SRINAGAR: Valley’s centuries old gun industry is at the verge of extinction with only two surviving manufacturing units mulling closure due to cap on production and procedural strictness by the government of India.
In Bandukkhar Mohalla of Downtown here, which was once known for its weaponry manufacturing, among a breed of blacksmiths, two families that still run their units say unnecessary delay in renewing licenses and tab on manufacturing is forcing them to close the units, as they are not able to earn enough for the survival of their families.
“Our units had been the worst hit during the past two decades and now they are trying to wipe this age old craft by hindering our manufacturing,” says Muhammd Shafat Zaroo of Zaroo Gun.
Co-partner and brother of Shafat, Nazir Ahmad Zaroo adds that the tab on production quotas that has remained 500 guns a year for decades now is draining them financially to the last nerve.
It has been a tough going since the 1990s, as the quotas have not been enhanced and the manufacturing permissions were recently granted after a delay of more than two years, said Nazir.
Not withstanding the gun culture, which flourished here during the two-decade-old conflict that witnessed a new breed of weapons in the hands of militants and army, the traditional gun industry suffered heavily.
Restrictions on the gun manufacturing has been despite government’s liberal policy of granting gun licenses with Sringar distric alone issuing more than one lakh licenses in last few years. But the manufacturing units established decades back have fallen silent due to official restrictions.
The restrictions on the manufacturing has not only on the quantity but the type of guns being manufactured are also being decided by the authorities. And they have put restriction on the manufacturing of the high earning ones already.
“Initially the manufacturing centered around the ‘blunder buss’, ‘muzzle loading’ and ‘punter one’ guns that where in use for hunting during the Maharaja’s rule, with we later switching to the non prohibited Bore (NPB) including the single bore and double bore weapons manufacturing,” says Nazir.
“This year a GOI team from the Home Ministry took review of what we are doing and they were satisfied but wanted a security cover for the unit.”
Shafat Zaroo feels that their production could have been 10 times more if not for the curbs from the GoI.
No industry wants a tab on its production and it is this Valley based indigenous sector that has witnessed a production tab, even though their counterparts in Jammu have over the years been allowed not only to thrive, but their production quotas by the GOI have been enhanced many times.
This industry that has been drained to the last nerve to keep the industry growing is finding it tough to compete under curbs it has been facing to maintain a production line since the dawn of armed struggle in Kashmir.
Gunaccessory.com, one of the prominent websites about Indian weaponry reveals that the total factories operational in Jammu are more than 30 with dealerships crossing 150.
A small distance from Zaroo’s Gun factory is the Subhana Factory also a family run gun manufacturing unit operating since 1925, but now the present owners say that they may shut down any time in future.
“Our family is growing, but our manufacturing is static and the units can no longer feed our growing family,” Irshad Ahmad, who is handing the factory.
“At a production of 300 guns each one of partner gets a share of 10 guns each and with this number does not run our bread and butter” Ahmad said.
“In all these 83 years we have manufactured 11000 guns and our another partner has churned 17000 till date,” he said adding, “Initially we churned 700 guns but the tab has now curtailed to 300 guns annually.”
“We had to close down for a brief period after the rise of militancy in 1990, but now it is difficult to survive even though the product we manufacture here is in great demand outside,” he says. “The specialty is the walnut wood butt fitted on these Kashmir guns, which makes them to sell like hot cakes.”
The owners say that they have to maintain the records of the people who have take the guns and sate intelligence and police wings maintain a strict vigil on frequent checks of stocks and records.
At present both factories that are going to restart their production are mostly selling their limited output almost exclusively to retailers from outside the state.