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ISI cuffs on army clerk

Darjeeling, May 20: A clerk at the Indian Army’s base in Sukna was arrested today for allegedly stealing defence documents and supplying them to four persons from Kurseong, held yesterday on the charge of working as conduits of Pakistan’s ISI.

“Mani Kumar Biswakarma, aged about 50 years and currently serving as an upper division clerk with the army in Sukna, was arrested today. He has confessed to stealing documents and supplying them to ISI agents,” said Kunal Aggarwal, the Darjeeling superintendent of police.

Biswakarma was detained yesterday for questioning with the four who were arrested.

Investigators have said the documents seized from the four men revealed that national security was compromised.

“The documents include a map and details of installations in army cantonments in the region. There are also documents that specifically show the positions of fighter planes of the air force,” said an investigator. The air force has bases at Bagdogra in Darjeeling district and Hashimari in Jalpaiguri district. The Bagdogra air force station is close to India’s borders with China and Nepal while Hashimara is close to the Bhutan and Bangladesh borders.

Biswakarma worked for the army’s 33 Corps headquarters in Sukna, which is close to India’s border with China at Nathu-la, Sikkim.

His desk job as an upper division clerk could have allowed him some access to official documents.

The police said Biswakarma’s name had cropped up during interrogation of the four men arrested in Kurseong yesterday.

Among the four arrested was an ex-serviceman, 54-year-old Maghan Bahadur Singh. He was a driver with the army but was dismissed from service in 2008 for conduct unbecoming of an army man. That year, he had been arrested in connection with a murder case. Another person, Meshan Souriya, 54, who the police believe was the ring leader, was a member of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha. The hill party today distanced itself from Souriya saying he was no more with the party.

Both central and state agencies as well as the army’s intelligence wing are interrogating the five as well as two other men alleged to be ISI links. They, too, were arrested yesterday. Souriya allegedly formed a group to work for the ISI in 2008. The investigators claimed that he and Singh had been directly recruited by the Pakistani spy agency.

The alleged ISI links were identified as Dhan Kumar Pradhan, a 42-year-old resident of Panighatta Bazaar, and Gopal Khati, 39, a resident of Naxalbari. Both the places are in Darjeeling district.

Pradhan has a valid passport till 2016 and it was learnt that he had gone to Afghanistan. The police said they were yet to find out if his travel to Afghanistan had anything to do with his ISI activities.

The arrests in Darjeeling were made after a tip-off from the Rajasthan police who had taken into custody an alleged ISI spy, B.K. Sinha, recently. Sinha too was an upper division clerk and was posted in Siliguri till 2011.

The four arrested yesterday were remanded in police custody for 10 days.

Soon after Souriya’s arrest, Roshan Giri, the general secretary of the Morcha, said yesterday: “The Morcha had decided to expel Souriya from the party with immediate effect. We will not tolerate anyone compromising national security.” Today he said the Morcha had learnt that Souriya was no longer actively associated with the party.