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All Guns Blazing

Do I have anything in common with Soumya Viswanathan, Jessica Lal or Radhika Tanwar?

I drive on the streets of Delhi, I go to pubs and restaurants and I’ve stood on many a Delhi bus stand. Is it just a matter of time before the odds catch up with me?

Every single day, 12 Indians are shot dead. Their fate might be sealed by a sophisticated automatic rifle from the US or by a 2 rupee bullet from a 200 Rupee Katta. Both are equally effective.

The National Capital Region has over 90 thousand gun licenses. According to the Control Arms Foundation, there are actually three times as many fire arms in circulation. UP alone has 900 thousand arms license holders. But, has it made the state any safer?

India is the second most-armed nation in the world with over 40 million small arms in circulation today. We’re not on our way to becoming a gun crazy society, we already are. Not surprisingly, 99% of our countries small arms licence holders are men.

Binalakshmi Nepram knows that a gun in every hand will not make us a safer nation. She grew up in the north eastern state of Manipur and witnessed a 13 people massacre in 1984, when she was just a 3rd standard student. A few short years later, her niece stepped on a bomb on a playground. In 2002, her own mother, a highly awarded educator in Manipur, opened a school for underprivileged children, her noble deed was rewarded by a death threat in a popular regional newspaper.

“How could I turn my back and walk away? I decided to fight back, on behalf of every Indian who lives in fear”, she states.

In 2004, she co-founded the Control Arms Foundation of India (CAFI). An all India society committed to finding solutions to end the ongoing armed violence caused by Small Arms, Light Weapons and Improvised Electronic Devices (SALWIEDS). CAFI is one of the only organisations in India to fill the existing void of informed debates and discussion on conventional disarmament in Indian civil society, with the aim to bring about lasting peace in the country and region.

She boldly stepped onto a fiercely-guarded men-only arena, pitting herself against people who’s patriotism is propped against the latest acquisition of high tech weaponry. Her work has special significance for Indian women, who’s voices and opinions were grossly underrepresented in decisions and policies about defence budgets and disarmament.

Binalakshmi rues that “for every rupee received in development assistance, our government spends ten on defence“. The key goal of CAFI is to organize and deliver effective research, advocacy and assist campaigners to change the attitudes, policies and practices of the government and other decision makers.

“It takes us months to get an appointment to raise a concern or question about the arms frenzy gripping our country. But, we will not be intimidated or dissuaded. National security isn’t just about fortifying our borders or controlling terrorism, it’s about the safety of every man, woman and child anywhere in India“, she explains.

CAFI has filed several RTI inquiries and has engaged 17 parliamentarians from different regions and political parties in their work. Binalakshmi will be raising some pertinent questions in Parliament in the coming weeks. I too want to know how many small arms are manufactured in India? How many civilian victims of land-mines have been compensated? How many civilian casualties were reported in conflict areas? How many cases of gun violence in peace areas like our capital have been solved?

Binalakshmi is also the founder of Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network. She started the network to assist the young widows and aging mothers of Manipuri men killed in the ongoing violence in the state. Be it from the bullet of an insurgent or a soldier, every year over 400 civilian deaths are reported in Manipur.

She may not be famous in India yet, but her work has been appreciated by many international organisations working towards disarmament and regulation of small arms manufacturers. In September 2010, Binalakshmi was awarded the Sean MacBride Peace Prize at the Noble Peace Center in Oslo, Norway. The prize is awarded to individuals or organisations for their outstanding work for peace, disarmament and human rights. She certainly fits the bill.

Whether raising her voice in the corridors of power or distributing her own salary in an obscure village in Manipur, Binalakshmi Nepram is truly her sister’s keeper.

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28 Responses to “All Guns Blazing”

  1. Arya Tiwari says:

    great to see an inspiring young woman like her, she is doing amazing work thats significant nation wide and not just Manipur

  2. Devinder Mankoo says:

    read it in HT, very good selection of hero for the week

  3. ishan daruwalla says:

    hope to see many more heroes from north east, where to next?

  4. Palki Desai says:

    damn tragic video, do they have a website?

  5. Hanish Ahuja says:

    would love to know who are the 17 parliamentarians who have the guts to support her and go against small arms proliferation

  6. gaurav gambhir says:

    great work binalakshmi

  7. Jabpreet K says:

    what an inspiring woman, we’re so oblivious to things going on outside the hindi-speaking regions of india, thanks to sharing this

  8. Maj. Prashant Rishi says:

    as an serving officer, i too have a gun licence. but guns in the hands of civilians is something i do not support. might be hypocritical but young girls on delhi streets are not being shot by men in uniforms

  9. Parth Ray says:

    i’ve noticed so many new websites/forums in india off late where men are discussing latest fire arm acquisition like they would discuss cars. this casual attitude towards guns is a very bad sign for india

  10. Dhruv M says:

    good to see you recognizing heroes from every part of our country. i had no idea that an org like CAFI existed. now that i think of it, we should have 100s of such orgs in every state

  11. Rohit Dhalan says:

    sadly most good intentions and sincere ppl who even reach parliament to have their questions raised are ignored by mainstream media. this time around cricket fever will drown out her voice imho

  12. Selva K says:

    gives me hope to see young women like ms nepram taking charge, i whole heartedly support her work

  13. natasha kishwar says:

    shameful that a radhika tanwar was shot on women’s day. we cant gloss over the plight of women on the streets of india. no safety, respect or hope. binalakshmi you have my support.

  14. bishnu panigrahi says:

    laws will never be a deterrent to crime unless the law is known to act swiftly and with a punishment that matches the crime. not the case at all in our country. impotence of laws only makes the criminals more potent

  15. Kritika Jasola says:

    maybe more women should apply for gun licences, that will surely make the authorities nervous enough to act. not because there will be more armed citizens, but the idea of armed women would put fear in their hearts.

  16. Akbar Mir says:

    owning a gun is now a status symbol. in a country flooded by new money and utter corruption, i dont believe there is a chance of curbing access or volumes of imports

  17. aisha kalia says:

    the excuse for such high concentration of small arms in india- we have the 2nd largest army, civilians producing false claims about life/property in danger and need to defend self/family, illegal transfer of small arms through border with China, ego mania driven mindless acquisitions between Pak and India armies.

    how will she undo all this? i’m not pessimistic but i hope there is a proper plan in place, well researched arguments etc

  18. unarmed patriot says:

    every conflict zone in the world is only boosting the bottom line of arms manufacturers. most of whom have deep ties with governments, provide jobs in huge numbers etc.

    best example of the ills of globalization? armies fighting in the Congo, where there are no roads, electricity and other amenities, but they have weapons from Israel, US, Russia, china and UK

  19. Kumud says:

    “As long as there are guns, the individual that wants a gun for a crime is going to have one and going to get it.”
    Ronald Reagan

  20. vaishali kamat says:

    bollywood films have influenced ppl 2 much for 2 long, every hero or anti hero has a gun, if people can copy hairstyles, clothes and language of actors… not surprising they all want guns now. #lame #herdmentality

  21. Sangam Roy says:

    gun control laws in Australia are tough and brilliant. one single incident of a crazy dude gunning down a dozen or so people was all the evidence the govt needed to crack down. we as a country, thanks to the idiots & criminals who lead us… never seem to learn.

    how many more civilian deaths will it take to get the governments attention. im sure many links between arms manufacturers and ministers will be exposed if someone investigates. there can’t be such massive purchases by the govt without kickbacks

  22. Manjari Dev says:

    great read, the comments are as interest btw

  23. tejas says:

    great info thnx

  24. priyanka dhiman says:

    fab project thithiya, hope to read many more stories that inspire here

  25. Shalini Singh-Chauhan says:

    kudos to binalakshmi, am happy to see a woman doing something that any man has not been able to yet

  26. Shruthi says:

    Its a wonderful initative. I would like to read more stories from across the 6 continents!

  27. Sam Barnett says:

    Awesome! thank you for this timely resource. I saved it so I can show my mother later

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