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Sunderbans arms channel to south

Calcutta, June 9: The Andhra Pradesh unit of the People’s War Group has established a direct link with procurers who bring in arms from Bangladesh-based ISI agents via the riverine Sunderbans route.

This marks a well-defined change in the hitherto-known and tenuous relationship between the extreme Left organisation’s Andhra unit and the ISI agents operating from the south Bengal delta, said officials here. The deals between the Naxalite outfit and the arms agents used to be through middlemen in the past, they added.

Another aspect of the recent liaison between the Andhra-based guerillas and the ISI’s arms-disposing wing is the “complete absence” of any involvement of the People’s War unit of Bengal, said intelligence officials.

Those in the organisation corroborated this version. “We were kept in the dark about any such operation,” a source from the organisation admitted, though he gave a different explanation for the “lack of co-ordination”.

Two arms consignments have found their way to Andhra in the past two months, according to reports available here. Taking advantage of the links (both road and rail) between East Midnapore and Orissa, which border each other, the consignments travelled from the Contai sub-division to Koraput in Orissa before reaching Dandakaranya — the self-styled “liberated” region of the Naxalites. From there, the cache moved to Adilabad in Andhra.

A rail-head — with a direct link to places in Orissa — exists near the off-loading point (in East Midnapore’s Khejuri block) for the arms from Bangladesh and that helps the rebels “immensely”, said officials. The road-route to Orissa, too, bisects Contai and, after that, transport is not a problem.

Besides the change in the nature of the ISI-Naxalite links, the nature of arms being shipped has changed as well. Officials here said the Andhra outfit, which till very recently depended a lot on looting police stations for procuring rifles, has now turned its focus on hand-launched weapons that can target vehicles.

The basic nature of the transaction, however, has not changed. Money still changes hands and the deal is “essentially financial” in nature, said officials. “It’s not yet a cash-less transaction to help the Naxalites,” one of them said.

But the lack of involvement of the People’s War unit of the state is the only “silver lining” for intelligence agencies here.

Though People’s War sources attributed the lack of involvement to a “difference in goals” (the Andhra unit has fewer qualms about targeting the establishment, they said), officials feel the “real reason” is something different.

“The People’s War unit here has lost all credibility in the eyes of the units elsewhere,” a home department official explained. People’s War cadre here have, from time to time, shifted loyalties to other Naxalite units like the CPI(M-L) Liberation, which is perceived to share a cordial relationship with the CPM.

Some have even served time in mainstream political parties like the Trinamul Congress and the BJP and even Left Front constituents like the RSP, said officials, explaining why the Andhra rebels do not share “super-sensitive” information with the People’s War here.

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