Twenty-five years ago, villagers in Bengal’s Purulia district were woken up around midnight by the roar of an Antonov An-26 Latvian aircraft.
The crew dropped a large consignment of arms including several hundred AK-47 rifles and more than sixteen thousand rounds of ammunition over a large area in Jhalda, Khatanga, Belamu and Maramu villages on December 17, 1995. Locals informed the police who confiscated the weapons.
The incident instantly drew international attention and multiple agencies started probing the origin of the arms and who they were meant for.
While the Purulia arms drop case remains shrouded in mystery, it has been alleged that the consignment was intended for someone linked with the socio-spiritual organisation Ananda Marga.
However, alleged key conspirator Kim Peter Davy alias Niels Holck claims that the mission was orchestrated by the-then Congress government at the Centre along with a few powerful local leaders to create a situation for President’s Rule in West Bengal to stop the ‘atrocities’ of the Left Front government.
He also authored a book called ‘De kalder mig terrorist’ (They call me Terrorist), in which he reiterated this claim.
Speaking to News18.com from Denmark over the telephone, Holck said, “Some confidential negotiation is going on between the Indian government and the Danish government for my extradition. It is an unnerving situation but there is no concrete thing to hang your hat on. Exchange of letters is going on.”
When asked what his next plan of defence was, he said, “Well...I am considering putting my legal team to handle this. The reason is...I have already won my extradition case in 2010 at the district court and in 2011 at the high court in Denmark. The court had already spoken regarding this that one cannot be tried twice for the same thing. This is normally not legal...right? If something comes up in the future, I will certainly look for it through the legal way. The case was closed in 2011 in Denmark and now the Indian government is trying to make a new case. India is trying...though it’s not legal...Why...I don’t know. Only, they can answer it.”
Recalling the incident, he said, “The arms were brought from Bulgaria and it was only 50 handguns from my side. But when I entered the aircraft, I saw the consignment was huge. It was more in numbers that I was told. The rest was conspiracy. You need an end user's certificate to procure arms and in this case the end user's certificate was falsified in the name of a Bangladeshi Army General. I am still maintaining that the arms were procured to create a situation for President’s Rule (by the-then central government) in Bengal against the Left Front government. The ATC radar at Dhanbad was switched off and the Indian government was aware of it to make a safe airway for our aircraft. The arms and ammunition were meant for the people trying to protect themselves against the atrocities from CPI(M). I was a monk for 14 years in Purulia at Ananda Marga and I know how the local villagers, tribal people were massacred by police in civil clothes.”
When asked if anyone in Ananda Marga was involved, he said, “Not proved. I don’t know...can’t say, but there may be some ‘juncture of interest' behind the whole case."
There are many theories behind the mysterious Purulia arms drop case. Some claim that the consignment was meant for Ananda Marga that wanted to overthrow the communist government in West Bengal, others say that it was intended for the Bangladesh Army.
According to details available, the Antonov An-26 aircraft had taken off from Gatwick Airport in London with four tons of weapons, undetected. It almost crash-landed at Isfahan in Iran, but went on to Karachi in Pakistan, where it remained on the ground for several days.
Then it came to Varanasi, where the crew refuelled the aircraft and then flew over to Purulia, where they air-dropped the consignment and left for Phuket in Thailand. The plane's return route too was via India and after a few days when it entered the Indian airspace, the aircraft was forced to land in Mumbai by the Indian Air Force.
British citizen and ex Special Air Service operative-turned-mercenary Peter Bleach and five other Latvian crew members were arrested, but Holck managed to escape from the Mumbai’s runway. All those caught were sentenced to life imprisonment, but they were released in 2004, allegedly under pressure from the Russian and British governments.
Later, Holck was traced to Denmark and since then Indian agencies have been trying to get him back to India for further probe.
On April 9, 2010, the Danish police arrested him in order to start an extradition trial but his extradition never happened as a Danish court turned down the request due to lack of justification.