In the entire country, especially the Western Coast, Gujarat was famous for its commercial activities. The coastline constituted the cream of the trade. The coastal region of Gujarat had a flourishing maritime trade that extended from Dwarka in the North, all the way to Chaul in the South. The porous border through Kutch and Saurashtra coast is often used to push narcotics in the country, and the trend has only increased for five years now.
This was noticed between July 2017, when a merchant navy ship was intercepted by the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) and Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), off the Porbandar coast with heroin worth Rs 1,500 crore, and April 2021 when Gujarat ATS caught eight Pakistanis from Jakhau Coast carrying 30 kg heroin worth Rs 150 crore.
On several occasions in this period, the State’s 1,600 kmcoastline and some other parts of Gujarat were used as a conduit by drug mafias to supply narcotics to various parts of the country.
Deputy Inspector-General, ATS, Himanshu Shukla says drug smugglers from Pakistan, who are allegedly associated with Pakistan- based terror outfits like Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) often use the Gujarat coastline to smuggle drugs into India.
“Drug smugglers using the Gujarat coastline to infiltrate drugs after agencies like Border Security Force (BSF) beefed up patrolling on the Punjab border. However, with several seizures and arrests made by Gujarat Police, a check has been maintained on those involved in pushing drugs into India through Gujarat coastline,” he claims.
The key breakthrough came in August 2018 when the Gujarat ATS arrested Aziz Bhagad of Jam Salaya and Arif Sumra of Mandvi with 5 kg of heroin, from Jam Salaya, a coastal town in Gujarat’s Saurashtra region.
“Investigations revealed that the 5 kg heroin was part of a 100 kg consignment smuggled into India by Pakistani drug lords. It also came to light that in all 300 kg heroin was pushed into India through the coastline to one Simranjeetsingh Sandhu, a Punjab based drug mafia,” says Deputy Superintendent of Police (DySP), ATS, Bhavesh Rozia.
“Sandhu had by that time fled the country. He was subsequently detained in Italy in January 2020 following a Red Corner Notice (RCN) issued at the behest of Gujarat ATS. The case was later transferred to the National Investigation Agency (NIA). Sandhu will soon be deported from Italy,” Rozia adds.
Simranjeetsingh Sandhu, who belongs to Amritsar in Punjab, has his network in almost all states of North India. The drugs were pushed through Gujarat Coastline and made their way to Punjab and from there it was delivered to drug mafias in north Indian states.
- The heroin consignments were sent from small coastal villages located near Karachi Port of Pakistan.
- The Pakistani dhows were used to bring the consignment within 150 nautical miles off the Mandvi Coast of Gujarat.
- From here dhows owned by Arif Sumra of Mandvi picked up consignments and brought it to Mandvi.
- From Mandvi, the heroin was brought to Unjha of Mehsana in Gujarat in small packets.
- From Unjha the drug was hidden in cumin bags and was transported to Punjab, through Rajasthan.