RANCHI: The CPI (Maoists) in Jharkhand, which has been on the back foot following the recent arrest and killing of many of its top leaders – including Kishenji – is trying to equip its firing squads with modern weapons. With landmines and bombs proving to be ineffective to keep security forces at bay, Reds have turned to sophisticated arms to protect their leaders during encounters. Maoists, who have long relied on cheaper weapons for ideological reasons, have traditionally been against the use of sophisticated arms.
The arrest of arms supplier Prafulla Malakar on August 29 and the subsequent recovery of the powerful US-made Colt M16 rifle meant for Maoist zonal commander Anil Yadav was the first of its kind in the country. Widely used by the American army, the weapon could be handy for the outfit as its cartridge is of the same bore as those used in Insas rifles. Although the Maoists do not have enough ammunition for foreign-made weapons, they nevertheless have a huge stock of Insas cartridges they have looted from the police from time to time.
IG (special branch) S N Pradhan said: “We are certain that these arms were brought to Manipur by insurgent groups dominant there and later couriered to Jharkhand by individual groups in smaller consignments,” he said, adding that the rebels had paid an advance of Rs 20-30 lakh for the deal to the Peoples’ Liberation Army of Manipur. The cost of the entire deal could be around Rs 15-20 crore as suggested by the documents recovered from a Maoist camp in the forests of Saranda in West Singbhum a year ago.
The recovery, which confirmed that PLA men were training Maoists in Saranda, also mentioned arms deals between the two outfits. “Supply of more such arms also cannot be ruled out,” police sources said.
So far, Maoists were known to have Russian rocket launchers, which can cause damages within a radius of 25-50km, AK-47s and AK-56s and smaller Czech-made pistols. These are ‘true to form’ weapons dependable and sure to deliver. To add to these is the huge stock of arms and ammunition looted from the police, which include .303 and the Insas rifles.