There is a surge in demand of illegal weapons before any election especially in Uttar Pradesh. During the nineties, the market of illegal weapons was dominated by ‘kattas’ or ‘tamanchas’ but over a period of time things seem to have changed.
The illegal gun makers have developed better techniques and now manufacture more sophisticated weapons which are a copy of branded pistols and revolvers.
After the year 2000, the police forces in the region had formed various special forces within the police force, one of them being the Special Task Force (STF). The STF was formed to tackle the then prevailing fierce gangs which had access to modern technology and advanced rifles and handguns including AK-47, AK-56 and a huge number of heavy bore pistol and rifles. The weapons were smuggled from Nepal and Bhutan into the densely populated states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
The overflow of such sophisticated weapons had a huge effect on the country-made pistols popularly known as ‘katta’. A ‘katta’ is a single shot handgun which could be loaded only with a particular type of ammo depending on the girth of the barrel. The prominently used bores for ‘kattas’, were 12 bore, 315 bore, .32 bore and 303. The kattas did not perish completely as there were few criminals who could afford these modern weapons. Petty criminals were still dependent on the ‘katta’ as the weapon was cheap and in case of any crime the weapon could be easily disassembled and destroyed, thereby erasing any evidence.
By this time the illegal gun makers of the state had understood that it was time to change the manufacturing process and shift to more advanced handguns.
The sophisticated weapons were closely studied and the functioning was examined, and a process to manufacture the copy was engineered. Initially the weapons produced were shabby and inaccurate but over a period of time the gunsmiths came up with better models and more accurate handguns.
In an exclusive interview with NewsX, Senior Superintendent of Police, Special Task Force, Amit Pathak said, “The pistols that are manufactured by the gunsmiths are better than the ‘kattas’. Initially they were not multiple-shots firing pistols but after a while the manufactures developed the technique of semi-automatic and burst-firing which made these weapons more lethal therefore the criminals started using the more sophisticated techniques.”
According to sources, the illegal gun manufacturers have also started making greater range of sophisticated rifles equipped with burst-firing like AK-47 and AK-56.
SSP UP STF Amit Pathak informed NewsX that the bore mostly used by the gunsmiths is .32 bore (7.65 mm) as it is a civilian bore and ammunition for this bore is easily available. But the weapons also come in 9 mm and other heavy bores.
Munger in Bihar and Khargone district of Madhya Pradesh were home to government ordnance factories that were later shut down. Most residents had been working in these factories for generations and making guns was the only thing they knew.
The closure put hundreds of highly skilled workers out of jobs and in towns with few available employment options they needed to find a source of sustenance. Not knowing what else to do, many resorted to making firearms in their own homes and began selling them to criminals.
SSP UP STF Amit Pathak also revealed that the weapons seized by the STF were mainly manufactured in Indore, Etah, Munger, Hatras, Khandwa, Burhanpur and Khargone.
As per sources, with the elections in Uttar Pradesh a few weeks away, the process of gun making is in full swing with the bulky orders the gun makers have received before the elections and the time for delivery has nearly approached.
It is nearly impossible to win elections in Uttar Pradesh on the sole agenda of development. Almost every political party requires the support of the strong men with muscle power to help them in winning elections.
SSP UP STF, Amit Pathak, further added, “Total number of weapons seized in the last 6 months would be close to 250 but this figure is more than the normal seizures.” However, he said that it cannot be concluded that these weapons were especially to be used during the UP elections.
There are various other agencies like Special Operations Group (SOG), Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) and the local police that have been carrying out regular raids to bust any such operating racket that smuggles illegal weapons into Uttar Pradesh.
SSP Pathak said, “We have been coordinating with various security agencies regarding this and the most efficient way to check the smuggling is to impose a strict check on the supply of ammunition.”
Earlier, there was an order by the government that licensed weapon holders will have to submit the bullet shells to get fresh live ammunition. This was a major step in this direction but there are many illegal industries in Uttar Pradesh that earn their living by manufacturing live ammunition.