Goodreads blurb: On the night of 17-18 December 1995, an aging Russian Antonov-26 plane dropped three weapons-laden wooden pallets over Purulia, a backward, nondescript district in West Bengal.
Four days later, the same plane was force-landed at Mumbai’s Santa Cruz airport, from where the mastermind of the operation, Kim Davy aka Niels Christian Nielsen, managed a daring escape. Who were the end-users of the weapons? Why were they airdropped over that particular region? Were they, as claimed later, meant for the shady cult, the Ananda Marga? Was it an effort to topple the CPI (M)-ruled state government of West Bengal? Or was it a conspiracy of international proportions, spanning continents and masterminded by a global superpower?
As a reporter for The Telegraph and, later, the Hindustan Times, Chandan Nandy broke several stories on this bizarre covert operation. Nineteen years after the sensational arms drop, in this book, he exposes the grave lapses committed by India’s security agencies and pieces together the story of how the operation was planned and executed. He brings to light as-yet undisclosed evidence about the end-users, whose identity still remains a mystery.
Based on scores of interviews with R&AW, IB and CBI insiders and relying on classified documents, The Night it Rained Guns is a riveting exploration of India’s greatest security breaches.
Being an avid quizzer over the course of quite a few years in my high school and college, I had inevitably heard of the Purulia Arms Drop case in passing and had only superficial information about the same until I actually picked up this book. And man, is it quite an interesting story or what?
The author, Chandan Nandy, who used to work as a reporter for the Telegraph and the Hindustan Times picks up from where he left off in the newspapers, compiles all the available information, puts his own contacts to work and conducts more than quite a few interviews with various people involved with intelligence agencies around the world and tries to make sense of the still unsolved case, where the main accused is still at large, living freely in Copenhagen, Denmark, from where the Danish authorities continue to refuse to extradite him to India to be put on trial for this case.
While the incident itself and the book is quite a damning revelation of the absolute lack of co-ordination and teamwork between the various security agencies of the country viz R&AW, IB, CBI and the local police, it is also quite an eye-opener in terms of the fact that despite all the Hollywood blockbusters that deal with espionage and covert international operations conducted around the world, the truth seems to be stranger than fiction.
The last chapter of the book titled The Manchurian Candidate goes into moderate detail where the author tries to put together various pieces of the puzzle to find out who the arms and ammunition was intended for, and the picture that emerges is quite a complex jigsaw puzzle by itself. Highlighting the possible collusion of the CIA and IB, possibly to provide arms to the Kachin rebels in Burma, the author seems convinced that this could be the main reason that the Danish authorities, who have always been ‘cronies’ (for lack of a better word) of the Americans steadfastly refuse to extradite Niels Christian Nielsen to India to be tried for his adventure.
The portions relating to how Niels planned the entire operation, the detailed logistics itself starting from the initial meetings, how the players arrange for the various pieces of the deal, the dry runs, the actual operation itself, its aftermath, etc are very well written. And although the book is packed with facts and figures, in this particular case, the author has exercised mastery over the craft of the narrative itself and this non-fiction fact-based book reads quite like the Forsyth and Ludlum books that regular readers are used to. And that to me, is what made this book so interesting and unputdownable.
For sure, a must read for all fans of the espionage thriller genre of books, despite the fact that this is a non-fiction book. Click on the links to purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link].
Disclaimer: The publishers of this book provided me with a review copy of the same in return for a honest and unbiased review.