Gunning for guns: Rajasthan's Rajput community threatens nationwide protest over proposal to amend Arms Bill

The Rajput community of Rajasthan has expressed anger at the Central Government's proposed amendment in the Arms Bill and threatened to launch a nationwide protest. As per the The Arms (Amendment) Bill 2019, a person can keep only one licensed weapon and a sportsperson can keep 6 weapons. At present any person can keep up to three licensed weapons and a sportsperson can keep up to ten.

The community says weapons are a matter of sentiments they have been handed down over generations. They further point out that at the time of independence the Covenant (agreement between government and princely states) gave them the right to own multiple weapons. The Rajput Sabha Bhawan and Karni Sena have warned of protests.

Speaking to FPJ Lokendra Singh Kalvi, patron Rajput Karni Sena said, “These are not just weapons, they are our inheritance, just like fields, house and vehicles. These are not weapons they are our passion, heritage and inheritance.”

“The issue just does not affect Rajputs, several communities like Sikhs, Jats, Muslims and even Brahmins own ancestral weapons. They are spread across the country. Further shooting is a sport where families support the player. The amendment will stifle upcoming sports too. We will try to meet the home minister and even the Prime Minister to put forth our objections,” said Kalvi.

Members of the Rajput community organised a meeting at the Rajput Sabha Bhawan in Jaipur where they came with their weapons and expressed dissatisfaction at the proposed move. Giriraj Singh Lotwara President RSB said, “If licences are withdrawn we will have to deposit weapons in police stations. The priceless antique weapons will not be safe. They can get stolen or destroyed. New rules should be applicable for new licences and weapons. Not these old ones. We will launch a state wide protest against these changes.”

Rajputs in Rajasthan have in the past made a huge issue out of what they associated with their prestige or are sentimental about. The film Jodha Akbar was not released in Rajasthan after Karni Sena’s objection. The recent film Padmaawat faced the ire of all Rajput organisations. It snowballed into a multi state controversy and subsequently the film was not screened in Rajasthan, Uttranchal, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Goa and Bihar. Even the name of the film was changed and the director had to appease the community over several issues.

In view of this situation the biggest question is - Would the BJP be willing to cross swords with the volatile community that forms a sizeable vote share across the country?