The Howrah police on Tuesday busted an illegal arms factory set up in a small, single-storey house in a residential locality of Tikiapara. Around 30 unfinished pistols, ammunition and machines used to manufacture weapons were seized.
Three people, who were allegedly operating the factory posing as iron welders, were caught “red-handed” and have been arrested, said police. The owner of the property is also being questioned. Police said a fourth accused, who allegedly negotiated the rent, is absconding.
Spike in demand for illegal firearms before elections
According to a source, illegal arms are in high demand with elections round the corner. “Bengal is getting volatile and accordingly, demand for arms is also on rise. As per inputs, there is high demand for all sort of arms including pistols, sixers, carbines etc. All are available if money is paid,” the source said. Inputs received by intelligence agencies indicate that several gun-makers from Bihar are shifting base to West Bengal, and many of its districts are fast becoming hubs for illegal manufacture of arms and explosives because of how easy it is to operate such factories under cover due to lack of background checks. Landlords ask few questions when they are getting a good amount of rent due to multiple tenants. “Lathe machines have been installed in various pockets of Bengal to make illegal weapons. Labourers from Munger, Bihar, are supplied at all rates,” an intelligence official told The Indian Express.
Howrah police officials said that acting on a tip-off, a team of their detective department conducted a raid and discovered the cache of arms in the house, located on Ganga Bairagi lane. Though crimes are frequently reported from the area, families living there said they were worried after the incident.
The accused — identified as Mohammad Sohem Alam (38), Mohammad Anwar (38) and Mohammad Niraj Ansari (18) — are originally from Bihar’s Munger district. Sources said the accused were caught in the presence of Police Commissioner Tanmay Ray Choudhury and other officials.
“In his statement, the owner of the house revealed that the accused had approached him saying they were labourers who had taken the premises on rent to cut iron,” said a police officer.
Sources said that the trio would seldom interact with residents of the locality, and would work in the house from afternoon till midnight. Police suspect they also supplied arms to other states.
“The accused have been remanded to 10 days’ police custody. We are hopeful that they will reveal more names of those involved,” the police officer added.
In the past, the maximum number of such illegal factories have been discovered in Burdwan, Birbhum, Malda, Murshidabad (explosives), West Midnapore, Bankura, North and South 24 Parganas (arms).
Past cases: Sari, sweet shops as covers
- August 1: An illegal arms manufacturing factory was discovered in Jagatdal, North 24 Parganas district. Police had arrested nine persons, most of whom hailed from Munger, Bihar. Around 60 semi-finished improvised weapons, a lathe machine, drilling machines and two milling machines along with fake currency notes with a total face value of Rs 1 lakh.
- August 9: An STF team busted an illegal arms factory operating under the guise of a saree shop in Agarpara. STF sources said the factory-made frames for 9 mm pistols. These frames were allegedly being despatched to another illegal arms factory in Kakinada, where the arms would be assembled. The finished products would be sent to areas like Kaliachak, Malda, near the India-Bangladesh border.
- August 18: Two persons were arrested with 24 weapons after police unearthed an illegal firearms factory in Malda. This was the third such discovery there in five months.
- July 30: The STF arrested six persons and seized 20 unfinished firearms from a unit that used to operate behind a sweetmeat shop in Jagaddal, North 24 Parganas district.
- May 31: Malda Police found a firearms factory in Naldubi area and recovered 22 unfinished pistols and arrested 10 persons.
- January 2018: Two persons were arrested in 24 Parganas (North) and an illegal arms factory was raided.