The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Businessmen seek arms for self-defence

Siliguri, Oct. 7: Worried about their safety in the wake of the rising Kamtapuri violence in the region, businessmen in north Bengal are planning to buy guns to fend off attacks.

At a recent executive body meeting of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry here, the entrepreneurs decided to seek arms licence en masse from the administration. They also planned to build “a close and strong” communication network with the administration.

Focin, the apex organisation of business groups in the north Bengal districts, stressed that the move did not reflect “a lack of faith” in the administration.

“This is not to say that we have lost faith in the police. It is despite their best efforts that criminals create problems and incidents like Dhupguri take place,” said Biswajit Das, general secretary of the federation.

“We all know it is impossible for the police to provide individual care. So, by arming ourselves, we will at least be able to take care of ourselves.”

Das said the businessmen did not intend to take the law into their own hands.

“Actually, we want to cooperate with the police and the administration.”

The federation official said carrying out business transactions in rural areas — with general communication problems — had become risky of late. “If the businessmen are better-equipped, they will be able to protect themselves in times of crisis. The weapon will act as a deterrent to the attacker in the first place,” he added.

Das said the weapons will be used strictly for self-defence. “In fact, once the licences and the weapons are procured, we are planning to sit together, preferably along with the police, so that the users are explained how to use them and strictly under what circumstances.”

Asked if the business community faced threats of extortion or kidnapping, Das said: “We are worried that things might go out of hand if action is not taken in time. We are taking up arms as precaution.”

Police officials, however, said there was no reason for panic. “Though incidents like Dhupguri scared the people, the situation is not so bad. The police are always there to protect the people. They should have faith in us and take our help whenever and wherever needed,” said additional superintendent of police, Siliguri, Kaliappan Jayaraman.

“The businessmen have not yet informed us, but if any such proposal is made, we will look into the matter on a case-to-case basis, instead of treating them collectively,” Jayaraman said.

The federation also plans to strengthen the communication network among the businessmen and also with the administration, so that in case of any emergency, the authorities are immediately informed, Das said.

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