Munger's smoking guns: Bihar town turns into illegal weapons hub
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Chandra Shekhar Azad stands at Azad Chowk, the centre of Munger town, his body awash in silver paint, his left hand twirling his moustache. His right wrist has been left limp after an unruly crowd hit it during a procession, but the grip on the pistol hasn't loosened. The statue of the freedom fighter and the symbolism are hard to miss in Munger, about which, the saying goes, "Ye aslahon ka dayar hai, yahan buzdili ki baat kya (it is a place housing arms, no place for cowardice here)."
Guns and Munger: Since Mir Qasim (Nawab of Bengal from 1760-63) shifted his capital to Munger and set up an arms factory here, this town in eastern Bihar has been part of this double-barreled identity. Now it is the hub of the country's illegal gun trade, from where sophisticated guns find their way to markets in Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana and Punjab. Last month, the Delhi Police seized 99 pistols, hidden to their surprise behind the headlights of an Ambassador car coming from Munger. The consignment was meant to be delivered to someone in Meerut.
The town has 37 legal gun units manufacturing 12-bore shotguns, but demand for these long-barreled guns, seen as unwieldy and slow, fell when illegal units in Munger began making hipper revolvers, pistols and carbines. The state government's licensing policy making it difficult to own a legal weapon was just the trigger. Against a standard two months to get a licence, in Bihar, the process takes not less than one-two years, including rigid identification norms and recommendation of authorities from block level right up to the licensing authority, the district magistrate.