Pashtun-Style Celebration Puts Gun Licenses Under Scanner in Kashmir

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The wedding stunt surfaced amid the ongoing CBI probe into the fake gun license scam.

A recent trigger-happy action of a Kashmiri man has renewed focus on the gun license scam currently being investigated by a federal investigation agency.

A video that surfaced on 12 November shows a man firing from his licensed pistol during a marriage ceremony in Allochi Bagh, Srinagar.

The stunt shocked sundry, drawing parallels with the Pashtun-style wedding celebrations.

Cops swiftly arrested Moin Khan of Peerbagh for “endangering lives of others” and forwarded his handcuffed picture to Srinagar newsrooms.

Khan’s case might be an exception, but the act has put the syndicate of gun licenses under scanner in Kashmir all over again.

These licenses are granted, renewed and cancelled under the Arms Act, 1959 and the Arms Rules, 2016, a top security official told Kashmir Observer.

“Depending on a threat perception, a person approaches his concerned police station with a plea for the authorized firearm,” the official informed.

“The application is then forwarded to the Superintendent of police (SP) office. And after a proper verification, it is sent to the Deputy Commissioner’s office.”

But while this remains a standard issuance procedure, many officials that Kashmir Observer contacted for the story said that no such license has been sanctioned in the erstwhile state since 2018.

And yet, Jammu and Kashmir tops the list of states/union territories where arms licences with all India permission were issued during the past three years.

Among the total 22,805 fresh gun licenses issued across the country between 2018 and 2020, over 78 per cent—17,905—were issued in J&K alone, the Ministry of Home Affairs reveals in a report.

“A total of 2,435 licenses were cancelled throughout the country between January 1, 2018 and September 15, 2020 while only three were canceled in J&K,” the report notes.

However, a senior police officer told Kashmir Observer that the government has banned issuing of firearm license in JK from last three years.

“The man lately arrested for his wedding stunt was given the license over four years ago,” the officer said. “The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has already asked all JK deputy commissioners not to provide or renew fresh license to anybody.”

Complying the order, not a single license has been issued since 2018, a senior official in DC Srinagar said. “Most of the licenses, however, were earlier issued in Jammu region.”

The restrictions were imposed after the federal agency started investigating a 2017-case involving 2.78 lakh fake gun licenses that were allegedly issued to non-natives between 2012 and 2016.

Since the beginning of the probe on May 17, 2018, the CBI has collected documents pertaining to the issuance of said armed licenses allegedly spread over 22 districts of J&K.

According to the Enforcement Directorate, around Rs 40 crore were generated through grant of illegal arms licenses in JK.

In March 2020, the CBI arrested two IAS officers—Kumar Rajiv Ranjan and Itrat Rafiqui—for issuing thousands of licenses during their tenure as the district magistrates of Kupwara.

On 25 July 2021, the agency carried out raids across 40 locations across Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi, including the residence of senior IAS officer Shahid Iqbal Choudhary in Srinagar.

Three months later, the federal sleuths showed up at the residence of Baseer Ahmad Khan. The high-profile raid came a week after Khan was relieved as advisor to Lieutenant Governor, Manoj Sinha.

The case was earlier unearthed by Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of Rajasthan Police. The secret ‘Operation Zubeida’ initiated at that time led ATS to an inter-state racket engaged in making arms licenses from Jammu and Kashmir for people spread all across India.

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is special correspondent with Kashmir Observer and tweets @AuqibJaveed

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