Purulia arms drop case

Purulia arms drop case

The Purulia arms drop case was an infamous incident in which unauthorised arms were dropped from an Antonov An-26 aircraft in Purulia district in the state of West Bengal in India on December 17, 1995.

A Latvian aircraft dropped a large consignment of arms including several hundred AK-47 rifles and more than a million rounds of ammunition over a large area in Jhalda, Ghatanga, Belamu, Maramu villages of Purulia district on the night of December 17, 1995. Several days later, when the plane re-entered Indian airspace, it was intercepted by the Indian Air Force MiG-21 and forced to land in Mumbai. While the true motive of the operation remains shourded in mystery and conjecture, it is believed that the arms were intended for the socio-spiritual organization Ananda Marga (Sanskrit for "The Path of Bliss").

An Indian court in 1997 determined that the Ananda Marga group was indeed the intended recipient of the guns and ammunition. Based on the pilot's testimony, along with other evidence such as a photograph of the Ananda Marga headquarters on the aircraft, the Judge ruled:

as per the materials available I hold that it has been established from the materials on record that the places where the arms were targeted to be dropped were of Anandamargies and precisely three storied white building was the target point and at that target point the arms were tried to be dropped from a flying aircraft and the aircraft has been pin pointed as per the evidence and materials on record.
However, despite the passage of years, many details of the incident are wrapped in mystery, and there has been considerable speculation as to the purpose and modality of the operation.

The crew of the aircraft consisted of five Latvian citizens and Peter Bleach, a British citizen Peter and an ex Special Air Service operative turned mercenary who was based in Yorkshire and involved in arms dealing. They were arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment while alleged kingpin Niels Christian Nielsen (aka Kim Peter Davy), a Danish citizen and member of the Ananda Marga group, escaped. Later, an Interpol red notice was issued against him. Following the intervention of Russian authorities, the Latvian crew (who gained Russian citizenship while in Indian custody) were later pardoned and released in 2000. Peter Bleach, too, was released on February 4, 2004, via a presidential pardon, allegedly due to persistent British pressure. In 2007 Kim Davy was traced by Denmark authorities, and it is possible he may be extradited to India for trial.

With all the main characters involved in the episode either free or absconding, many of the details of event are still unknown, and may never be known. Various conspiracy theories have been put forward, but the real motives of the arms drop remains unknown. On a diplomatic level, good relations have been maintained with Russia, Latvia, Britain, and even Pakistan – the various countries linked to the episode – despite the fact that this event remains the most serious breach of Indian national security till date.

On 8 October, 2008 the extradition of the key accused, Kim Davy, was close to being finalized as the government had, in principle, agreed on giving "sovereign assurance" to the Danish authorities on their conditions, as well as bringing about some changes in the existing extradition law. One of the conditions Denmark had set included the waiving of the death penalty if Davy is convicted by a court for his involvement in the dropping of a huge cache of arms and ammunition from an aircraft in West Bengal in 1995.

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