//Guns from North sell like hot cakes in Gujarat

Guns from North sell like hot cakes in Gujarat

SURAT/AHMEDABAD: Gujarat could be seeing a fatal trend on the rise: youths turning trigger happy with illegal possession of firearms, mostly procured from Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

Last Monday, a computer engineering student, Dhruval Patel, 19, was killed by his friends of the same age, with a 9-mm pistol. The accused, Jasud Patel and Himanshu Brahmbhatt confessed to having purchased the weapon from Etawah, UP, for Rs 30,000.

Police sources say that certain pockets like Dungarpur in MP and Etawah support an illegal-firearms manufacturing industry.

"Members of the Sikligar gang specialise in making country-made firearms that not only resemble the genuine, branded firearms but are also just as ‘deadly’", they say.

 Earlier, a private security guard was killed by a stray bullet fired from his colleague’s ‘licensed rifle’ from UP. The victim was part of a wedding party where the host had announced a reward of Rs 100 for every shot fired in the air to greet the groom.
Like many others, this guard got a job with a private security agency, just because he carried a licensed rifle.

Gun licensing norms say that one can get a licence for using firearms either for personal protection or if one works as a security guard at institutions like banks and offices.

A private security agency owner in Amraiwadi told TOI: "Youngsters from neighbouring states come with rifles licensed for personal protection. We employ such youths and ensure that they carry their firearms to work.

 Such security guards not only earn more money, they also get plum postings." The Etawah market offers effective country-made guns for Rs 4,000-5,000. The same would cost between Rs 15,000 and Rs 20,000 in Gujarat.

At least two gangs of gun-runners were nabbed by the Ahmedabad (Range) police in 2004-05. "More than 35 firearms — pistols, revolvers and rifles — were recovered in different operations," said DIG (Ahmedabad range), AK Sharma.

The Surat police have seized country-made weapons from Pandesara, Sachin, Varachha, Kapodara and Katargam areas over the past few years. In most of the cases, the guilty were migrant labourers who had smuggled these crude weapons from their home states.

"Like in Varachha, the Sikligars bring in these weapons, mostly from Kishanganj, Kanpur, Azamgarh in UP and Munger in Bihar", says Pandesara inspector KM Polra.

Bihar has reported instances where railway wagon door handles were cut to make barrels of guns, inform sources. Some of the trains used for smuggling these weapons are the Howrah-Ahmedabad express, Ganga-Tapi express and the Patna-Valsad express.

 Police officials add that generally a country-made revolver is procured for Rs 500 and sold anywhere between Rs 1,500 to Rs 3,500.

Gun-running isn’t so uncommon in Vadodara either. Sources say there were persons in and around Vadodara who could arrange for such guns.

"They are not exclusively arms peddlers, but have the resources to arrange for one. A ‘tamancha’ can be obtained for Rs 2,000, a revolver between Rs 3,500 and Rs 6,000 and a ‘Mauser’ pistol for Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000," said the source.

Police sources admit that the number of offences where such guns have been used, have gone up. Said Vadodara crime branch police inspector KB Jadeja, "Such persons have been booked at regular intervals.

It is not difficult to obtain guns from UP or MP as making such arms is a cottage industry there. The fact that there are persons willing to buy such arms at a premium makes the business profitable."

( Vadodara inputs by Sachin Sharma )

Paul John and Sourav Mukherjee, [ Friday, February 10, 2006 11:29:41 pmTIMES NEWS NETWORK ]