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Nishant Turan asked: How and from where do the Naxalites procure their weapons?

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  • Anil Kamboj replies: The Naxalites procure weapons from different sources and by different methods. There are numerous reports that link Naxalites to a number of militant and criminal groups throughout South Asia. These groups have interacted with Maoists from Nepal, insurgent groups of India’s Northeast, ISI-backed Islamists from Bangladesh and criminals from Myanmar. Weapons flow among these groups without much check. The details of Naxalite’s sources of weaponry are as follows:

    1. Initially, the Naxalites collected weapons from the local people. These were old vintage type muzzle loader guns and locally made shotguns used for killing animals and hunting. Some of them also used bows and arrows. Their main weapon used to be their human strength, that is, their large numbers. Later they started looting arms and ammunition from the local police outposts in the Naxalite infested areas. After gaining confidence, they stared raiding the armoury and ambushing the police and security force patrol parties to loot/snatch their arms, ammunition and equipments, like bullet proof jackets, night vision devices, communication sets, etc.

    2. The Naxalites also obtained weapons by bribing or coercing members of the security forces to sell or give their firearms and the ammunition along with their equipment.

    3. Naxalites also have their own local arms factories. The manufacturing of arms demonstrate a wide range of craftsmanship, right from assembling makeshift weapons from discarded parts to more advanced forging process. These factories also produce homemade mortar rounds and components for improvised explosive devices. As reported, they even have laboratory to test the improvised explosive devices, land mines, claymore mines and other sophisticated explosives/ammunition.

    4. It was initially the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that had provided the Naxalites the training in the handling of weapons, mines and grenades at a camp near Bastar in Chattisgarh State. Later when the LTTE fighters fled Sri Lanka after their 2009 defeat, it is suspected that a few Tamil fighters began providing training of all types to the Naxalites in exchange for safe haven.

    5. The Nepalese Maoists have not only exchanged training and weapons with the Naxalites, but also their strategic planning.

    6. The National Socialist Council of Nagaland - Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) has helped Indian Maoists to procure weapons and ammunition through Myanmar and Bangladesh.

    7. There is a relationship between the ULFA and Naxalites to smuggle drugs through Bangladesh border in exchange of weapons and ammunition.

    8. There is no shortage of explosives with the Naxalites. They are able to procure the same from the mining contractors operating in the Naxalite -controlled areas, including fertilizer distributors and mining companies that maintain stocks of explosives, blasting caps and detonators.

    9. The Naxalites have also procured foreign weapons, ammunition and explosives from external militant and criminal groups operating within and outside of India. Such shipments are traded for smuggling services or purchased with funds from banditry, extortion or revolutionary taxes. Purchasing weapons from the outside is very expensive. According to an article published in 2009 by India Daily News, Naxalite expenditure reports seized by police showed that, over a six-month period, one zone command spent more than three-quarters of the unit’s budget on weapons. Such evidence suggests that their effort to procure weapons from outside have certain limitations; obtaining them locally is far cheaper and can be done by virtually any Naxalite fighter. The Naxalite arsenal is thus vast and diverse, consisting of arms and ammunition manufactured in China, Pakistan and India. How many weapons are held by the Naxalites is anybody’s guess.