The death of an RSS worker during shastra puja (weapons’ worship), the handling of an automatic firearm by the seven-year-old son of the district Superintendent of police and firing in the air from a gun of prohibited bore by Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Shivraj Singh Chauhan – all on Dusshera day in Bhopal – have kicked up a controversy.
In view of the death of the RSS worker, the RSS is thinking in the terms of changing the way it conducts its traditional shastra puja and path sanchalan (street march) on Dusshera.
On Dusshera day, the RSS volunteers bring all sorts of weapons to the designated places for Shastra Puja. Earlier, only non-firearms were brought for the ritual. For the past few years, even firearms are included. This year, shastra puja was performed at 15 different places by the RSS. One such venue was the premises of a school. After the ritual was over and the RSS volunteers were standing outside, a loud voice was reportedly heard from one of the rooms in which the weapons were stored. The volunteers rushed to the room and found one of their colleagues – Narendra Kumar Motwani – lying in a pool of blood. He was taken to a hospital where he was declared brought dead. There was a gunshot wound in his body.
Immediately after the shocking incident, the police were at a loss to determine whether it was a case of murder, accident or suicide. It took almost five days to find the weapon that had caused the death of Motwani. The mystery was ultimately solved on October 2, thanks to the sustained efforts of the police. Shyamlal Gurjar, an RSS worker, surrendered at a police thana along with a 9 mm pistol, which, he said, had got discharged accidentally. As to how he got possession of the arm, Gurjar had a rather unbelievable story to relate. He claimed he had found the pistol lying in a “jungle” while he was returning from Salkanpur – a town about 45 km away – and had decided to keep it.
Gurjar’s statement has raised many inconvenient questions about RSS’s shastra puja. It has confirmed the allegations that unauthorised and unlicensed firearms are used in the puja. No one checks whether the weapons brought by the workers are licensed and legal. Then, there is the question as to why loaded guns were kept for the puja. Gurjar told the police that he became panicky after the incident and absconded. The RSS workers, who were present at the place where the untoward incident took place, claimed that there was nobody in the room in which Motwani was killed. This has been contradicted by Gurjar’s statement, who said that the gun had gone off during a meeting in which several RSS workers were present.
Initially, the police had registered a case against unidentified workers. Later, Gurjar’s name was added as an accused. Gurjar did not come to the police after the incident but suddenly surfaced on October 2. Motwani’s family members have firmly rejected the accident theory and alleged that it was a case of cold-blooded murder. The police have, so far, not registered a murder case. Whatever the RSS leaders may claim but it is now established that shastra puja is a patently dangerous and illegal activity.
Three more incidents on the Dusshera day were subject of harsh criticism. One of them was the performance of shastra puja by the Chief Minister himself. The function was held at his official residence. The Chief Minister, along with his family members, was photographed performing shastra puja of automatic and semi-automatic weapons belonging to the police. Under Section 7 of the Arms Act, 1959 the possession, even temporarily, of prohibited arms and ammunition is banned unless specially authorised by the Central Government. Automatic weapons being worshipped on private premises, which include an official bungalow allotted to a government functionary, would amount to temporary possession of prohibited weapons and would be punishable under the Arms Act. Not only that, after worshipping the weapons, the Chief Minister also fired in the air.
On the same day, another offence was committed, that too by an IPS officer. There are photographs of SP of Bhopal firing an AK-47 rifle in the air and his son also being assisted in handling the above weapon. The firing of a weapon in a built-up area is likely to cause injury to people at large and would fall within the definition of public nuisance given in Section 268 of the IPC. Every bullet is an explosive substance, and therefore, any act which is likely to cause injury would fall within the broad definition of section 286 IPC. Clearly, it was wrong on the part of the SP to discharge the firearm in a public place or to allow his minor son to handle it.
Another act of impropriety was committed by the RSS when, in its path sanchalan, even minor children carried and brandished naked swords. Under the Arms Act, minors are prohibited from carrying any kind of weapons. Thus, the RSS violated several laws of the land.
The RSS used the premises of a school for its shastra puja and it was there that a worker was killed in mysterious circumstances. The incident has put pressure on the RSS to either stop the practice of holding shastra puja or to make it a symbolic affair. There is also a section of the opinion, which feels that worship of weapons was against the basic tenets of the Constitution. We, as a nation, are committed to resolving all disputes by peaceful means. And worshipping weapons is surely not compatible with this ideal.