The Sikligars, a traditional gun-making community in Madhya Pradesh, may have extended their smuggling operations to newer states, including Jammu and Kashmir and the Maoist violence-hit Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal.
A report prepared by the state police special task force (MP STF) based on investigations into gunrunning operations in five districts of the state’s Malwa Nimar region revealed that Sikligars have contacts in 19 states.
The investigations based on analysis of phone call details of 96 identified gunrunners, operating from 32 villages of Barwani, Dhar, Khargone, Burhanpur and Khandwa districts, revealed the sikligars were working through a network of around 5,000 couriers and other inter-state gunrunners, key sources in the STF told HT.
“Not only have the identified sikligars contacts in 19 states, but their call detail records suggest that they have been physically moving and meeting their contacts in most of these states,” a key STF official said on terms of anonymity.
Sikligars contacts were found in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand in the north, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh in the west, Bihar, West Bengal and Odisha and North East in the east and Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala in the south.
The STF that was entrusted with the task of zeroing in on the gunrunning operations in May 2016 has already detailed the outcome of the two-year long investigations to the state police chief.
Some of these Sikligars whose contacts are settled in areas such as Jodhpur and Bharatpur in Rakasthan have shifted to these places and started operating from there.
“Unlike the gunrunners of Munger and neighbourhood in Bihar who make guns in their houses, the Sikligars make the guns by holing up in dense forests and hillocks, from where they escape on a whiff of police raids,” an STF officer added.
The investigations also revealed Sikligars’ 17,000 contacts in 39 districts of MP alone.
The pistols and revolvers (including semi-automatic pistols) are sold to other gunrunners through couriers for prices ranging between Rs 8,000 and Rs 12,000, but the weapon gets costlier as it goes through multiple gunrunning rackets before reaching the actual customer.
The STF also conducted a three-day training workshop that concluded on Saturday in Bhopal for 60-odd police officers from 15 districts on working against Sikligars, their couriers and linked contacts.
The exercise saw STF officers down to the rank of inspectors and sub-inspectors imparting detailed training to cops from districts. The training that was addressed by STF chief additional director general Sudhir Shahi and assistant inspector general Ashish Khare, aimed at sensitising police men to deal with seizure of illegal firearms in a multi-pronged manner.
Rather than just booking the person arrested with firearm under the Arms Act, which allowed the criminal to get out on bail easily, the trainers asked the cops to investigate the case with the aim of tracking the gunrunning racket, spanning from the weapon’s source, intermediaries and the ultimate customer.