For those looking to buy a weapon minus the hassle of getting a licence, the arms bazaar in Uttar Pradesh is a one-stop shop that fits every pocket and style and even home-delivers the ‘goods’, an HT investigation has found out.
We penetrated this booming market and found every kind of gun on offer, from the locally-made ‘kattas’ to the more sophisticated pistols smuggled from Munger in Bihar or Panna in Madhya Pradesh. We visited 14 districts and — despite the high alert after the Muzaffarnagar riots and several home ministry advisories — met gun agents and visited local katta factories with relative ease.
In east UP’s Gorakhpur, Mukesh, a gun-runner we met behind a highway dhaba, said, “Just deposit the money in the bank and the ‘piece’ will be delivered to your doorstep.”
Deliveries are made not just within the state but to faraway Delhi and Mumbai too.
Mukesh, who came in an SUV and had five smartphones, is clearly making a lot of money delivering weapons “’through couriers who mostly have a criminal background”.
Inter-state buses, which are seldom checked, are used to transport the weapons. Within UP, guns are even hidden in school bags and ferried by children.
In the central districts of Etah and Etawah, agents were willing to offer us up to 10 country-made pistols even when we made no attempt to conceal our identity. “From thugs to farmers, I supply all kinds of people, even politicians,” an Etah agent claimed, but refused to name names.
“The demand for kattas has increased in Etah and Kasganj district as getting a licence has become difficult,” he added.
Another factor why the gun business is booming is affordability — the kattas start at `1,500. But for those willing to pay big money, the imported guns go up to `7 lakh.
After the Muzaffarnagar violence that left more than 40 dead, the Akhilesh Yadav government cancelled several thousand gun licences in the region.
But that hardly makes a difference in a state where unlicensed weapons outnumber licensed guns by 200-400%.