Josy Joseph, DNAINDIA , March 09, 2007
NEW DELHI: ‘Operation Leech’ has remained one of those mysteries from the murky world of intelligence, where ruthless killings and double agents aren’t unheard of.
On February 12, 1998, the Indian Army claimed in New Delhi that it has busted a massive gun-running racket by the Burmese army, and further claimed to have recovered arms worth over a million dollars.
They claimed it was the largest seizure of arms after the Purulia arms drop of December 1995. In the operations, at least six Burmese were killed and some 73 were arrested. It wasn’t to be the truth.
As Burmese freedom fighters later began making rounds of New Delhi’s power corridors and media houses, various independent investigations showed that the arrested Burmese may not have been gunrunners at all.
They were from the Army of Arakans, living in the southwest of Burma, fighting for freedom from the military junta.
Sources say that the Arakan Army was being aided by India, and the principal contact with them was Colonel VS ‘Gary’ Grewal.
However, sources in intelligence also confirmed that Grewal may have double-crossed India and worked at the behest of Burmese military junta to carry out ‘Operation Leech’.
Grewal was the leader of the military group, including naval and coast guard ships and helicopters, that carried out the operation.
According to intelligence inputs, Grewal is presently trading in Burmese precious stones in the neighbouring country and also thoroughly enjoying the Burmese military junta’s hospitality.
Once the truth emerged, then defence minister George Fernandes ordered a CBI inquiry into the entire operation. The CBI request for access to Grewal was repeatedly turned down by then Army chief General VP Malik, and later Grewal built up a case and left on premature retirement from the Army.
After the operation, 34 of the arrested rebels were kept in Campbell Bay, later shifted to Port Blair and are now in the Presidency Jail in Kolkata.
A team of human right activists led by Advocate Nandita Haksar took up the case of the Burmese and Advocate T Vasantha agreed to provide assistance to the team. She was murdered in 2004, and CISF commandant KC Suresh Kumar has been arrested in the murder case.
Kumar was then with the Intelligence Bureau in Port Blair, and was arrested on March 7 for the murder of Vasantha.