The Punjab Police is concerned about the growing use of technology in a narco-terrorism racket from across the border in Pakistan, with about 40 movements of sophisticated unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) noticed in the Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Ferozpur and Fazilka districts.
The state’s director general of police, Dinkar Gupta, has expressed the need for modern anti-drone technology to check the menace of these UAVs that have been making drugs and weapons drops in the region since last year.
Gupta said that the state police was in talks with the Indian Air Force, Border Security Force, Indian Army and intelligence agencies to counter the drone menace, which, he feared, could lead to the next round of militancy in the state.
One of the major narco-terrorism modules, headed by former Indian Army Naik Rahul Chauhan, was involved in carting 75kg of pure heroin and at least seven pistols between November and December 2019. The module, operating from the Jat Regiment Centre in Uttar Pradesh’s Bareilly, was busted on January 9, 2020.
According to Chauhan’s interrogation report, details of which were accessed by HT, a Pakistani national named Waqar got in touch with him when he was running surveillance drones for the Indian Army in Nowshera sector of Jammu & Kashmir last July-August.
Chauhanwas later contacted by another source, identified as Choudhary, over a WhatsApp call from a Germany-based number, and a meeting was set up with Choudhary’s associate in Ambala.
During interrogation, Chauhan admitted to operating drones from the border villages of Dhanoa Khurd and Mulaekot to pick up heroin and pistols from Pakistan. The jawan used three drones purchased from Chandini Chowk (Delhi), Ghaziabad and Pune, and made cross-border sorties at the height of 1,200 feet on November 27 and 30, and then on December 8, 9 and 17, 2019.
These sorties, he told interrogators, were made from border villages between 3am and 4am to avoid detection, and the distance covered from the launch area to the pick-up point in Pakistan was between 2.2 and 2.8 kms, with flying times generally between 14 and 18 minutes. Data gathered from the drones showed that the last flight on December 19 was 26 minutes, 54 seconds long.
Further investigation by the police revealed that the money used to buy the drones was provided by convicted drug smuggler Lakhwinder Singh (in Amristar jail since September 2019), and his accociates Ajaypal and Dharminder.
Before Chauhan’s drugs-weapons module was busted, Punjab Police seized seven weapons consignments sent across the border from Pakistan by pro-Khalistan separatists using high-endurance drones.
A total number of eight terror modules have been busted since August 2019, with 41 alleged terrorists and their accomplices arrested. Seventeen AK- and MP-series assault rifles have been recovered, along with 10 pistols and 23 Chinese-made hand grenades. In addition, four drones, five satellite phones, and some fake Indian currency have also been recovered.
About 1,100kg of heroin was seized in the state from March 2017 till this January, according to police data.