Arms and the woman - Uttar Pradesh’s proxy gun culture

February 4th, 2009 - 11:28 am ICT by IANS  

Lucknow, Feb 4 (IANS) Nearly 700 women applied for arms licences in 2008 in western Uttar Pradesh. No, the region is not witnessing some sort of movement - rather politicians and criminals are using female members of their family to procure licences by proxy.Western Uttar Pradesh, in the past few years, has registered a surprising rise in the number of arms licences procured and applied for by women.

According to statistics of the arms licensing authorities, there has been an increase of 20 percent since 2006 in the number of arms licence applications moved by women in the western region of the state such as Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Saharanpur, Ghaziabad and Bulandshahr.

As many as 7,000 applications for arms licences by women are pending in the entire Meerut region.

Police officials attribute three reasons for this - family feuds, being a member of a politician’s family, and a relative of a criminal.

“According to us, the reason behind this is the rapid industrialization and colonization in these areas. People are prospering and where there is money involved, there is always a fear of crime,” Inspector General (Meerut zone) Gurbachan Lal told IANS.

“Last week two women who have recently opened a college approached me for gun licences,” he added.

“Female family members of politicians and criminals applying for licences has been an old custom across the country, but we take all possible care before issuing the licence to anyone,” Lal added.

“Especially in the rural areas, there are a number of disputes, either in the family or with others and this is why the family head obtains gun licences in the name of most of the family members including women,” a police official explained.

“Likewise, a person with a criminal background also opts for the same, as he cannot get a licence himself. Similar is the case of politicians who, in a bid to assure that their fleet has ample number of gunmen, procure gun licences in the name of their wives or other female members of the family,” he added.

According to rules, an individual can have only one arms licence and can possess a maximum of three weapons on it.

According to statistics, the state tops the country with over 900,000 arms licences closely followed by its neighbour Bihar. India has approximately 40 million arms licences.

Bihar also has over 1,400 gun shops, more any other state in the country.

It is, however, not that there is only a rush for legal arms in the state. Illegal arms manufacturing units busted by the police and people caught possessing country-made weapons were also the largest in this part of the state in 2008.

According to records, the police apprehended 2,213 people in Meerut, 3,369 in Ghaziabad, 1,700 in Bulandshahar, 2,165 in Gautam Buddha Nagar, 592 in Baghpat, 1,571 in Saharanpur and 1,604 in Muzaffarnagar for their involvement in manufacturing or possessing illicit arms.

“Gun culture has been prominent in the state, particularly in the western part, because of its prosperity,” retired inspector general of police S.R. Darapuri said.

“The western region’s proximity to countries like Nepal and Bangladesh, which also has a good market for illicit arms, is the reason behind the flourishing illicit arms trade,” Darapuri, who has served in various western districts, added.

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