I have come across a rather naive proclamation on this forum and on NAGRI that, “Turn the pages of our history and you will realize that India has always believed in providing arms to its bonafide citizens to protect themselves and their families. Arms were always a part of our culture, our rituals, and most importantly owning a firearm was always considered a mark of honor for the head of the family till the British came and changed everything overnight. They passed stringent laws to ensure that it was next to impossible for Indians to own Guns.... How could they allow civilians of a slave nation to own such potent tools of retaliation.” “Among the greatest injustices the British have done to India, to deny an entire nation of the right to own and keep arms will go down as its blackest”.
I have serious objections when people say “India has always believed in providing arms to its bonafide citizens”...and that the Politicians and the breaucracy is stupid and illogical. You may ask why?
India never believed in social-justice and equality and never had either. Except during the brief interval between late BCs and very early ADs, which was the period of Buddhism and since Independence, at least theoretically. The Brahminic India didn't even believe in providing education to all its bonafide citizens along with other basic civilian amenities, how could it arm them. The fact is that the Brahminic society (governed by the ideals of Brahmanism) was based on graded inequality and social-injustice. Military education (read bearing arms) was strictly restricted to a select and a very small privileged group. When other 'bonafide civilians' tried to acquire arms they had to face very grave consequences. Remember how Dronacharya chopped off the thumb of Ekalavya, who did not belong to the privileged class. Have you read how the Karna had to fake his birth-identity to gain Military Education from Parashurama? Have you read about the real history of Shivaji Maharaj's conronation? Why did Guru Gobind Singh had to insist that every Khalsa should bear arms, if every 'bonafide civilian' was already bearing arms?
Any unbiased, apolitical Historian will tell you that the so called “first war of Independence” was a mutiny by the landed gentry backed by their private militia against the British in General and Robert Clive's “Doctrine of Lapse” in particular. Yes, some sepoys of the East India Company sparked it. But never was it a People's revolt. My argument is that the 'bonafide civilians' of India were always denied social justice. The Bhraminic Society never allowed the majority to bear Arms. It was against their vested, selfish interests. Though the Arms Act of 1878 sounds as if it striped the entire nation of its weapons, in actual effect it was aimed to strip the privileged gentry which possessed arms.
If, as falsely assumed, every or most of the Indians had been armed then no foreign invasion into this country would have been complete and final. The truth is that the majority of Indians were not armed. There never was or is, a second line of defense. When the armies of the Privileged warriors were defeated the gates to India were thrown wide open. The invading armies never ever faced any problems marching to Delhi from the battlefield. No 'bonafide civilian' or citizen was ever in a position to resist or even harass the invaders. A minion like, Ahmad Shah Abdali when by tact and unlucky chance defeated the great Maratha force at the third battle of Panipat was any civilian in a position to defend himself from the pillaging Afghans? Or earlier in history, could the Mahamud of Ghazni raid India SEVENTEEN times if he confronted an armed citizenry?
There were however, certain warrior communities who lived on the periphery of our societies about whom Chanakya talks about in his Arthashastra and advises the King not provoke such guilds into war as such war will come at a very great cost. Kalinga was probably one such guild of warriors. In antiquity we hear of these guilds harassing Alexander the Great's army when it was returning to Persia from the conquest of west Punjab (Present AFPAK border)from the Greek records. Beyond this nothing.
If India was an armed nation (armed with education and weapons) would it have accepted the inhuman Chaturvarna or the unequal grading of castes? Every bone in me doubts it.
Now coming to the Arms Act of 1959. If my wonderful country which always “believed in providing arms to its bonafide citizens to protect themselves and their families” and which suffered, “Among the greatest injustices the British have done to India, to deny an entire nation of the right to own and keep arms will go down as its blackest” and indeed wanted to do right this great wrong then why did it connived a License system in the first place? The following quote from Vladimir Lenin might perhaps, help us answer it, “A system of licensing and registration is the perfect device to deny gun ownership to the bourgeoisie”. In Indian context the word bourgeoisie must be equated with NOT privileged.
My take is that the privileged few who came to power after Independence never quite had the WILL to change the status-quo that had been in existence since 1878. However, there were people in the post-independence power setup who did not belong to privileged class and it were these people who were favorable to repeal the Arms Act of 1878. It was because of these men we have Arms Act of 1959. Yet the privileged exercised enough influence to create ambiguity regarding the grant of weapons and deliberately kept the Act open to interpretation, their interpretation. They have since then very strategically tried to keep the benefits of this Act within the privileged group. The definition of the privileged has changed since the antiquity but not by much, really.
Personally I don't think Indian Government will ever ease the situation with respect to the Right to bear arms. If any thing it will make it more and more difficult to carry and keep arms. It suits them perfectly to have greatest control. Given the ever increasing gap between haves and have nots, do you really think it is in the interests of the privileged to arm the have nots? They are neither stupid nor illogical.
If guns are great equalizers for the oppressed, then why would the oppressor want to nullify his/her advantage. The fact is Governments rule by the power of the gun, yes even in a democracy and more so in a hollowed out democracy like ours. Behind almost every rule or law there is gun to enforce it. That is the gist. Think. “Power flows from the barrel of the gun”, and not just in the Maoist country but everywhere. Do the Governments want their poor and hungry to have this power? Can the Governments afford to have their deprived, hungry, bonafide citizens to have this equalizer?
Globally something is happening, something is churning, something is round the corner, the sensitive enough can feel it coming. The Governments all over the world want Gun Control. Something is making them either nervous or they are clearing landscape for something. The most disturbing is the United Nations' advocacy of Global Gun Ban. Why?
Consider this quote by James A. Donald, “The usual road to slavery is that they take away your guns, then they take away your property, then last of all they tell you to shut up and say you are enjoying it”. I sincerely hope this is not true, I truly hope we never face such a situation. But if we find out that we are indeed being forced by the Governments to follow the steps as quoted by James A. Donald then we don't have any other choice but to arm ourselves by any and every means and resist to the dying breath.
My humble suggestion to the NAGRI and Others who are pleading the Government for more gun rights is to take some direct action. We must ask and make aware every citizen in this great country to apply for a gun license. Let millions of applications storm the offices of the Licensing Authority and let them reject as many they want to; then take every rejected application to the honorable courts of India. Only a mass drive like this will enable us to empower the nation. If we are serious about the question of gun rights then sooner than later we must become more direct in our fight.
I hope that people will realize and understand what they are up against. I hope they will get together and resist every injustice that inhibits their well being. Sooner the better.
"The greatest enemy will hide in the last place you look".