More than 5000 guns were looted from various armouries of the state force, including police, Manipur Rifles and IRB in the wake of the present conflict. How did this happen?
As the Kuki militants under SoO armed with sophisticated weapons continue their attacks at the foothill villages of the Meitei, the villagers were desperate for weapons and whatever licensed guns they have were no match for the weapons of Kuki militants, who they suspect had the backing of the central armed forces.
While the Central forces remain indifferent to the attacks of the Kuki militants, they started disarming the Meiteis of their licensed guns which led to scuffles with the womenfolk and sometimes with the state forces.
This led to a clamour for more gun licences from the villagers of the periphery. This would not have happened had the Central forces acted on the violation of the SoO ground rules by the Kuki militants and retaliated, and provided protection to the civilian population of the Meitei villages.
But the innocent villagers were left at the mercy of the heavily armed militants as they ransacked and burnt houses besides killing people, including women and children, while they remained mere onlookers.
This has led to the villagers and general public at large to lose confidence in the central forces. Hence, the cries for removal of Central armed forces from periphery Meitei villages and among the general public.
The mistrust and doubt against the Central armed forces has led to people seeking licences for guns among the villagers and the general public which was refused by the administration as dictated by the security advisor.
All the deputy commissioners were given blanket instructions not to entertain requests for gun licences.
As the attacks by Kuki militants continued incessantly, the storming and looting of state armouries began in right earnest by the general public.
Now, the state administration is demanding that the looted arms be returned and that strict actions would be taken up against possession of such looted weapons.
Despite appeals, the Union Home Minister Amit Shah had announced that combing operations would begin aimed at recovering the weapons.
Through press reports we have seen that, many of the looted weapons have been either returned or left at places for the police to recover. Having said this, the state and central armed forces need to act tough against the Kuki militants and then the arms surrender would certainly follow.
No ordinary citizen of India can obtain a firearm without a valid license granted by the competent licensing authority nor can he use it without reasonable cause.
The latest amended Arms Rules of 2016 has made the license mandatory even for airguns. Law states that a license can be issued for anyone who has a good reason without stipulating what constitutes a good reason.
Typically applicants wanting a license for self-defence purposes need to prove danger to their life. Article 14 states that authorities can deny a license for unspecified "public peace or for public safety" reasons.
They are not obligated to give reason for refusal of application if they deem it to be necessary. Firearm licenses must be renewed every three years. Openly carrying of firearms is prohibited. All firearms must be carried in specially designed holsters.
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In 1959, the Arms Act of 1878 as enacted by the British was finally repealed and a whole new Arms Act was passed. It was better than the Britisher’s edition, but at the same time, it was also reflective of the Indian Government’s distrust in its own citizens. This act gave arbitrary use of powers to the licensing authorities.
The act of 1959, was supplemented by the arms rules in 1962. They both together regulate, i.e., prohibit the acquisition, possession, manufacture, sale, export, import and transfer of firearms except with a license, which in itself is quite difficult to obtain since the process is tedious and may take even years to complete.
As of present, the gun laws in India are one of the most stringent in the world. In the United States, acquiring any firearm (including a gun) is a constitutional right, but in India it can only be termed a privilege.
No ordinary Indian citizen can acquire a gun without obtaining a license from the competent licensing authority.
Read More: IFP EDITORIAL