Why Northeast Delhi violence is India’s first Hindu-Muslim riots with guns  

Why Northeast Delhi violence is India’s first Hindu-Muslim riots with guns  

Of the 38 persons killed in Delhi riots, nearly half had bullet injuries. Delhi Police claims open use of firearms shows people had stocked up these illegal weapons.

A protestor brandishes a pistol during clashes between a group of anti-CAA protestors and supporters of the new citizenship act, at Jafrabad in north-east Delhi | PTI

A protestor brandishes a pistol during clashes between a group of anti-CAA protestors and supporters of the new citizenship act, at Jafrabad in north-east Delhi | PTI

New Delhi: The death toll in the Delhi riots has reached 38 and nearly half of them died of gunshot injuries, ThePrint has learnt. Among the injured, nearly 80 have sustained bullet injuries, according to the police.

The Delhi Police has claimed to have recovered over 500 empty cartridges, which include those of .32 bore, 9 mm and even .315 bore pistols from the riot-hit areas in Northeast Delhi, and that these were fired from weapons used by the rioters.  

Such open use of firearms, mostly the desi kattas (country-made pistols), in the area clearly shows that the people there had stocked up these weapons,” a police source said. Most of these men who purchase these are unemployed youth, who are migrants from either UP or Bihar and thus, for them, access to supply nodes has always been easy.”

The Delhi Police also confirmed that this is the first Hindu-Muslim riot that has seen such widespread use of guns.

“Pistols have been used freely in this riot, and this is a first,” a senior police officer said. “Even in small scale riots that were contained, like those of Trilokpuri, bricks, stones and other arms were used. This is not only disturbing but extremely dangerous.”

“This is a reason for great concern. We are investigating how so many people got access to arms,” the officer added.   

The weapons are suspected to have reached the national capital through UP, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, well-known routes for the smuggling of illegal firearms into Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR), sources in the police said.

According to the sources, the demand for such weapons has always been the highest in Northeast and Outer Delhi.

“There are many reasons for this,” the source quoted above said. “That area, close to the borders, has always remained vulnerable. Organised gangs operate out of there, and a number of history sheeters live there. Most FIRs are also registered in these pockets.” 

“While most buy these weapons as they are involved with gangs, others do it for safety,” he added. 

The weapons, however, aren’t exactly cheap. While a country-made pistol made in Bihar’s Munger is easily available for Rs 7,000 to Rs 8,000, guns from Madhya Pradesh can cost between Rs 4,000 and 6,000. They are further sold for anywhere between Rs 30,000 and Rs 40,000 by the time they reach Delhi.

The source said the Delhi Police has conducted several raids in these areas to stop the flow and even involved the UP Police in the operations but the weapons still make it through. 

“There have been several operations, crackdowns and drives wherein we have recovered large cache of arms but these weapons continue to be pushed through the borders,” the source said. “Each time they come up with an innovative idea to bring them here.”  

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Madhya Pradesh is the new hub for illegal weapons

According to sources in the Delhi Police, Madhya Pradesh is new hub for the illegal weapons.

Four areas in the state — Dhar, Khargaon, Badwani and Khandwa — are producing and pushing most of the weapons into Delhi, another police source told ThePrint. 

But the quality of weapons is inferior to those made in Munger by the local community called Sikligars, the source added.

Of these four areas in MP, most weapons come from Khargaon and Badwani, he said.

.32 bore pistol & .315 single shot pistol ‘most preferred’ 

Till about 2017, Munger in Bihar used to be the primary source of illicit semi-automatic weapons and Meerut of UP used to be the primary source of single shot, crude kattas. But after police intervention, the industry in Munger was displaced,” a senior police officer said.

The good quality weapons, however, still come from Munger, the officer added.

While country made pistols are available freely in several variants including, 318 bore desi pistol, .32 bore semi-automatic pistol, 9 MM pistol, the most “preferred” one are the .32 bore pistol and .315 single shot pistol. The reason is that their cartridges are easily available.

According to a third police source, the good quality pistols are still made in Munger as the main raw material — iron, used for making the barrel and hammer — the two most important elements in a pistol, are sourced from scraps of a railway yard.

While the iron used in MP is sourced from local scrap dealers.

The iron that is available in Munger, is sourced from railway yards as it is available in that area in abundance. But in MP, it is sourced from local scrap dealers, which is not as strong and sturdy as the iron used by Railways,” the source said. “This is the major reason for the difference in quality. The main elements in a pistol are hammer and barrel, which require sturdy material, rest all is spring and other minor elements,” he said.

Another factor is that in Munger, there are pucca bhangars (furnaces in which the metal is melted). But in MP it is kachcha bhangars.

The bhangars in Munger generate much more heat and pressure which makes the weapon stronger. These furnaces in Munger are designed in a way to take that heat. But in MP, since the set up is temporary, the furnace is not that effective and thus it affects the quality of the weapon,” the source explained. 

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