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December 12, 2017

Arms trafficking and the Madhya Pradesh connection


Lalit Shastri

Going by its track-record, Madhya Pradesh could have the dubious distinction of being a top-ranking state in the country when it comes to arms trafficking or the gunrunning racket.

This central Indian State was prominently in news way back in 1996-97 after the unearthing and seizure (by Gujarat Police) of a huge cache of arms, including about two dozen Ak-47 rifles, from Mahidpur tehsil in Ujjain district.

At that time, when Digvijay Singh was heading a Congress led government in Madhya Pradesh, the then BJP national President late Kushabhau Thakre, while heralding his party’s campaign for the 1998 State Assembly election, had gone on the offensive at a press conference at the State BJP headquarters in the capital by stating that Madhya Pradesh had become a haven for arms smugglers under Congress rule. He had also used that occasion to point out that arms were being supplied to terrorists in Kashmir from Madhya Pradesh. It is an entirely a different story that the then Home Minister L.K. Advani had feigned complete ignorance about this at his press conference held in quick succession at the VIP Guest House in Bhopal.

With this in the backdrop, if one takes a closer look at the prevailing scenario, the picture that unfolds is rather disturbing. The Delhi police, over the last several years, has seized huge quantities of illegal weapons following tip-off by informers. Mostly those arrested for gunrunning come from districts like Burhanpur and Dhar in western Madhya Pradesh. This area is identfied with the Sikligar community which is traditionally engaged in manufacturing illegal firearms.

There has been a common pattern of arrests and seizure of illegal weapons by the Special Cell of Delhi Police over a long period of time. Each time, the police team has swung into action in response to inputs by police informers that a certain person would be arriving near the bridge connecting NH-24 with Gaziabad to supply illegal weapons to a colleague, the culprits have been nabbed. In majority of the cases, the arms suppliers/carriers have been traced to Madhya Pradesh.

On Tuesday evening, (3 October 2017), acting on a tip off, a team of the Lodhi Colony Special Cell of Delhi police, arrested a person with 7 pistols and magazines near the gaziabad bridge off NH-24. The arrested person has been identified as Kailash, son of Man Singh and resident of Dat Pahadi village falling under Khanaknagar police station of Burhanpur district.

Similarly another person identified as Madhav, son of Dhyan Singh, resident of Gandhawani village in Dhar district was nabbed by the Special Cell of Delhi Police from the same spot (near the bridge connecting NH-24 with Gaziabad) on 9 September 2017. From his possession the police had seized 9 pistols and a country made weapon, along with 9 spare magazines.

These are only a few examples of seizure of illegal arms brought to the national capital by carriers from Madhya Pradesh. These seizures only amount to striking at the tip of the iceberg. The problem associated with gunrunning is far too deep. If the arms trafficking had not been a lucrative proposition for those involved, this illegal business would have crumbled on its own. The arrests of those engaged in gunrunning is important but what is also crucial is that the network of those manufacturing and smuggling weapons has to be targeted and there should be great emphasis on building a mechanism to squeeze the demand for illegal arms.

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