New Delhi, June 10 - Fine craftsmanship, attention to detail and the ability to produce exact imitations have made the illegal firearms industry of eastern Bihar's Munger district, a revered - if it can be called that - name in the world of crime. The clientele includes criminals from at least nine Indian states and even a terrorist organisation, police aver.
Commanding respect and admiration from customers and provoking envy among its competitors, firearms from Munger are the preferred choice of criminals from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Orissa, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Delhi, Haryana and of course Bihar, a top Delhi Police officer told IANS.
Disturbingly, the terrorist organisation, Indian Mujahideen (IM), too is a client as revealed by Yasin Bhatkal, the group's co-founder, who is in judicial custody in Delhi's Tihar Jail.
Arms are manufactured illegally in other parts of the country but what makes the Munger variety hot is the reliability factor - criminals who use them can be sure they won't blow up in their faces or misfire, the officer said, adding that in terms of cost, they are roughly 50 percent cheaper than the original.
There are several cottage industries in Munger that manufacture these arms which are of fine quality and perfect imitations of the originals, an officer of the Special Cell, speaking strictly on condition of anonymity, told IANS.
They even have 'Made in Italy' and 'Made in USA' etched on them, added the officer.
The officer, however, expressed his inability to give an approximate figure of the number of such illegal factories as almost every household in the village has them.
For a few years, the Special Cell has been focussing on Munger and our investigations have led us to believe that almost every house in Munger has a gun manufacturing unit, the official told IANS.
Such is the scale of menace that the Special Cell, which has been working to prevent the supply of illegal arms in the capital, had to launch Operation Munger two years ago to specially focus on the infamous district.
Our records show that in most of the crimes that take place in Delhi, weapons from Munger are used. If we curb the inflow of these weapons, we can reduce the crime rate, said the officer.
As a result, the Cell recovered around 200 illicit weapons in 2013 and 35 gunrunners were arrested while this year around 90 weapons have been seized so far and over 20 people arrested.
But the haul of 30 sophisticated rifles on June 6 that were exact imitations of the popular AK-47 assault rifles left the police shell-shocked due to the weapons' fine craftsmanship and quality.
This is for the first time since we started operation Munger that improvised AK-47 rifles have been recovered. The craftsmanship was flawless and the rifles were exact copies of the original, Special Commissioner (Special Cell) S. N. Srivastava told IANS.
Along with the AK-47s, 30 semi-automatic pistols and 30 spare magazines were also recovered from the three arrested accused, said Srivastava.
We have arrested several gang members who were supplying Munger firearms in Delhi and NCR regions. But we are still on a trail of those heading these gangs. It will be too early to say how many gangs are supplying the arms, but the questioning of these members has provided us some solid leads. We will crack down on them very soon, another officer told IANS.
Considering the scale of manufacturing, what's the Bihar Police doing about it?
It's not that they're inactive. They do conduct periodic raids but more often than not, it turns out that the illegal unit has been tipped off, the officer added.
(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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