The Men Who Feed and Fight India’s Maoists

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The main accused charged for selling arms and ammunition to Maoists may have been working under protection of senior officers.

The CRPF Group Centre in Rampur is one of the biggest centres of the paramilitary force. It is here on the night of 31 December 2007 that seven CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) personnel died in an attack allegedly led by Lashkar-e-Toiba operatives. But what was revealed a few days ago is something that the men at the centre could not have ever thought of. In raids across CRPF centres in Uttar Pradesh, the Special Task Force (STF) of UP Police arrested a few CRPF personnel on charges of selling arms and ammunition to Maoists. As investigations now reveal, the same ammunition may have been used by Maoists to kill the 75 CRPF personnel in the 6 April ambush in Dantewada. Of these, 18 body bags arrived at Rampur itself. When this news broke, sources reveal that it almost led to a mutiny at the centre with angry CRPF personnel coming out of their barracks. They were later pacified by senior officials of the force.

The investigators were led to the accused men after the STF began tapping phones of some of them after the Dantewada ambush. For weeks, senior police sources tell Open, the men tapping calls kept hearing some very unusual terms, like ‘Fused bulb’ and ‘Satyender’ that didn’t seem to quite fit into the conversations. The men were seasoned enough to understand that these were code words for something else. As the STF has now revealed, ‘Fused bulb’ was a code used for empty cartridges, and ‘Satyender’ for AK-47 rifles.

The modus operandi of the racketeers was simple: they would receive a call from Maoists’ middlemen about how many bullets they required. Then, the exact number would be stolen by uniformed men working for Yashodanand Singh during practice sessions and replaced with empty cartridges. Singh continued to run this racket even after his retirement two years ago. Those arrested include Singh and seven serving soldiers of the CRPF and Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC). Of these, Ramkripal Singh, who worked as a deputy armourer with the PAC, has reportedly confessed to having supplied 2,000 bullets to Maoist middlemen in April alone. These went all over the Maoist-affected areas—even Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh.

Police sources have reason to believe that the rot in the CRPF runs deeper. STF sources say that a commandant of the CRPF may also have been involved in the racket in some way. It is also believed that the main accused Yashodanand Singh may have been working under protection of senior officers. He had come under suspicion five years ago too, when 150,000 cartridges were stolen from an armoury. He was suspended and later reinstated by court. STF sources believe this happened only because a weak case was put forward in the court, which worked to Yashodanand Singh’s advantage.