Ranchi, June 26: Security forces seized a massive consignment of explosives, including over 1,000kg ammonium nitrate and thousands of gelatine sticks, that are enough to blow up large areas of the state capital, on the eve of tomorrow’s 24-hour Maoist bandh.
Today’s early morning seizures, made possible after CRPF and state police conducted a joint operation at Tupudana on the outskirts of Ranchi and Torpa in adjoining Khunti district, led to what security forces are describing as one of the largest ever explosives haul in recent times.
Seven persons were arrested along with the arsenal that included 1,095kg ammonium nitrate, 20,000 gelatine sticks, along with electronic and ordinary detonators, fuse wire, and mobile phones (see box).
Of the seven held — Matla Bhengra, Raj Kumar Bhengra, Basudev Parmanik, Md Nasim, alias Bhola, Sanwar Khan, Shahjahan and Khalili Ansari — three are Maoists, suspected to be frontline comrades of CPI(Maoist) zonal commander Kundan Pahan. The other four are arms suppliers.
Maoists have called a 24-hour bandh, beginning midnight tonight, in five states of Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Bihar, Bengal and Jharkhand to protest against armed offensives against the rebels, but the police denied today’s seizures had anything to do with it.
According to sources, today’s breakthrough was result of a tip-off obtained while interrogating Maoist courier Chhote Lal Munda, who was arrested on June 16.
During questioning, Chhote Lal is said to have spoken of a “Maoist operation” at Ulihatu in Khunti, the birth place of tribal icon Birsa Munda.
Senior superintendent of police Saket Kumar Singh said the quantity of chemicals seized was enough to make at least 1,000 can bombs, which could blow up major portions of Ranchi district.
“It is certainly one of the biggest explosive hauls ever made by the police in recent times,” he told newspersons at new Namkum police station, and confirmed that Chhote Lal’s interrogation provided the initial impetus for a search.
Chhote Lal, he said, spoke of the possibility of a consignment of explosives arriving at Ranchi and nearby areas. “Since then we activated our network of informers and kept monitoring sensitive areas with great precision. This resulted in the seizure,” he explained.
Singh said the three arrested Maoists had been asked to fortify Pahan’s area of operation which include Ranchi, Bundu, Khunti and Tamar.
“The seizures will be a huge dent in their arsenal now,” said another senior police officer who was part of the raiding party.
S.N. Pradhan, inspector-general (operations), iterated that the police were prepared for tomorrow’s bandh and would ensure that no untoward incident took place anywhere in the state.
“The bandh is basically to oppose the anti-Naxalite operations in five rebel-hit states. We are mainly focusing on rail and road routes and these will be under adequate surveillance. This apart, extra forces have been mobilised in Maoist pockets of our state. We are fully prepared,” he said.