Aman Sood, Tribune News service
Patiala, December 1. Getting an illegal firearm is a cakewalk in Punjab. All one needs is some money and clout.
What’s more, callous officials only make the task easier. Information collected by The Tribune reveals that hundreds of residents of Punjab and even outsiders have procured illegal weapons from arms dealers against fake addresses.
Punjab Deputy CM Sukhbir Badal has ordered a probe to ascertain how Sukhdev Singh Namdhari, an accused in the Ponty Chadha shootout, got an arms licence despite not being a Punjab resident.
Investigations by the police suggest that arms dealers across the country are coming to Punjab to get illegally imported firearms transferred to their clients. As many as 18 Prohibited Bore (PB) weapons — including 18 30-star pistols which cannot be legally imported — were recently seized by the Rajpura police from an arms dealer.
In July, the Patiala police had arrested Muzaffar Rehman from Srinagar who was an active member of a module engaged in supply of illegal arms in the country. Rehman’s bank accounts showed he received money from weapon dealers in Punjab and UP.
Earlier on July 13, an arms dealer from Ferozepur, Vaneet Dabra, was arrested with 18 foreign-made pistols near Rajpura.
The Patiala police recently recovered 48 weapons that were transferred to owners outside the state. These arms owners were shown as Punjab residents. “Many weapon dealers from other states have good links in Punjab.
People in Delhi, Ghaziabad and UP pay hefty amount to them to get a weapon transferred in their name,” said investigating officer Kuldeep Singh.
Explaining the modus operandi of weapon dealers, a police officer said through their contacts in the office where a renewal or transfer of a fire arm is done, these dealers get the illegal arm registered or transferred in the name of a genuine applicant.
“The genuine applicant doesn’t know that an additional arm has been registered in his name. The additional weapon is passed on to illegal buyer,” he said.
Similarly, some dealers connive with DC office clerks in many districts to get an all-India licence for their clients, showing them as Punjab residents, he said.
“Many persons who have been arrested with illegal arms are not Punjab residents but have licences issued on the basis of fake addresses in the state,” says Rajpura SP Bhupinder Singh Khatra.