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Gang Wars And Guns: In Wasseypur, Locals Long For Peace

Frequent instances of firing and shootouts, easy availability of pistols and kattas and alleged gang wars ... locals in this Jharkhand town have been longing for peace

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Real and Reel: A still from Gangs of Wasseypur
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In Wasseypur, an “action-packed” small town in the Dhanbad district of Jharkhand, locals are wary of talking to strangers and outsiders. A journalist enquiring about recent instances of firing and busting of illegal gun factories is certainly not welcome. People refuse to comment, not even on condition of anonymity. Fear of alleged gang wars is palpable.

This town in Dhanbad—the coal capital of India—became famous, or infamous as per some locals, after filmmaker Anurag Kashyap made a movie named Gangs of Wasseypur in 2012. Through its quirky characters and catchy dialogues, the two-part action drama introduced us to the murky world of gang wars.

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In Wasseypur, the lines between real and reel are very blurred. Locals allege that gang wars between the real life uncle-nephew duo—Fahim Khan and Prince Khan—and their men, are common. Though Fahim is serving his life sentence and Prince is a wanted fugitive who operates his gang from a Gulf country, the gang wars have continued unabated even in their absence, say locals who avoid taking names. Wasseypur continues to be a battleground; the power struggle between the two is the prime reason. Both gangs “employ” young, unemplo­yed men from Wasseypur to “settle scores”.

While some instances of firing make it to the local newspapers, most go unreported. In May, for instance, three instances of firing took place in which one person was killed and two were wounded. Three persons have been arrested so far. In the most recent May 24 incident, four First Information Reports (FIRs) have been registered. At the time of filing this story, one person, a minor, has been arrested. As per his Aadhar card, his age is 17, but in the FIR, his age has been mentioned as 18. The police have recovered the revolver used in the May 24 firing incident following directions from the person who has been arrested, say police sources.

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To understand whether these incidents of firing and shootouts were a part of gang wars or were instances of personal fallouts, several messages were sent to Sanjeev Kumar, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), but no response was received. When Reeshma Ramesan, Superintendent of Police (SP), Dhanbad (Rural), who is also handling the city charge currently, was contacted, she said only the SSP could give an official statement.

Wasseypur falls under the jurisdiction of the Bank More and Bhuli OP police stations. When the Bank More Police Station was visited to know how many cases of firing had been registered there in the past year, the station in charge replied that he was heading out for an operation and could not provide the information. When asked for a time when he would be available for a comment, the officer refused to answer. A sub-inspector, however, said that the police station had registered 15 murders over the last three years and recovered around 20 weapons, most of which were pistols. Similarly, at the Bhuli Police Station, six-seven cases of firing were recorded in the past year.

This unofficial data corroborates the fact that illegal weapons are easily available in Wasseypur. Locals insist they keep guns and pistols for safety. “Today, 70 out of 100 people in Wasseypur possess illegal weapons. In recent years, pistols have replaced country-made guns (kattas),” says a local.

Residents of Wasseypur blame the police for the continuing shootouts. A CID report alleged that officers of Dhanbad police helped Prince Khan get a passport.

Illegal gun factories have been busted twice in Dhanbad in the past 10 years. A massive number of pistols were seized in these raids. In March 2019, Kishore Kaushal, the then SSP, carried out raids on illegal gun manufacturing units being operated in two houses in Jharia, a neighbourhood in Dhanbad. Forty-five country-made pistols, 112 magazines, 35 live rounds, 125 unfinished kattas, 110 half-barrels, many gun parts and gun manufacturing machines and chemicals were recovered. About six years ago, raids were also carried out in Dhanbad’s Godhar and Chandmari localities, in which caches of illegal weapons were recovered.

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A source, who is in the know of how guns are made and procured, was willing to share details on condition of anonymity. He says pistols were more easily available in the city when illegal gun factories were being run in Jharia and Godhar. However, most of Wasseypur’s weapons originate in Munger, a city in Bihar known as The City of Guns. A sub-inspector confirmed this.

While explaining the gun-making process, the source said if a person requires 50-60 pistols, he hires a craftsman from Munger for a month. “The person provides him with a set-up in a nondescript room and a lathe machine. The metal-sheet required to make guns is imported from Kolkata. The person makes moulds of pistols using this and then a gun is made,” he adds.

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When asked what kind of pistols or kattas are used in Wasseypur, he said it’s mostly the 9-mm ones, costing Rs 35-45,000 and the 7-mm ones costing Rs 25-35,000.  The kattas are available for Rs 7-8,000, but the ones made from good quality iron can fetch up to Rs 15,000.

The source informs that kattas can be made from either unprocessed iron or wrought iron and the rates vary accordingly. They can also be made from pipes used in bicycles, or the steering wheel of a truck. The difference between a katta and a pistol is that if you fire four-five rounds in a row from a katta, it heats up and explodes. Some kattas can be used to fire up to 10 rounds. However, a 30-bore pistol can fire up to 30 bullets at a time. It does not heat up or explode.

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Off the record, this source and a few others, all residents of Wasseypur, blame the police for the shootouts and killings. They say the nonchalant approach of the police is evident from the fact that it was only last year that Prince Khan fled the country. This was revealed in the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) report released early this year, which alleged that officers of Dhanbad police helped the criminal get a passport. There are allegations that he is operating his gang from abroad.

This is the reason why the shootings have continued, say residents. Locals also claim that after the release of Gangs of Wasseypur, there has been a rise in crime in the town, a claim countered by Imran Qadri, the father of Zeishan Qadri, who was the scriptwriter of the film. He says members of both the factions watched the film and claimed that 90 per cent of it was true to facts. “Shootouts are common here. Just a few days back shots were fired. In fact, the editor of Dhanbad’s oldest daily Awaz used to dub Wasseypur a ‘den of criminals’ way back in 1976-77,” he says.

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He blames it on unemployment. “The city has a long history of crime. Boys get involved in criminal activities at a very young age. Some people commit crimes for as little as Rs 5,000.”

He also blames it on the presence of coal mines and the administration’s lack of interest in curbing crimes revolving around the coal industry. “Crime stems from coal. I worked as an engineer at a large coal manufacturing unit for 36 years. People would turn up every day to collect a commission on the coal at gunpoint. Firings were frequent. Illegal coal was moved daily right in front of the police,” he says.

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Nothing much seems to have changed over the year. Frequent instances of firing and shootouts, easy availability of pistols and kattas and alleged gang wars ... locals in this Jharkhand town have been longing for peace.

(Edited by Swati Subhedar)

Md Asghar Khan in Wasseypur

(This appeared in the print as 'Gangs in Wasseypur')

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