History has lead us to believe that weaponry is synonymous to danger and purgatory, but here are two individuals who would like to believe otherwise.
Well, why else would they be selling guns and pistols for over six decades now… 67 years to be precise.
Lakhan Melwani and his son Ravi, have carried on the business which bears its roots in the late 1870s and early 1880s in the Sindh province of pre-Partition India. “We moved to Pune after Partition and started this shop in 1949,” says Lakhan Melwani. As he goes into an idyllic trance about the city and his clientele changing over the course of these years…
“I remember Pune as the city that was a humble abode for retired officers and people world over looking for some peace and quiet. But now, I can’t even cross the street outside my shop let alone revel in the beauty of this city.”
A brief account of the history of the shop that deals in arms and ammunitions reveals that it’s not just the effervescent Pune that is deteriorating but the business as well. Ravi Melwani goes on to shed some light, “From supplying cartridges to the likes of Raj Kapoor and servicing royal ancestral guns and pistols, our major clientele now consists of villagers.” On further probing why this is the case, he tells us that since the process of purchasing a licence has become more stringent and therefore the sale of arms and ammunitions has become less as compared to earlier. “Villagers, especially field owners find this process a lot easier as their work demands it, to keep their fields safe from wild boars and human danger, guns are almost a necessity.”
The system in Maharashtra especially has become even more grim since new guidelines came in a few years back in order to prevent licences being issued to people who were not domiciled in Maharashtra, the father-son duo rue. The law clearly states that only certain weapons are available despite owning a licence. Says Melwani, “Every individual can possess at the most three guns which are a revolver, gun and rifle.
The procedure of getting a licence is something we do not interfere in though and are more than happy to help those who do.” The structure doesn’t allow any middlemen to get into the process as well. Once the applicants are scrutinised as per the guidelines, they are made to undergo an arms and ammunition safety training course from an accredited trainer or an accredited shooting club.
The training will cover basic arms and ammunition safety and handling, firing techniques and procedures, safe storage techniques and working knowledge of the Arms Act provisions. Most stakeholders of guns in today’s time in India are influential people such as MPs, MLAs or those who are targets of militant and terrorist organisations.
In Pune it is seen that builders are being added to the list of those who require a fire arm licence along with farmers who need to protect their fields.
Gone are those times when owning a gun collection was a symbol of flamboyance, or buying guns for hunting would be valid. Firearms are now seen as means of safety and security with the police judging the degree of threat one has to their life in order to own one. Those clients who continue their relation with the gun shop are the sportsmen whose game is aided by arms and ammunitions, or those who enjoy possessing an air gun or pistol.
Despite the sales dropping at Naraindas Deepchand and Sons, Melwani still hopes that the shop which has survived generations will go on for years to come.
Pictures : Apoorva Lele
#First Published in May 2016. Reproduced in reader interest.
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