JAMMU: More than 3 lac 60 thiousand gun licenses have been issued in Jammu and Kashmir during the last fifteen years, therefore next to India’s most populous Uttar Pradesh.
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, 69,191 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 India in terms of number of gun licenses issued, 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 India each have issued less than 1 lakh licenses.
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.
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.
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?