Kosi Kalan, Barsana, 2014.10.20 (VT): The Mathura Police yesterday carried out a successful raid on several illegal arms factories in which they seized thousands of weapons intended for smuggling to the bordering states and for sale within the district.
The police raided illegal arms factories in Nagla Utavad of Kosi, near the Uttar Pradesh/Haryana border. This resulted in the seizure of a large number of weapons, including rifles, revolvers, country-made pistols, single and double barrel guns, etc..
The borders of Haryana and Rajasthan have become safe havens for illegal arms trade. Due to dense forest in these localities police patrolling is minimal. The police raided the villages in the Kosi area after receiving a tip from an informant that many illegal factories are operating there.
The raids were conducted as a joint operation of the local police and the reserved force, making it possible to seize such a large number of weapons. The villages were surrounded by the police forces under the leadership of Superintendent of Police (Rural), Shagun Gautam, which caused panic among the villagers.
According to eyewitnesses, the police seized around 150 fully-made guns and hundreds of half-made guns from the vicinity. Though the arms were seized, the police were unable to make any arrests. It appears that the operators of the factories had gotten wind of the raid beforehand, giving them enough time to escape.
The Senior Superintendent of police Ms. Manjil Saini gave the orders to the SP (Rural) to conduct the raid. The police have kept a distance from the media and did not divulge any information.
Hathia village of Varsana was also raided
In a simultaneous action, the police have also raided the most notorious village of Hathia, in Barsana. They found a large cache of illegal weapons concealed in the burji and bitori, or huts made for keeping cow dung cakes in the agricultural fields. The police nabbed one of the operators of the illegal arms factories.
Hathia village is notorious in Vraja for illegal activity, including robbery, smuggling, arms manufacturing, kidnapping, etc. Cases of cow slaughtering also came to light some time back.
The making of illegal arms has taken the shape of the small scale industry here, and illegal activities have become the livelihood for the people living in this village. Hathia villagers have been known to lure people to the village on the pretext of selling them gold bricks in order to loot them.
Those arrested included some who were carrying illegal firearms.
Suspected role of the police
Some local residents allege that the police are complicit. The police in Kosikalan caught a Bolero car with illegal weapons last week. It detained the four people sitting in the car, took possession of the illegal weapons, but then allowed the car to go. Three of the detained individuals were released only a few hours later. Two of the three were from the Utavad Village and one was from Hathia. One person was arrested and sent to the jail pending trial. The release of the other three persons raised eyebrows in the village.
It is suspected that these arms factories make up part of an interstate network, with supply routes in other states.
Arms manufacturing in Uttar Pradesh
India, with 3 guns per 100 people, ranks second among 178 countries in the number of privately-owned firearms. Gun-control norms in India are somewhat stricter than other countries. Even then 40 million Indians own guns of whom 85% never register their firearms. Most of these are country-made firearms such as kattas, tamanchas or ghodas.
Indigenous weapons are sold for anywhere between Rs 500 and 1000. The main customers are villagers who need to guard their crops and share in irrigation waters for protection when traveling to the city. It is also considered to be something of a status symbol.
At the same time, these weapons are favorites with local gangs that indulge in robberies, kidnappings and extortions. Even though gun crime in India is still relatively low, with only 7.6% of murders committed with guns in 2009. There has been a 25% increase in crime just in the last decade along with the economic liberalization, and this means more guns, both legal and illegal. Most crimes are committed with the deshi weapons since they are cheap, reliable and untraceable.
The market for indigenously manufactured firearms is booming in the whole of Uttar Pradesh. Profits are high as each tamancha costs only around Rs 250 to manufacture and is sold for at least double that. The gunsmiths can easily turn a profit of Rs 1 lakh per month. Small, difficult to trace factories spread all over Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar manufacture kattas, 10 and 12-bore shotguns and even rifles. The center of the industry in UP appears to be in the western part of the state, Meerut, Ghaziabad, Muzaffarnagar, and Saharanpur.
Police are regularly rumored to be an integral part of the business. Manufacturers give a regular cut to authorities who then turn a blind eye to the trade. It is also said that police may occasionally procure kattas or tamanchas from these factories to be “planted” during raids.