Acting on the information gathered during the interrogation of Aseem Bhattacharya,who was arrested along with three others from Dombivli earlier this month for alleged Naxal links,the Gadchiroli police on Saturday traced a workshop in Neral,Raigarh district,used by the four to modify and repair arms.
Deputy Inspector General (Gadchiroli range) Sunil Ramanand said,It was a room where arms were being modified and repaired. A China-made pistol was also recovered from there.
The four were taken to Gadchiroli,where they have been allegedly involved in certain cases. The police had brought them to Neral last week when they learnt about the workshop Neral Engineering. A case has also been registered with the Neral police.
A lathe machine,cutting tools and basic equipment have been recovered from the Neral unit. The Naxals alter arms to suit their requirement. The arms that we seized prove this. For example,they remove the wooden part of the a 303 rifle to make it lighter. It then looks like a .22 rifle and is easier to handle, Ramanand said.
Gadchiroli Superientendent of Police Veeresh Prabhu said,We have also seized some country-made weapons and parts of magazines. Literature on making arms was also seized.There were some workers in the unit at the time of operation. We are investigating their involvement.
Prabhu said the space was approximately 2,000 sq ft and the unit has been in operation for about six years.
Asked what implications it had now that the activity has been unearthed close to Mumbai,Ramanand said,It has a lot of implications for their urban plan,especially in the western belt. Bhattacharyas arrest would be just the tip of the iceberg.
Incidentally,one of Bhattacharyas accomplices,Dinesh Wankhede,a member of Naxal technical cell,was involved in a similar activity at Nagpur in 2004 when a similar arms unit,being run as Balaji Lathe Fabrications,was unearthed there. Two persons,Prakash Gowda and wife Danamma,were arrested then. About 25 guns were also seized from four different dens in Nagpur. Wankhede,a resident of Mumbai,however,had eluded the police dragnet and had since been absconding.
Two others arrested in Mumbai were Suman Gawde and Paro Patel. Sources said,Wankhede,who used to stay in SGNP slums,and a colleague called Madhukar hailing from Nelgonda in Andhra Pradesh,were initially working with a social organisation being run by a celebrity in Mumbai before they joined the Naxal ranks around 2000. The two were sent to Balaghat in Madhya Pradesh for arms training before being inducted into Korchi and Kurkheda Dalams in Gadchiroli.
AP police plays a lead role
According to sources,the Mumbai arrests were the result of information from interrogation of Naxal technical team higher-ups arrested earlier in Kolkata. The Kolkata raid itself was possible due to Andhra police intelligence. It shows that there is urgent need to strengthen the intelligence network to track Naxal activities in urban areas,they said.