Dev Ballav, the gunman who had entered a classroom at a high school in Malda on Wednesday to take 71 children hostage at gunpoint, demanding his wife and son be sent to him, had procured firearms twice from smugglers who bring illegal firearms to the district from neighbouring Bihar.
“The indifference of the administration to my allegations (that his wife and son were apparently missing) prompted me to take such a step. I collected the firearms and ammunition from a person in Bihar. Earlier, I had made a live show (on weapons) on social media,” Dev said on Thursday as the police took him to court.
Dev's assertion that he procured guns from Bihar has again brought to the limelight the existence of an organised arms smuggling racket in Malda. On a number of earlier occasions, the state police and other agencies have spoken of an interstate arms smuggling chain operating in Bengal's Malda, Bihar and Jharkhand.
Two 7mm guns were found on Dev on Wednesday.
"Firearms like 7mm and 9mm pistols are bought by people with criminal mindsets from arms peddlers in Bihar and Jharkhand. Those illegal arms are whimsically used. It was found earlier even in cases of small scuffles,” a source said.
The prevalence of illegal firearms was evident in the district as even on Wednesday night, two rounds were fired during an altercation between two men over an extra-marital affair at Jadupur area under Kaliachak police station.
One person was arrested with an illegal 7mm pistol, five rounds of live bullets, and two empty bullet cartridges. Earlier, on Tuesday night, a homemaker was shot dead on Tuesday night by goons at Narayanpur in Malda police station.
“These incidents clearly show firearms being purchased secretly from arms dealers,” the source said.
Police officers said they are continuing search operations to seize illegal arms and ammunition.
“Illegal firearms and ammunition are seized regularly. In some cases, it was found that those were smuggled from Bihar and Jharkhand. Vigil has been intensified at the interstate borders,” said an officer.
On Thursday, fear ran high among students of Muchia Anchal Chandramohan High School where Dev had entered the classroom of VIIA with the firearms. Most students were absent on Thursday.
“Although the school has more than 1,700 students, only 204 turned up on Thursday. Only 17 children of Class VIIA came,” said a teacher.
Cops and civic volunteers were posted at the school's entrance.