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‘Poll’ ammo in Howrah

March 2: A Bihar police team today recovered equipment they said could be used to make around 1,500 firearms from a Howrah house taken on rent from a former CPM councillor four years ago.

Sources said the Bihar team, led by Munger police chief Barun Kumar Sinha, raided the locked one-room house in Dasnagar based on information they received while interrogating three persons arrested in Munger yesterday with 450 pistols. Howrah police assisted in the operation.

Today’s recovery was termed significant by Howrah police, who said the unit had been set up to manufacture arms meant to be used in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections.

Apart from pipes, pieces of iron and springs, the police found a lathe machine, used for giving shape to metal pieces.

“All these equipment are essential to manufacture various kinds of firearms,” an officer of Munger police said, adding that the arms manufactured in Howrah would have been supplied across Bengal before the elections.

A senior Howrah police officer said: “Those who set up the unit must have been trained in Munger. During earlier polls in Bengal, arms used to be supplied from the Bihar town. But an arms unit for a similar purpose in Bengal is significant.”

According to police officers in Howrah, the house had been taken on rent in 2010 from Pranati Pakhira, the former local CPM councillor, by one Utpal Chowdhury.

The house was locked when the police team raided it this morning. A search is on for Chowdhury.

Asked about the house, Pakhira said: “He (Chowdhury) had taken it on rent around four years ago saying he wanted to set up a unit to manufacture small machines. There are hundreds of such small units in Dasnagar. So I had no reason to suspect him. I did not have any idea what he was manufacturing.”

A senior officer of the Bihar police team said they had information that Chowdhury had visited Munger a number of times in the past few months and had met arms dealers there. “Some people from Munger had also come to Howrah,” he added.

A police source in Howrah said it was cheaper to manufacture arms locally than procuring them from Bihar.

Dasnagar residents said Chowdhury was in his late thirties and hardly interacted with people in the area.