On the night of 17 December, 1995, an aging Russian Antonov-26 plane dropped three weapons-laden wooden pallets over Purulia, a nondescript district in West Bengal. The perpetrators of Purulia arms drop case are still at large, but the event has left a deep blot on the security preparedness of our country.
The Night It Rained Guns by India’s one of the top investigative journalist Chandan Nandy, attempts to uncover the chain of events that led to the biggest breach of our country’s air security architecture.
The book also highlights the loopholes in the working our intelligence agencies. The Indian government and our primary foreign intelligence agency RAW (Research & Analysis Wing) had received an alert from their British counterparts that a consignment loaded with weapons was to be air-dropped onto remote parts of West Bengal or Bihar. But it never took any concrete steps to inform the government in West Bengal or Bihar.
What the authorities rather did was to send warnings to both state governments via post. ‘Was it a conspiracy to send the warning note (routine letter) to Bihar and West Bengal government via post. Faster modes of communication could have been used. Was it carelessness or a part of the larger plan’, asks the author.
Nandy also points towards the investigative weakness of the CBI, the ‘caged parrot’. The investigative agency, had justified the indictment of Director General of Civil Aviation Intelligence Bureau, Defence or Home Ministry, but has so far not taken any steps to prosecute any individual. It only focused on the criminal aspect of the case, says Nandy. The fictitious company Carol Air Service to procure the A26 aircraft, was formed just two months before the arms drop. But, the CBI didn’t bother pursuing these companies, the adds.
In another major embarrassment to CBI, the Danish High Court denied the extradition of Kim Peter Davy, the alleged kingpin of the arms drop controversy on the grounds of inhuman conditions in Kolkata jail. Davy had accused the then Indian government (Congress) of orchestrating the entire incident for trying to overthrow years of communist rule in West Bengal. He also claimed that the government had assured him of safe return to Denmark.
While the government and other investigative agencies have not named any individual responsible for the security breach, Nandy has mentioned the names of almost all the officers who were involved in handling the warning note. True to his profession, the journalist has tried to gather all the details and put it together in what can be called a compelling read. Despite financial constraints to visit the countries himself, the author has skillfully drafted the accounts of meetings that took place between the accused persons, while planning the entire incident.