Chandan Nandy’s “The Night It Rained Guns – Unravelling The Purulia Arms Drop Conspiracy” A Review by Dr. A. I. Khan

The Night It Rained Guns:
Unravelling The Purulia Arms Drop Conspiracy
Author: Chandan Nandy
Foreword: Vir Sanghvi
Rupa Publication India PVT. LTD. New Delhi, 2014

Review by: Dr. A. I. Khan

“The book, The Night It Rained Guns is a well researched chronicle of International conspiracy behind the Purulia Arms Drop as well as functioning of Intelligence Agencies, the bureaucratic setup and law & justice system all over the world.”

Though the book under review comes under non-fiction category, even then the flow of description of incidents is never marred in the course of whole narration. It is interesting as well as logical that a book like such provides critical analysis of a phenomenon that was made controversial in terms of its source, conspirators, collaborators, their motif, operative mechanism and end-users of the arms.  

In his foreword, Vir Sanghvi unambiguously describes the  lies of Davy alias Nielsen, the mastermind of the arms drop in Purulia, through his fanciful conspiracy theory in his interview to Indian media. 

“Yes, his stories were incredible. But then, what was the truth?… The Indian government has done such a bad job of investigating the case that we were no longer sure what to believe?… Was Davy (Nielsen) an Anand Margi? “

The shadow of suspicion later becomes clear that he was associated with ‘Anand Marg’ for many years, side by side, he was also engaged with ‘ SPLA’ (Sudan People’s Liberation Army), International gang of smugglers dealing in gold, arms and drugs and was number two among six important international terrorists of time. He was a polyglot having command over eight languages and five alphabets and worked with precision of intelligence agency as if he had undergone the rigorous training of an international intelligence Agent.  

In Introduction, the author explicitly talks about the resources of his investigation for the book. Among his resources, the first and primarily are Indian and foreign government files including witness statements available in public domain; the second vital source of information constitute a series of in-depth interviews with some of key officials, retired and serving, who were involved in investigating the case. Moreover, open-source accounts in newspapers and parliamentary debates in India are also important resources. The wide spectrum of resources somehow give credibility to investigation and its findings. He convincingly depicts the modus operandi of intelligence services and international criminal underworld, cooperating and collaborating, as per their conveniences and political exigencies. 

“… the Purulia arms drop case was a covert intelligence operation in which several ‘ cut- outs’ and layers of shell companies had been used to give it all the elements of deniability…. After all, both the international criminal underworld and the world of intelligence are ‘professions’ that rely on deceit and intrigue”.

The author expresses his surprise on the course of investigation of CBI that advanced well in the beginning with full attention and focussed investigation taking into account severity of the evidence. But then floundered consistently on flimsy grounds. 

“India’s National security has been violated with impunity and it’s putative protectors have messed up big time… After the first five years of incessant and energetic pursuit of the case by CBI, the investigation slowed down and then languished before it died. I dare say, it was allowed to die”.

It was frustrating rather shocking for the author and so he dedicatedly adopted the path of extensive and rigorous research to blow over suspicions, all the elements of mystery surrounding the case and to unravel the truth. 

“This book is the result of an entirely private initiative and years of passionate following of the case… I recognize that in the end, the shadows, though not as dark as before, remain cloudy the full truth from emerging”.

It’s the honest acceptance of realities under prevailing circumstances,on the part of the writer. There were several players, transcending the national borders, involved in planning, procurement, storage, transportation and delivery preserving the fine elements of secrecy and endurance. 

The handling of the case, by British Intelligence MI5, Indian agency R&AW, IB, MHA, CBI, IAF, MOD and DGCA, reflects the collective irresponsibility of all agencies and departments involved, directly or indirectly, with the case. 

“MI5 passing information to R&AW – the IB and MHA had lamentably and miserably failed to act on the information supplied to them… The MHA and IB displayed neolithic incompetence, leading to quite a national security flap – Instead of being summarily cashiered and prosecuted, they continue to draw pension – There can be no two opinions that the intelligence shared by R&AW was extremely sensitive and actionable from the point of view of national security”.

The parliamentary Committee, constituted to inquire into the case, came to the same conclusion after exhaustive and extensive interviewing of the concerned departments and it’s top brass. The committee also highlighted their casual and callous attitudes. 

“Each ministry tried to justify its inaction and said that it was the job of the other ministry… there was total failure on the part of the governmental agencies and that there was total lack of coordination among them… The MOD tried to minimize the seriousness of the Purulia arms drop.”

A separate committee, known as Jain Committee to enquire into the matter, also corroborated the same view regarding the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of the  concerned departments and agencies. 

“… it at least admitted – insipidly – that ‘the incident relating to para-dropping of arms and ammunition over Purulia manifested a weakness in the existing system”.

It proved to be a strange case of morbidity and action as if the whole security establishment was under shock of paralysis. 

” … that the CBI, the R&AW and the Indian and foreign press were unanimous about, was the collective paralysis in the Indian security establishment after R&AW shared the vital information with concerned authorities “.

Another aspect of exploring the truth was the angle of involvement of CIA as it’s the record of tacit support, given by CIA, to rebellions and counter-rebellions, forces of insurgency and counter-insurgency,  players of terrorism and counter- terrorism, as per their vested interests of imposing puppet regime in the conflict zones during Cold War and post – Cold War period. It appears that Nielson was somehow associated with the CIA and was provided logistics and other support in his operation in different parts of the globe. 

“The Purulia ‘War package’ was but a miniscule fraction of the Cold War legacy of massive stockpiles of SALWs (small and light weapons)…… These have, increasingly, played a greater role in conflicts globally, from outside, either because of ideological or other reasons”. 

Post-cold war global scenario was a Unipolar world dictated by the USA, and SALWs were a major market for post – cold War brokers. Operative system of illegal trade involved three sets of different players – producers, recipients and traffickers. There were some more players, private as well as government, in illegal weapon transfer in conflict zones. 

“There were yet other sources – as well as channels – of illegal weapons transfer during and after the cold War: intelligence agencies, whether of western, Russian, East European, or South Asian Countries… The most celebrated and at the same time notorious case of government arms transfer was the US CIA’s Iran- Contra scandal which had its origin in the middle of Ronald Reagan’s presidency”.

Illegal arms trade played a major role in originating and sustaining the Civil War in many South Asian, African and Central American Countries at those times. 

“Illegal arms shipment during the cold War also fuelled the civil wars in Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Mozambique and some of the Central American Countries”. 

Direct involvement of the CIA in the Purulia arms drop is not established but the shadow of suspicion has been lingering long because it has been the practice of CIA to engage in such activities. A reference has been made about pressure from western countries on Denmark not to prosecute Nielson. Role of different countries in arms transfer illegally makes the situation more serious and dangerous. 

“In the nineties, governments and government agencies were the principal supplier or facilitator in the spread of small arms in the overwhelming majority of the cases across the World… Global arms flows often involved a dubious mix of legal and illegal operations”.

It’s indeed surprising rather stunning that  Prulia arms drop, even being part of international conspiracy at such large scale, didn’t draw attention of neither UNO nor any western NGOs. They kept themselves aloof and indifferent from the whole affairs as if they were not concerned with issues of security and stability in the region. 

“The Purulia arms drop and the numerous players involved in the conspiracy didn’t figure in any UN documents or the agenda of western NGOs”.

One startling claim is made by one in a planning meeting at Phuket that relates involvement of some devotees of Anand Marg with the conspiracy. 

“Randy( Anand Margi of Indian origin) and his men had absolute control over an area of 20 square kms. from the hills and that no security forces ever ventured in that area”.

The book also unfolds later after a layer of operative systems of illicit weapons transfer for aiding and abetting civil wars in different parts of the globe, its supply chain, financial transactions, fake passports, use of aliases, and exchange of bribes and graft money. Even great persons holding high posts and held high in the public’s eyes succumb to corrupt means for out of turn favours to such players. The case of Mukti Bahini’s high placed officer is really shocking. 

“It was suspected that Major General Subeh Bhuiyan accepted a generous bribe to sign the EUC (End-User Certificate)”.

The planning by Nielsen in presence of Britisher Bleach, Deepak, a resident of Singapore and of Indian origin, Mike Hong and others was well thought, meticulously designed and perfectly executed despite many adverse situations cropping up in the way. 

“They had combined courage and craziness which pulled them through their mission, but in the end, it was a botched up operation “.

The miraculous escape of Nielsen from Bombay airport, leaving behind AN-26 plane, its crews and Bleach to be questioned, then interrogated, and finally arrested to be incarcerated and slipping of Nielsen in Nepal, make a fantastic unbelievable story to dismay of security forces. 

“The CBI found discrepancies in the statements of the airport and custom officials, but zeroed in on the AAI officials… Clearly a lackadaisical attitude on the part of the AAI and security officials who had no idea or didn’t comprehend the gravity of the situation contributed in no small measure to Nielsen’s escape from Bombay airport”.

The response of IB Director, Dinesh Chandra Pathak is in sight as it exemplified how utterly callous, negligent, incompetent and what an accomplished lier the chief of the country’s  internal security Agency was… “

The West Bengal police gathered enough courage to raid Anand Nagar and seized many undiscriminating materials from there including e-mails referred to arms training and defeating the enemies and these were sighted as evidence in the court. 

“… a lengthy charge sheet against thirteen persons, under various provisions of IPC, accusing them of conspiring and attempting to wage war against the state… It had been all too hasty, too ill-planned, leaving gaping holes in the evidence collected and their logic”.

It was astonishing that CBI couldn’t trace some of the missing weapons and equipment which were quite sufficient in number to create disturbances. It’s another story that all diplomatic processes and steps taken by security agencies didn’t materialise the extradition of Nielsen to India. CBI also failed to trace and arrest three monks of Anand Marg who were declared fugitive of law. The session court, after the end of trial on 1st January 2000, held Peter Bleach and five Latvians guilty of the offence of conspiracy to wage war against the state… and they were awarded rigorous imprisonment for life along with fines… 

But Denmark ‘s court, at every step of the justice system, protected Nielsen. In India also, with political intervention on part of Russian President Vladimir Putin and UK  Premier Blair, all six were set free. It tells too much about political clout and a weak justice system in India and abroad as well. 

“… the political leadership exposed itself as soft and jelly- like, succumbing to British pressure and making mockery of  the Indian judicial system whatever was… “

The then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Home minister Lal Krishna Advani both were approached by Putin, Blair and other British parliamentarians. However the then Union Home secretary owned full responsibility for mishap at Bombay airport and admitted that MHA had failed to coordinate security arrangements.  The author has made remarkable valid critique of Indian Intelligence. 

“Indian Intelligence has, time and again, been found to work best post-event”.

There is also an interesting part of the story evaluating Arnab Goswami’s capabilities and competence as a journalist in an interview of Nielsen by him as the (then) Editor-in-Chief of Times Now, a news channel. 

By all accounts, Anand Marg, as an organization, does not seem engaged in the conspiracy. However there is ample evidence of involvement of his top functionaries. The role of Amra Bengali – a political outfit of Anand Marg is also not above doubt. Involvement of CIA in the case gets its manifestation in Nielsen’s link with CIA – backed SPLA and unabashed protection that Danish authorities, including the police and PET provided to Nielsen for eight years. 

“Nielsen’s story before the Danish courts, therefore, was primarily aimed to protect his  ’cause’ as political and not an act of international terrorism”.

Despite exhaustive and extensive research of long standing, the truth is yet to come out and the case must be pursued in right earnest to its finality as it is the matter of national security. 

“A no-holds-barred investigation into every aspect of the case is a national imperative. The case must come to a closure with the full truth”.

In my opinion, the book avoids the impacts of neo-liberal economy, it’s postmodernist formulations, the aggressive hegemony of international finance capital for upsurge in illegal arms supply to sustain civil wars in conflict zones. 

The book presents genuine accounts of illegal trades in arms, gold, gems and drugs with tacit support of Intelligence Agencies. It also tells many tales of espionage and counter-espionage, insurgency and counter-insurgency, terrorism and counter – terrorism as well as revolutionary and counter-revolutionary activities to set the world order. The book is worth reading specially for serious readers. 

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