Ex-minister of J&K bails out 2 natives held with rifles

Two of 21 Jammu and Kashmiri natives arrested by Crime Branch Wednesday for violating gun licence terms and condictions were bailed out by a former cabinet minister of that state Thursday.

Sources said the politician, in Mumbai for unrelated work, came to know of the arrests and reached the Crime Branch property cell office. "The politician was there for nearly three hours, talking to officers. He then offered to stand guarantee for two," said a source.

The politician said he did not want the arrests to create an impression that Kashmiris were involved in a serious crime in Mumbai, a possibility if they stayed in jail for too long.

The 21 men were arrested at Sharif Nagar in Bandra. They were found using rifles bought on personal gun licences for commercial purposes.

Police said the accused would carefully conceal the rifles every night after returning from work. The raid party could not find the firearms in all the obvious places it searched, and stepped out.

Outside the house, the cops had a quick discussion on how to proceed and went back in for a second search.

"There were several bags filled with clothes in the room. We emptied them and at the bottom, found several long pipes that looked like gun barrels. A search of other bags revealed butts and other parts of the rifles. We then laid the parts out on the floor and started putting them together. Within half-an-hour, we had 21 rifles," said an officer part of the raid team.

The accused, employed as security guards, later told police they would dismantle the rifles every night and hide them in the bags. Each morning, they would reassemble them before going to work. Probe so far has pointed to large racket operating in Poonch district, where people get licences for self-protection.

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