2ndlook

Crime, gun ownership – and India

Posted in America, Current Affairs, History, India, Media by Anuraag Sanghi on January 6, 2009

“Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest.”  (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, in An Autobiography: The Story of my Experiments with Truth.)

Gun ownership has long been suspected as the main reason behind the crime rates in the US. The most recent argument against theory is spate of bank robberies possibly – which dilutes this argument, at least partially. Estimates of the national stock of guns in the US varies between 40 million to 50 million households which own 200 million guns.

To make sense of gun-control, a look at the world’s second largest gun-stock can be useful. Recent estimates show that India is the second largest gun owning population in the world- with 4.6 crores (46 million) guns. Mos these are illegal – and unlicensed. In the hands of the poor. Made by thousands of small factories dotted across North and North-East India.

One report report states that UP alone has 900,000 licensed fire arm holders and 1,400 arms dealers. Another report estimates more than 3 lakh illegal firearms in New Delhi alone.

Guns – Made in India

India has a large domestic cottage industry in gun manufacture. Centred around UP, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, these manufacturers supply guns to the underworld and the general population – at a cost of Rs.1000-2000 (US$20-US$40) per unit.

The other place where these guns are being manufactured – and creating mayhem is in North East India. The North East is also the porous border where drugs from the Golden Triangle are smuggled into India, for transit through the Mediterranean, through small Indian fishing boats. This drug-related violence is camouflaged as a separatist and secessionist movements.

Does the law abiding citizen need guns?

Does the law abiding citizen need guns?

Return on investment

The ‘economic’ logic of using these guns for crime is overwhelming. ‘Invest’ Rs.1000 (US$20) and make a ‘snatch’ of Rs.10,000 (US$200). UP, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh are less than 48 hours away, from any part of the country, by train. Train tickets cost less than Rs.200 (US$4). The cost of these guns ranges between Rs.1000-2000 (US$20-US$40).

With such cheap guns, available in plenty, India should be overwhelmed by crime. These illegal firearms can be easily disposed – and hence ‘safe’.

A journalist figures out that

“These days kattas are much in demand because unemployment is increasing. So to survive, people have taken to these crimes. It’s easy money. You buy a gun for Rs1,500, and use it to snatch away Rs10,000-15,000,” he says.

Gun-making is a kind of cottage industry in towns across Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh

Amjad Khan as Gabbar Singh in Sholay; a tale of hapless villagers pitted against armed bandits.

Amjad Khan as Gabbar Singh in Sholay; a tale of hapless villagers pitted against armed bandits.

Heart of darkness

UP, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh were the heart of the British Raj – where land was taken away from peasants and handed over to ‘zamindars’. These ‘zamindars’ in turn rented out this land to the peasants – and with the excess produce paid the British Raj. This ‘injustice by the ‘zamindars’ theme was played out in countless Indian films, till a decade ago.

India’s all-time biggest block buster, ‘Sholay’ was inspired by this same theme – but with a benign
‘zamindar’. With land reform, migration to urban areas, the edge of this injustice has been blunted – and this theme is now a rarity.

Unlike Europe, agricultural land in India was owned by the peasants till the arrival of British colonialism. Serfdom and landless peasants were a colonial British creation.

Targets of crimnal activity

Apart from UP, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, the development record and law and order situation is far better in other states, which had mixed administration, with local kings and colonial administrators. These areas did not see this land ‘re-distribution’ to such an intensity.

Is the current law and order problem in UP, Bihar and MP a colonial legacy?

A million militias

The War of 1857 carried on for about 4 years – and it were these small ‘workshops’ that turned out the munitions. After the end of the war, the British ensured that no Indian was allowed to own guns – except if allowed by his White masters.

These ‘workshops’ were later used by the ‘zamindars’ to arm their enforcers to extract ‘dues’ from the peasants. The peasants in turn also bought weapons from these gunsmiths to protect themselves against the agents of the Raj.

The spectre of Muslim gunsmiths

Muslims gunsmiths dominate this business – as can be seen from these reports. But the Indian Muslim, has like the rest of the country, not used these firearms dangerously. This is a strong argument against the oppression of the Muslim in India argument.

How long would it take to create a religious jihadi militia? That too, at such a low cost.

Gun Control Debate

Gun Control Debate

But what is the question …

Which brings us back to the central question? Is there a causal link between gun ownership and crime? Are these directly related and proportionate?

How can India have such a low prison population, with a poor police-to-population ratio and a crime rate which is not above the average – in spite of a large civilian gun population. The answer goes back to Lipit Ishtar, Hittite laws, Hammurabi et al – 4000 years back in history.

How the gun-control debate is getting hijacked.  |  Leo Garza cartoon featuring Nacho Guarache, his regular character, on April 22, 2007

How the gun-control debate is getting hijacked. | Leo Garza cartoon featuring Nacho Guarache, his regular character, on April 22, 2007

22 Responses

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  1. Guns and crimes at Blogbharti said, on January 6, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    […] India, the 2ndlook argues, there is a cottage industry of gun manufacturing and their use. The analysis stretches to […]

  2. […] Crime, gun ownership – and India […]

  3. […] indices – low number of policemen, low prison population and low capital punishment number – and high on gun ownership and […]

  4. Unpretentious_Diva said, on January 9, 2009 at 6:14 am

    yet hoplophobes will keep opposing guns!

    No matters it make sense or not.

    No matters its the best way to tackle crime and terrorism.

    No matters will keep writing letters to Dr Piazza explaining the causes of terrorism.

    But things won’t change. Because that’s the Impasse of democracy.

  5. Unpretentious_Diva said, on January 9, 2009 at 7:00 am

    i liked your site.

    it is very inspiring.

  6. Anuraag Sanghi said, on January 9, 2009 at 7:44 am

    Unpretentious Diva – Thanks for your participation.

    I am not sure if the entire debate you outline through your links exists in India at all. These debates generally relate to Western societies – and specifically to American societies. This debate that you are referring to, is a more a Western debate – and irrelevant to India.

    In India, most people are unaware of the Indian social situation. Our ‘dominant’ English media takes its cues and direction from the Western press – and hence ignorant of issues that the West does not point our nose to.

    Till 2 months ago, most people were (at least, I was) not aware about the estimated number of guns that Indians owned. I knew that a large number ‘illegal’ arms were owned – but this large an estimate took me completely by surprise. To me this piece of statistics was a revelation – and supported my thesis about crime in India.

    More importantly, is the point that everything that Western theory identifies as ’causes’ for crime exist in India – but the crime is absent. And since they are asking the wrong questions, the answers are wrong too. And that is important – and worth investigating.

    Western theories are clearly on the wrong track.

    Regarding democracy, the Indian Middle Westernized Class does not value the democracy that India has. The Value of that Vote is the peaceful change in Government - and in many (evolutionary and transitioning) cases, change itself is as important as the quality of change. So, I am completely unsure about the basis of your diatribe against Indian democracy.

  7. Mumbai said, on January 9, 2009 at 8:39 am

    Ha ha. The cartoons are really good.

  8. Unpretentious_Diva said, on January 9, 2009 at 9:00 am

    My diatribe is not about change.

    it is about the common clause that right to vote means Freedom.

    It is the fact that, in 1947 India got Political freedom alone, and economic freedom is yet to be achieved. The fact that even western world is not economic free, yet it is in much better situation because it realizes that right to freedom can be based ONLY upon Fundamental right to property. it can never be based upon right to vote.

    About westernization, Democracy is a western concept.

    It is just your racial discrimination which keeps you making sarcasm against western world. But the reality is, human are human, be it from Africa, Asia Europe or America, and rather than ethnicity, rationality drives Human life.

  9. Anuraag Sanghi said, on January 9, 2009 at 9:55 am

    the common clause that right to vote means Freedom.

    Yes. The Right to Vote does mean Freedom – to change Governments. Nothing less than that. History is littered with carcasses of peoples, nations, countries – who tried changing Governments, at great costs, in terms of lives, money, hardship, etc. Hence, peaceful and regular change of Governments is a significant benefit – to the poor, who are usually, not heard, much less heeded.

    in 1947 India got Political freedom alone, and economic freedom is yet to be achieved.

    The degree of economic freedom in India has been progressing slower than what the rich want – and may be adequate for the poor. Economic freedom for the rich – against an impovershed population can only mean extraction and exploitation.
    You also need to look at the history of the rich. The Rich in 1947 were the Favored Few of the British Raj – and the poor were the Dispossessed Many. Over a period of nearly 200 years (from 1757-1947), the British Colonial administration systematically took away land from Indian peasantry – and gave it to the rich landlords.
    You cannot have ‘equal’ treatment for people who are so patently ‘unequal’. Rebuilding societies from the detritus of a colonial wreckage is not an easy task. To see things clearly, the wrong asana to adopt is the ‘comfortable armchair asana’, without having seen collapsed agricultural economy of the 1947-1967 period.

    The fact that even western world is not economic free, yet it is in much better situation because it realizes that right to freedom can be based ONLY upon Fundamental right to property. it can never be based upon right to vote.

    I have no idea about the source of such ideas and estimations.
    The Indian State controls between 10%-20% of the Indian GDP. A typical Western Government controls between 50%-90% of the national GDP. The trampling of the Right to Property started in India on a colossal scale after 1757. Till about 1750-1850, most Western citizens did not have any Right to Property, whereas the poorest Indian was a property owner. The British replicated the Western property system after 1757, in India.
    As of today, the Right to Property, no doubt important is being trampled in all parts of the World.

    Democracy is a western concept

    This is too trite … take a 2ndlook.

    your racial discrimination which keeps you making sarcasm against western world.

    Are you objecting to my ‘racial discrimination’ or my criticism of West which is bothering you? Where do you see ‘racial discrimination’ or ‘illegitimate or unjustified criticism’ of the West?

    But the reality is, human are human, be it from Africa, Asia Europe or America, and rather than ethnicity, rationality drives Human life.

    This I agree with.

  10. Unpretentious_Diva said, on January 9, 2009 at 11:43 am

    Are you objecting to my ‘racial discrimination’ or my criticism of West which is bothering you? Where do you see ‘racial discrimination’ or ‘illegitimate or unjustified criticism’ of the West?

    Even I have criticized western current system on this same page. So there’s no point in that.


    The Indian State controls between 10%-20% of the Indian GDP. A typical Western Government controls between 50%-90% of the national GDP. The trampling of the Right to Property started in India on a colossal scale after 1757.

    You cannot live in past. I live in present and I am not free.
    As of today, the Right to Property, no doubt important is being trampled in all parts of the World.

    True, the thing is, I don’t care for world, I care for myself and the situation/sphere I live in, and I talk of my freedom. If I won’t talk and try, it will never be achieved.

    So it actually matters less if west or east have had freedom in past. What matters is at present things are wrong and need to be changed.

    This I agree with.

    if you agree with that, then all your criticism about west get invalid. You may criticize the system though. And as a matter of fact many
    people from west also criticize the system. So there remains nothing to pin-point about west, you may pin-point against static system the west the east and the middle east everywhere every country is following. its all same all over, no difference between east or west.

  11. Gargi Dixit said, on January 14, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    Ohh no new post till now?
    Now this is discouraging.

    I mean you write so well, you need to be a little more punctual….

    Anyways, in previous comment, I misplaced something, so let me cure that–

    Does it make sense to you?

    • Anuraag Sanghi said, on January 15, 2009 at 9:38 am

      Thanks for your compliments.

      Regular posts you will get at quicktake.wordpress.com. 2ndlook posts are once in 10-20 days.

  12. […] India has the lowest prison population, the lowest police-to-population ratio in the world with the largest number of poor in the world and the second largest gun population in the world – and a crime rate which ranges between low-to-average. This is further interesting, as most of the guns in India, are illegally obtained. […]

  13. […] indices – low number of policemen, low prison population and low capital punishment number – and high on gun ownership and […]

  14. […] India has the lowest prison population, the lowest police-to-population ratio in the world with the largest number of poor in the world and the second largest gun population in the world – and a crime rate which ranges between low-to-average. This is further interesting, as most of the guns in India, are illegally obtained. […]

  15. […] other is the Indic model which traces its lineage to Lipit Ishtar, the Hitties till the advent of the Desert Bloc in India – with the brief […]

  16. […] Both sides of the discussion were finally on the same side – defending the police or attacking the police. Neither side brought out the really significant aspect – which the real, hard, quantitative numbers to substantiate or buttress their arguments. […]

  17. masculineffort said, on June 9, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    Friend! How have you developed such a perspective on Gun ownership? I believe you have lived all your life in India. But such an opinion of Gun ownership implies to me that you have spent at least a few years in the United States. Can you tell me how many Indians share such a perspective as yours? I am guessing that your opinion is shared mainly among the poorer (materially) sections of Indian society. In the social circles you are in, I am guessing that you are literally alone in your opinions. Am I right?

    • Anuraag Sanghi said, on June 14, 2012 at 6:17 pm

      How have you developed such a perspective on Gun ownership? I believe you have lived all your life in India. But such an opinion of Gun ownership implies to me that you have spent at least a few years in the United States.

      This is such an incisive comment.

      We Indians are usually so dumb. Guess I was plain lucky.

      • masculineffort said, on June 15, 2012 at 2:39 am

        Friend, I too used to believe that Indians were uniquely quite dumb. But after having lived in different parts of the world, I feel it’s not about being dumb. It is a simple matter of brainwashing. If some one has only heard one and only perspective all their life, then it is what they will believe as gospel truth. For this reason, our brother’s and sisters believe Guns should not be in individual hands. We agree that this is completely contradictory to our traditions. We have a festival called Ayudha Puja where we common people worship weapons. Which other culture has such a tradition?

        Also, the Sikhs are required by sikh religious law to carry a Kirpan at all times. This comes from Guru Gobind Sikh. The kirpan was the concealed carry weapon of choice in his days. It could be hidden under cloth and evade detection by the Muslim Rulers unlike a sword or a musket. And it is effective when needed. If the great Guru was alive today I believe he would exhort his followers to carry a pistol or a revolver instead of a Kirpan.

        But I guess it is much simpler to follow the law to the letter rather than the spirit.

  18. gtoos (@twit2g2) said, on December 16, 2012 at 4:53 am

    “But the Indian Muslim, has like the rest of the country, not used these firearms dangerously. This is a strong argument against the oppression of the Muslim in India argument.” — woah! That is quite a big jump in assumptions!

  19. […] people per thousand in Britain are criminally violent and in prison. … In fact is India was not a criminal society then – and not one today.. India today has the world’s lowest police-to-population ratio – […]


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