A NON-DESCRIPT single-storey house in Maheshtala area of South-24 Paraganas — around 20 to 25 km from Kolkata — has been the talk of the town since Tuesday night.
Its resident Aftab Hussain, a tailor and a grocery shopowner at Kankhuli in Rabindranagar, was arrested along with four associates on Tuesday for operating an illegal arms factory in the house. Locals have claimed they had no idea that Aftab was actually running an illegal arms factory behind the garb of the tailoring and grocery shops, said police.
While three of the accused, Mohammed Aslam, Mohammed Ahtesan and Salim, hailed from Munger in Bihar, Nizam Purkait is a resident of Basanti in South-24 Parganas. Kingpin Aftab hailed from Bihar’s Bhagalpur area.
“Many are referring to the house as a ‘mini Munger’ since Tuesday,” said a police officer. In 2003, police had recovered a large number of arms and ammunition, and had unearthed several minigun factories in Munger district of Bihar.
Aftab had reportedly bought the house around a year ago. Sources said it was in Bihar that he mastered arms dealing. “After the death of his wife, Aftab, who used to visit Bengal often, decided to shift here. May be he was not making as much profit as he wanted. Hence, he established his own factory… It was like a whole arms factory was shifted from Munger to Bengal,” said a police officer.
“He settled down in Rabindra Nagar, a prominent Muslim locality, with his three sons and a daughter. He first opened a grocery shop in front of his house, and later started a tailoring shop from his house. Locals said his daughter mostly dealt with customers,” he added. The children were not directly involved in Aftab’s illegal arms business, police said.
Locals have claimed that to suppress the sound produced by welding machines while manufacturing arms, Aftab used to play music or continuously operate sewing machines.
“Selim and Nizam sold the arms manufactured by Aslam and Ahtesan,” South-24 Paraganas SP Sunil Kumar Choudhury said.
A minimum of Rs 1,000 was charged for a shutter or a pistol. “They have supplied arms to South-24 Paraganas, North-24 Parganas and in Port area of Kolkata. We are investigating if Aftab was linked to any specific group,” said Choudhury. Sources said the group initially sold arms to petty criminals, who use countrymade weapons. These were ferried in sugar bags and clothes.
“The preferred route to supply materials to be used in manufacturing of arms from Munger to Bengal was via Girdi, Asansol, Howrah, Hoogly and then to South-24 Paraganas, said police.