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Centuries-Old Firearms, Including 1857 Rebellion Rifles, Left To Deteriorate

Shyam Gun House, once Himalayan Gun House, harbors antique firearms including Enfield rifles from the 1857 uprising. Unclaimed for decades, bureaucratic hurdles hinder their disposal. Gun shop owners nationwide face similar challenges, urging government intervention.

Edited By : News24 Desk | Updated: May 27, 2024 08:17 IST
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In the heart of Dehradun, the Shyam Gun House, formerly known as the Himalayan Gun House, holds a collection of antique firearms, including the historic Enfield rifles infamous for their role in the 1857 uprising against British rule. These firearms, alongside a variety of century-old weapons such as double barrel and single barrel guns, were entrusted to the care of establishments like these by their original owners but have remained unclaimed for decades.

Weapon enthusiasts reveal that these guns, once owned by influential figures like zamindars, lawmakers, and bureaucrats from the United Provinces (encompassing present-day Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand during colonial times), were often registered in multiple family members’ names due to lax licensing laws. However, as regulations tightened over time, the burden of maintaining numerous weapons became impractical, leading to their deposition in gun houses with the hope of future retrieval.

Despite these hopes, the anticipated reclaiming of these firearms never occurred. The heirs of the original owners showed little interest, possibly due to stricter Arms Act provisions limiting individual weapon possession. Now, custodians of these unclaimed firearms face significant challenges, with bureaucratic hurdles hindering their disposal despite appeals to state and central authorities.

Shyam Sunder, proprietor of Shyam Gun House in Dehradun, expresses concern over the combination of stringent licensing laws and declining demand for firearms, which has made business increasingly difficult for gun shop owners. He emphasizes the urgent need for a solution to prevent further deterioration of these historic weapons.

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Similar issues plague gun shop owners across India, from Rampur and Meerut in Uttar Pradesh to Bhind and Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh. Bureaucratic inertia hampers the transfer process, with files often languishing despite regulatory reforms aimed at streamlining procedures.

The consequences of this administrative quagmire extend beyond bureaucratic delays. In regions like Bhind, once notorious for bandits, declining firearm sales have led to the closure of many gun shops. Changes in socio-political landscapes and reduced demand for personal protection have contributed to this decline.

In Bhopal, Bharat Gun House struggles with over a hundred unclaimed firearms since 1972, highlighting the need for governmental intervention and clear disposal policies.

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Even during election seasons, typically lucrative for gun shops, limited storage capacity and lack of administrative support have left these establishments struggling.

Acknowledging these concerns, Dilip Jawalkar, home secretary of the Uttarakhand government, promises a review and swift action to address the grievances of gun shop owners.

First published on: May 27, 2024 08:17 AM IST

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