Believe it or not but Jammu and Kashmir has become second state in the country which has issued highest number of Gun Licenses in the country.
J&K is second only after the country’s most populous state in the country, Uttar Pradesh where Deputy Commissioner’s have issued more than 3 lakh gun licenses. In Utter Pradesh, more than 1277914 persons have licensed weapons. According to an official report of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, various Deputy Commissioners (DCs) especially those who have served in various districts in Jammu province have issued 3, 69191 gun licenses during the last 15 years.
The figures of more than 3 lakh are alarming for a state like Jammu and Kashmir which is militancy infested as well as 20th in terms of population in the country. With a population of 1.25 crore, every 33rd person has a gun in Jammu and Kashmir. A little more research and another shocking figure comes to the fore. If the population and the number of gun licenses are taken into account, 2.94 percent of the population owns a gun.
Compare this with Uttar Pradesh which is number 1 in the country in terms of number of gun licenses issued in the country, 0.63 percent of the total population of more than 19 crore owns a licensed weapon. Deputy Commissioners in J&K have issued highest number of gun licenses on the basis of the density of the population. More astonishingly, 65 to 70 percent of these gun licenses have been issued to the serving as well as retired army, BSP and CRPF personnel.
The data further reveals that Maharashtra and Bihar, two states which together account for 26 percent of the country each have issued less than 1 lakh licenses. Jammu and Kashmir is among 6 states of the country which have issued more than 1 lakh gun licenses. Even among these states, Jammu and Kashmir has issued highest number of gun licenses. Jammu and Kashmir has put bigger states like Rajasthan, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab behind.
State home department which is headed by Raj Kumar Goyal who too has served as Deputy Commissioner (DC) has desisted from ordering an in-depth probe into this murky business. The records clearly indicate that these gun licenses have been issued by Deputy Commissioners (DCs), some of whom have retired and some others, who are serving on important and influential positions in the state movement. Some are on central deputation while some other are trying to get a central deputation at the earliest date.
The data reveals that J&K is second in the country in terms of issuance of gun licenses, a distinction which speaks in volumes about how Deputy Commissioners (DCs) in collusion with SSPs of various districts have issued gun license in a state which is militancy infested and where commoners are made to run from pillar to post for getting a gun license. Though the Ministry has desisted from sharing district wise details but has stated that Srinagar, Udhampur and Kishtwar are three districts alongwith Reasi, Rajouri and Poonch, from where highest number of licenses have been issued.
Ramban too has not remained behind. 2 Lakh of these licenses were issued between 2009 and 2014, the period during which NC-Congress coalition was in power in the state. Around 7,048 licenses were issued in Shopian. Data further reveals that the licenses have been issued to army units posted outside the state. Even the units which are stationed as far as in Assam and Manipur have got armed licenses from various districts of Jammu and Kashmir.
It needs to be mentioned here that several Doda district officials were booked by Crime Branch for their alleged involvement in a fake gun license racket on November 11, 2013. Racket had come to light after the department on November 11 received a sealed packet containing 80 gun licenses and the Gun License Issue Register. The register contained details of people to whom gun licenses had either been issued or are yet to be issued under seal and signature of District Magistrate.
Suspicion grew after crime branch officials found that some of the pages in the register and a few licenses carried no other details except the signature and seal of the District Magistrate. A case was registered and it is not known what happened to the probe.
State government has often agreed that gun licenses have been issued mostly to the security force personnel but never ordered a probe to find out details of their postings. “They would never order probe since the one heading the Home Department is the one who might have served as Deputy Commissioner (DC) in some district or the officer who may have wronged might be his close associate or a friend or a batchmate or a similar state angle might be involved,” said an official.
Rampant issuance of the gun licenses has raised eyebrows given the reports of misuse and security breach. In 2010 Delhi police arrested three people for running gun racket. The kingpin, a sweeper in the ordnance depot, was obtaining licenses on fake documents in J&K. In 2011, J&K police busted a fake gun licenses racket in border areas and sought cancelling 209 such licenses.
Even Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has stated that indiscriminate issuance of licenses to criminals has become a threat to national security. It has told MHA that 1,009 licenses had been issued to individuals with questionable reputations. OF these, 400 licenses had been issued to alleged criminals in Madhya Pradesh, 400 in Uttar Pradesh, 70 in Delhi, 50 in Rajasthan, 30 in Haryana and 20 in Bihar. What makes the issue serious is the fact even the state government has admitted of having issued more than three lakh gun licenses in the state since the year 2009.
It needs to be mentioned here that Arms license for All India validity can be granted after seeking prior concurrence of State Home department with full justification in deserving cases only. Sources said that it has also become a matter of serious concern as to who all managed to give these licenses of all India validity to people with tainted credentials. They said that arms licenses and weapons purchased by these accused persons will be seized as these have been purchased in contravention to the MHA’s Guidelines.
Sources further said that licenses have even been issued to those who have virtually no threat to their lives. Besides, those who have been involved in criminal cases are themselves a threat to other peace loving citizens yet these individuals have been issued arms license, said sources in MHA. They stressed that those individuals who have criminal background succeeded in procuring Arms Licenses from Jammu and Kashmir through the mediators/agents in lieu of handsome amount.
They further said that thousands of arms license holders have given false residence proof of their native places when they actually live somewhere else. A few years ago, the Crime Branch of the Delhi Police had traced guns and licenses recovered from a few mafia dons to Jammu and Kashmir. The police found guns with Ashwani Naik and Manu Sharma, who was later convicted in the Jessica Lal murder case. These cases were shifted to the CBI in 2002.
The arrest of another person with a criminal record, Krishan Kumar from Najafgarh in Delhi, also led the police to Jammu. He was carrying an arms license issued by the District Magistrate of Jammu. Crime Branch had registered 33 cases after central security agencies detected fake licenses racket. The question now remains will the reluctant Home department order a probe?
Despite alarm bells ringing, Arms licences for sale in J&K, ‘Pay Rs. 13000, get an all India arms license’
With Home department of Jammu and Kashmir sitting silently and spending more time in issuing transfer orders, those in the business of ‘selling arms licences’ illegally to the non-state subjects and security force personnel especially army men are enjoying.
According to a recent report of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, J&K has issued more than 3, 69191 gun licenses during the last 15 years. The issuance of licences has not stopped but if the sources are to be believed, licences are being issued to the army men posted in Assam, parts of Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Manipur, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh from Udhampur, Baramullah, Doda, Ramban, Rajouri, Poonch and Kishtwar.
The process has not stopped and what makes this issuance surprising is the fact that these licences are being issued despite MHA claiming of having put-in place a strict monitoring system. Sources said that the District Magistrates as well as the State Home Department is acting in complete breach of the Arms Rules-2016 which were notified vide G.S.R 701 (E) on 15-07-2016. Not even once has the home department bothered to track down those who are arms dealers and have over the years become middle man in this murky arms license business, said a top official.
He added that the arms dealers who have connections with the top rung ministers of both PDP and BJP besides having direct liaison with some of the officials of Home Department are having a free run. From the corridors of civil secretariat to the personal chambers of several PDP cabinet ministers and BJP state ministers, sources said that these arms dealers who take ‘orders for making gun licences in bulk from the security forces especially the army men posted both within and outside the state’ ensure that they get a favorable Deputy Commissioner (DC) and a brave ‘Home Secretary’ for getting their job done.
Rules do not allow either the Deputy Commissioner or the Home Secretary to issue any kind of arms license to any individual even covered under the Arms Rules-2016 if he is not a state subject or his unit is not stationed in the district from where he has applied for the licences. Rules bar army personnel not serving in the state from applying for arms license. Not only this, the application for grant of arms license may be presented by the applicant in person or sent through the medium of post office or filed electronically or otherwise, to the licensing authority, as far as possible, having jurisdiction in respect of the place where he ordinarily resides or has his occupation.
But in case of Jammu and Kashmir, sources said that some arms dealers and gun manufacturers strike a deal with a ‘friendly Deputy Commissioner (DC)’ whose clerk dealing with the gun licences charges a fixed amount per license and then, the same is issued. They added that army personnel alongwith other non-state subjects serving in central security forces or BSF pay around Rs. 13000 for getting a gun license which ordinarily costs Rs. 2000 as license fee or Rs. 1000 as renewal fee.
Sources disclosed that the half of this amount goes to the clerk who issues these licences with the consent of the ‘friendly Deputy Commissioner’ while adding that it is not known whether the amount reaches the ‘friendly Deputy Commissioner’ or not. Since Jammu and Kashmir is the only state where Arms license can be got without much trouble, security forces especially those from the Army and BSF prefer spending money in J&K, than anywhere else, added the sources.
The rules clearly stipulate that an application by a member of the armed forces of the union shall be made through his Commanding Officer to the licensing authority having jurisdiction in respect of the place to which he is for the time being posted. But Deputy Commissioners of Udhampur, Kishtwar, Doda, Ramban, Poonch, Rajouri, Baramullah and Anantnag in the last 15 years have issued licences to the member of the armed forces serving in the far-east and far-west of the country.
It is mandated that the licensing authority may, in accordance with any instructions issued by the state government in respect of all or any class of firearms, require the personal attendance of the applicant before granting the license under this rule. But records bear testimony to the fact that in most of the cases, the applicants do not visit the office of the Deputy Commissioner or the concerned official in the Home department of Jammu and Kashmir, said the source. “Since cameras have been installed all over, one can seek the footage and analyze the number of applicants who adhere to this important section of the arms act,” added the official source.
He stressed that if the video footages of all the DC offices as well as that of the civil secretariat are analyzed, only some of the gun manufactures and dealers would be found roaming and not the applicants who live in some other corner of the country. More so, when the rules stipulate that any person in service or having served in the Defence Forces, Central Armed Police Forces or the State Police Force and has genuine requirement to protect his life and/or property has to be given arms license, then why every application is processed and license issued, added the official who has served for a long time in the Home department.
There are some dealers who have connections all over the state and it is these dealers who once tried to influence me for issuing all India licences since the same is to be issued by the Home department, said the official while adding that despite being a cumbersome process, it is a miracle how the police department processes the case at an alarming pace. “In certain cases, licences have been issued within hours. This needs a thorough probe,” the official demanded.
Syed Junaid Hashmi is a journalist based in Jammu