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Out of one lakh licensed weapons in the state, only 1,000 deposited by poll-eve
Voter fired up, literally
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Nahan, December 18
As Himachal Pradesh goes to polls tomorrow, the police in the state will face a different kind of problem: Keeping an extra check on goons trying to carry firearms. Authorities in most of the districts in the hill state have not made it mandatory for licensed firearm owners to deposit weapons with the respective police stations this time, although there is a complete ban under Section 144 CrPC on carrying firearms.

Sources say lack of adequate space to store licensed weapons has caused many districts to do away with the general practice of deposition of guns before elections, at least in hypersensitive areas. In a state where total number of arms licences is a whopping one lakh, only about 1,000 weapons have been deposited with the police by poll eve.

No directions regarding submission of firearms have been issued by authorities at Sirmour and Kangra, which together account for about 50 per cent of the total arms licenses issued in the state. Home department says Kangra has the maximum (33,723) arms licenses in state followed by Sirmour (13,456). Following these districts are Hamirpur (6839), Kullu (6715) and Una (6439).

District election officer, Sirmour, R.S. Negi, today told The Tribune, “We would not only require a huge storeroom to house weapons if we asked for deposition, but also special deployment to guard them. This time we have not ordered deposition of arms though we are monitoring the threat perception.”

Incidentally, only three days ago two goons of a political party at Nahan were handed over to cops by the supporters of the opposite party. Firearms had been used in this clash.

In the last elections, however, arms deposition was mandatory in Sirmour. At Nahan, police stations had reportedly been flooded and securing weapons had become a major issue. Nahan-based gunsmith Abdul Sitar admits: “Such was the rush in 2003 that some people deposited guns with me on the pretext of repair. This time only carrying of arms has been banned.”

Similarly in Kangra, where deposition of arms has not been ordered as the area generally remains peaceful, SP Gyaneshwar Singh said three Voter fired up

persons had been rounded up for causing trouble and their guns deposited. “Deposition is not necessary but we are keeping extra watch. Storing all weapons is not possible in such a huge district.”

Other districts where police is on special watch to prevent people from carrying arms are Hamirpur, Kullu and Shimla, which have 6839, 6715 and 3642 arms licences, respectively.

Districts that have directed arms license holders to deposit weapons are Solan, Una, Chamba, Mandi and Bilaspur. While the Solan police has received 350 arms by today, Una has received 300 double barrel guns and 12 pistols. “I directed the SP to recover weapons from all habitual offenders and from the 37 hypersensitive booths,” said Una district election officer Omkar Sharma. In Chamba and Mandi, 200 and 60 arms have been deposited at police stations, respectively. Together these five districts, where about 900 arms have been deposited, account for 22, 733 licenced weapons in Himachal.

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