgent groups for supply of arms, ammunition and other items besides communication equipments.”
The official said the left-wing extremists have also sought “area weapons” like rocket launchers and mortars from the northeast insurgent groups to add to their firepower.
“These weapons are mainly sourced from Pakistan, Afghanistan and China but are supplied through the porous Myanmar border,” the official added.