Purulia Arms Dropping: All Botched Up

Book: The Night it Rained Guns: Unravelling the Purulia Arms Drop Conspiracy; Author: Chandan Nandy; Publisher: Rupa

If you were reading newspapers in 1995, or watching television news in 2011, you must be aware of the incident of Purulia arms dropping. On the night of 17-18 December, 1995, a foreign plane, with all foreign occupants, named AN-26 dropped a huge consignment of weapons in the fields of West Bengal’s Purulia. Nothing like that had happened before and nothing like that has happened till date.

nandy-1The dropping and its investigation not only reveal the complex web of arms industry and delivery, international gangs of smugglers and illicit financiers, equally thuggish intelligence agencies of various governments and murky politics, but it also inform us that our investigating and intelligence agencies, bureaucracy, diplomats and political leadership are a bunch of nincompoops. Our agencies knew about this operation beforehand but they could not act. The seizure of that plane and the arrests were just coincidental. The main culprit coolly walked out of the Mumbai airport. Those arrested were later pardoned by the government under diplomatic pressure. The investigation was hogwash and never directed its energy to reveal the entire conspiracy. The result: the case is almost closed, no one is behind bars, all the characters of this thriller are enjoying their respective lives.

Seasoned journalist Chandan Nandy has widely reported on this episode since the morning after of the dropping. In this book, The Night It Rained Guns, published in 2014, he investigates all the links and loose-ends, and comes out with startling facts and details, and, of course, missing links. Anybody interested in security, governance, conflicts and intelligence, must read this book that tells the saga of ‘this immensely, vexing, extraordinarily complex and tangled, but absorbing and enjoyable case’.

Lets try to scale the vastness of this arms dropping thriller. More than a dozens of countries providing locations for related incidents, people from different countries with multiple identities involved, intelligence operatives of many nations, including India, aware of the operation much before that fateful night of December, 1995, operatives and investigators play along, governments doing nothing much to reveal the actual planners, motives and receiver, the known kingpins receive all possible cover and airtime… All this makes this a fascinating as well as a terrifying read. In my opinion, only the story of Bilderberg Group can match the exciting thrill of this incident.

Nandy, on the basis of his leads, points finger to the intelligence agency of a powerful Western nation, CIA. He lists out all those clandestine operation of this most notorious intelligence apparatus. He also underlines the R&AW’ adventures in the neighbouring countries in supplying arms and money to insurgents and rebels. Nandy loathes our bureaucrats and investigators, but rejects the theory of R&AW’s involvement in this operation. He is convincing, but the whole episode still indicates that a certain number of people from our agencies and government might be involved in this. Before a proper investigation, all clean-chits must be withheld.

This book is also important to understand the business of arms delivery and violent unrest in various parts of the world. Interestingly, a same set of people and agencies are involved in all this from Africa to Latin America to our parts of the world- South Asia. Smugglers and handlers are well-connected and well-lubed. They enjoy a huge protection network provided by the powerful nations. Julian Assange sums up this in these words- ‘Intelligence agencies keep things secret because they often violate the rule of law or of good behavior.’

Nandy has engaged with all the available details and unearthed the many layers. It is really remarkable because journalists in our country do not have financial or other kinds of resources to pursue a case like this. One high point of the book is that the author does not try to jump to any conclusion in haste. He just tries to present information with informed analysis.

Chandan Nandy

The narration is so lucid that you feel like reading a unbelievable spy thriller. Such writing style and deep investigation is a rarity in Indian journalism. That’s why I would strongly recommend this book to every student and every practitioner of journalism. A conscious citizen should also know about this horrible arms dropping. And, the most terrifying fact is this: some lethal weapons dropped from the sky that night in December, 1995 are still missing.

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