Madhya Pradesh’s traditional gun-making community of Sikligars may be dealing in pistols of foreign make and its rip-offs, the police indicated after a late-night operation in Dhar district on Saturday night failed to nab any of the accused.
Madhya Pradesh’s Special Task Force sources said a team led by senior sub inspector Santosh Kumar Pandey went posing as firearms customers to Lalbag village near Dhamnod town of Dhar district on Saturday night.
The STF team struck a deal with a sikligar identified as Chandar alias Satnam Singh, who showed the STF team an automatic pistol and said it was of English make and priced at Rs1 lakh.
He also promised to get better automatic pistols of Russian, Austrian, Swedish and German make for prices ranging between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 5 lakh.
When the deal was about to be finalised, Satnam and his three gun-making aides sensed the customers were undercover cops.
He and his aides escaped after they attacked the STF team and injured three constables. Two of them are still in hospital.
“A case of attempt to murder and using criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty has been lodged against seven identified accused and several unidentified persons,” Dhar SP Rajesh Hingankar said on Wednesday.
STF sources in Bhopal termed the seizure of the alleged English make pistol as a significant development. Police say Sikligars have customers across the country, including Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Gujarat.
“Several sikligars have been arrested and weapons seized in Barwani, Khargone, Dhar, Burhanpur and Khandwa districts of MP’s Malwa-Nimar region since 2013. But only guns spanning from .315 or .12 bore pistols to semi-automatic pistols and even carbines have so far been seized,” an STF official in Bhopal said.
Never before have either the Sikligars supplied pistols of foreign make nor have any weapons resembling foreign made pistols been seized from them, the official said.
With past investigations revealing links between sikligars and gunrunners in districts bordering the Indo-Pak border in Rajasthan, the STF is not ruling out the possibility of the seized pistol having been sourced from other inter-state gunrunners to earn more money.
Sikligars usually get between Rs 5,000 and Rs 30,000 in Malwa-Nimar for weapons manufactured by them.
“Either the pistol could be of foreign make sourced from other inter-state arm smugglers or could even be lookalikes manufactured by Sikligars themselves. Anything would become clear only after the pistol presently in Dhamnod police’s possession is sent for ballistic analysis to state forensic lab,” the STF official said.
“Arrest of the absconding sikligars will also help uncover mystery about possible smuggling of firearms of foreign make by Sikligars.” Hingankar said the seized pistol will soon be sent for a ballistics analysis.
Who are Sikligars?
Sikligar is a small community of around 15,000 spread over four districts of western Madhya Pradesh — Khandwa, Khargone, Dhar and Barwani. They are also found in Gujarat, Haryana and Punjab.
Past: For generations, the people of this village have been making guns, a craft they first picked up to arm the military wing of Guru Govind Singh in the 17th century. After Independence, arms-making was declared illegal and so was their profession.
Earning: A Sikligar can earn anything between Rs 3,000 to Rs 40,000 for an investment of Rs 1,500 to Rs 4,000. They work with bare hands using a hammer and chisel. They can make one weapon in about four days.
Weapons: They can make .315 or .12 bore pistols, semi-automatic pistols and even carbines.
Reach: Investigations reveal that Sikligars have customers based all across the country — spanning from Tamil Nadu to UP, Delhi-NCR to Maharashtra and Rajasthan to Gujarat.
Present: Several Sikligars have been arrested and weapons seized in Barwani, Khargone, Dhar, Burhanpur and Khandwa districts of MP’s Malwa-Nimar region since 2013, including arrests of 30 Sikligars in the last six months.