On high alert since the outbreak of drone activity along the Indo-Pak border, the Punjab Police on Friday seized two highly sophisticated Chinese-made drones, and arrested an Army Naik and two smugglers belonging to a narco-terror module, involved in smuggling of weapons and narcotics across the border.
The seizure, resulting from targeted and Intelligence-led search operations, also included drone batteries, custom-made drone containers, two Walkie Talkie sets, Rs 6.22 lakh in cash, believed to be proceeds of drugs, and the magazine of an INSAS Rifle. The drones, capable of travelling 2-3 kms on either side of the border, were reportedly being launched from the Indian side to fly into Pakistan to pick up payloads of narcotics. They had apparently already conducted 4-5 sorties, disclosed Punjab Police DGP Dinkar Gupta.
It may be recalled that Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh had expressed concern over the recent drone activity along the border, which first came to light in August 2019 post abolition of Article 370, and had raised the issue with the central government, seeking close monitoring by central agencies and forces. The central government has already issued SOPs for use of drones, which, with their ability to fly low without lights and their minimal engine noise, can also be used to target VIPs.
Giving details of today’s operation at a press conference here, Gupta, who was accompanied by ADGP (Internal Security) RN Dhoke, IG Border Range, SPS Parmar, and SSP Tarn Taran, Dhruv Dhaiya, said this was the first instance to show that drones were being used to smuggle narcotics, even though no drugs had been recovered. According to the DGP, the module members had revealed that they were involved in cross-border smuggling of drugs and weapons over drones over the past few months. Certain Pakistan based drug smugglers who were sending the drugs and weapons from across the border in Pakistan had also come to notice, he added.
According to the DGP, the three arrested persons had been identified as Dharminder Singh s/o Hari Singh r/o Dhanoa Khurd village, Amritsar; Rahul Chauhan s/o Sheesh Pal Chauhan r/o 37 E Pooja Vihar, Ambala Cantt., Haryana and Balkar Singh r/o Kalas village, PS Sarai Amanat Khan, Amritsar (Rural).
While Dharminder was arrested from a place in village Hardo Rattan, about 3 km from the Indo-Pak border, Balkar had been lodged in Amritsar Jail in a NDPS case and was brought on Production warrant yesterday. Rahul Chauhan, a Naik of the Armed Forces, was reportedly involved in procuring and supplying drones and training to cross-border smugglers.
Two members of the narco-terror module were still absconding and efforts were on to nab him, said the DGP, adding that further investigations were under way to ascertain details about the accused’s ties with terrorist outfits, radicals, drug smugglers and other anti-national elements.
Preliminary investigations had confirmed that Rahul Chauhan was directly involved in operating drone sorties across the border for picking up heroin as well as weapons from Pakistan, along with his associates in India and Pakistan. He and his accomplices were in direct contact with Pakistani smugglers on encrypted OTT platforms, said the DGP, adding that the plan was to send one of the Walkie Talkie sets across the border to Pakistan to facilitate two-way communication.
The first drone, a Chinese made DJI INSPIRE 2 drone (Quadcopter) was recovered from an abandoned government Dispensary building in Modhe village, PS Gharinda, Amritsar (Rural), where it had been hidden by Dharminder Singh and his associate drug smugglers. The 2nd drone, a Chinese made DJI MATRICE 600 PRO (Hexacopter), was recovered from a house in Karan Vihar, Sector-6, Karnal (Haryana) on the disclosures of Rahul Chauhan. The house belongs to a friend of Rahul Chauhan.
Rahul has further revealed that he bought a black coloured, partially damaged Drone- Aspire 02 model during the 2nd half of 2019 from OLX for about Rs.1.50 lakh, which was partially damaged. After repairing the drone, he sold it on OLX for about Rs 2.75 lakhs. From these sale proceeds, Rahul purchased a new Drone DJI Inspire 02 model for about Rs 3.20 lakh from Pune and sold it to a criminal r/o Amritsar for Rs 5.70 lakh. He purchased another Drone DJI Matrice 600 for about Rs. 5.35 lakh, and stored it in Karnal, from where it had been recovered, said the DGP.
Gupta said the Punjab Police had launched a covert operation to ensure close monitoring and checking of the border areas in view of the recent influx of weapons and drugs across the border through drones as well as other means. Special nakas had been set up in the border areas as part of these special operations to focus on suspicious activities on the border as well as the possible collusion among drug and weapon smugglers, cross-border gun-runners, radicals etc.
It was during this special operation that the police gathered inputs that one Balkar Singh, who was lodged in Amritsar Jail in a NDPS case, was smuggling drugs and weapons using drones, alongwith his associates. Following such inputs, a case was registered at Police Station Gharinda of Amritsar (Rural) and special teams were formed of officers of the Amritsar (Rural) Police district to operationalise the intelligence leads, said the DGP.
In response to a question, the DGP said technologies to immobilise drone were available and efforts were on to develop them indigenously in the country too. He ruled out any BSF connivance in the use of these drones and said the agency was working closely with the Punjab Police to identify and check drone activity along the border.