Amid fears of renewed communal strife in western Uttar Pradesh, the seizure in Delhi of a large consignment of Muzaffarnagar-bound illegal firearms assembled at the gun-running hub of Munger in Bihar has raised apprehensions that simmering tensions are driving arms buying binge in the region.
All the three accused arrested by the Delhi Police Special Cell with an AK-47 assault rifle and 30 pistols belong to Muzaffarnagar, which was not long ago at the centre of communal clashes. The seizure has set the alarm-bells ringing with the police trying to ascertain for whom the firearms were being smuggled out to Muzaffarnagar.
Given that the region has witnessed a series of riots in the recent months, security agencies suspect that easy availability of firearms in the troubled pockets could prompt locals to arm themselves and this could potentially trigger further unrest.
Equating Munger to Darrah in the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan, Inspector-General of Police (Meerut Zone) Alok Sharma told The Hindu: “This is definitely not a module [busted by the Delhi Police] in the strict sense. Some local gangs are known to possess AK-47s and other sophisticated weapons, which they often use at each other to settle scores.”
DIG K. Satyanarayana said the September 2013 riots of Muzaffarnagar, the recent violence in Meerut and the firing at Islamic studies students of Deoband could not be seen in isolation. “We have to somehow put the scrambled jigsaw puzzle to get to the roots,” he said.
For their part, the Bihar Police have taken cognisance of the gun-running syndicate busted by the Delhi Police. State Director-General of Police Abhayanand told The Hindu: “We have been taking action against the Munger gun-runners and made large number of arrests….These weapons are being used to commit a range of crimes.”
Since January, the police in Munger have seized 2,800 small firearms, a modified AK-47 and a Self-Loading Rifle (SLR). Due to the pressure mounted by the police, many gun-runners have shifted base to Midnapore in West Bengal. However, assembling of weapons is still being done in Munger. “The gun-runners have also found hideouts in Asansol [West Bengal],” said another police officer.
Although there have been reports of the sophisticated Munger illegal firearms being sold to criminal gangs and even Naxals in different States, sources said it was for the first time they had come across a case creating an apprehension that these weapons could add “fuel to the fire.”