Eight-year-old Raju, who was injured in Monday’s crossfire, at RIMS in Ranchi on Tuesday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
April 21: the eight-year-old son of a tailor sustained a stomach wound in front of his Kotwali home as two youths traded fire and a bullet missed target. He is admitted at RIMS
February 27: a 45-year-old land owner was shot dead near Seventh Day Adventist Hospital on Bariatu Road
February 18: an auto-rickshaw driver was gunned down near a hotel close to his home at Maulana Azad Colony
January 22: the secretary of JMM central committee’s youth wing was fatally shot outside his home under Sadar thana
January 19: a fish vendor was killed and a tent house worker was injured in separate incidents of shooting in Namkum and Doranda
January 17: a Deoghar-based para-teacher was shot dead on a Ranchi platform as he got off an intercity train with two friends
Little Raju, landlord Kewla Kacchap, driver Sheikh Nissar, JMM leader Munna Chetan Kacchap, fish seller Mahesh Sahni, tent worker Ravi and para-teacher Premchand were all victims of Ranchi’s gun culture. While some of these seven were targets, the others were unluckier. They took bullets meant for others.
Rogue youths and firearms have been synonymous in the district for a few years. Their strange liaison has only strengthened over time although their numbers on police records might have plunged. In 2011, 117 cases were registered across the district against young men carrying illegal arms. The figure was 100 in 2012, 52 in 2013 and so far 20 this year.
So, what are police doing to stem the catapulting menace that is often snuffing out young and innocent lives?
Officer-in-charge of Kotwali police station Arwind Kumar Sinha, who registered an FIR against Mohammed Akhlaque and Mohammed Karu based on the statement of Raju’s mother on Monday night, said they were helpless.
“It is difficult to put a check on illegal use of firearms when guns are available for Rs 1,000-1,200 in the black market. Caches come from Munger (Bihar) and these youths have links. However, we have arrested the two involved in last night’s shooting,” he said, but drew a blank when asked why police could not bust gangs that smuggle in the guns.
Ranchi SSP Prabhat Kumar echoed his junior and then added: “Besides Munger, guns are also manufactured in Ranchi’s Chutia and Lower Bazaar areas. We have increased our alertness (in those areas).”
City SP Anup Birthare admitted the gun culture, but claimed “fewer and fewer” cases were being registered every year.
“Records show a drop in the number of cases booked under the arms act in the past three years. However, we are not being complacent. Interrogating the duo arrested today may lead us to the route of illegal arms supply,” he said.
The only concern is that fewer cases do not necessarily mean Ranchi’s trigger-happy youths are shunning firearms. A police constable, not willing to be named, summed up how guns have ruled and why they may continue doing so.
“Guns from Munger are in great demand among criminals as compared to the katta (a local make). While guns made here fire only one bullet at a time, those from Munger can send out a volley of eight. It is all about firepower. That is why illegal gun factories in Munger thrive like any cottage industry. Gangs, who also have women members, smuggle in these firearms. That way it is easy to hoodwink security,” he said.