Arm yourself with knowledge, not tridents, swords or knives Legal definition of weapon, and how right-wing groups find ways to subvert the law

12, Apr 2022 | CJP Team

Amidst growing instances of extremist groups handing out trishuls (traditional Indian tridents) and some even declaring openly on social media that they have been sending swords to whoever wishes to use them to protect their religion, perhaps it is time to step back to get a clearer picture of not only the impact of all this on communal harmony, but also what the law of the land has to say on the subject of citizens bearing weapons.

Laws and Rules pertaining to weapons

Provisions related to carrying and using weapons are mainly included in the Arms Act, 1959 and Arms Rules 1962.

Section 2 (1) (c) of the Arms Act defines “arms” as:

Articles of any description designed or adapted as weapons for offences, or defence, and includes firearms, sharp-edged and other deadly weapons, and parts of, and machinery for manufacturing arms, but does not include articles designed solely for domestic or agricultural uses such as a lathi or an ordinary walking stick and weapons incapable of being used otherwise than as toys or of being converted into serviceable weapons.”

When it comes to sharp object that may be used as weapons, according to Schedule 1 – Rule 3 (V) that deals with arms other than fire arms:

Sharp-edged and deadly weapons, namely-Swords (including sword-sticks), daggers, bayonets, spears (including lances and javelins); battle-axes, knives (including kripans and khukries) and other such weapons with blades longer than 9″ or wider than 2″ other than those designed for domestic, agricultural, scientific or industrial purposes, steel batton; “Zipo” and other such weapons, called “life preservers”, machinery for making arms, other than category II, and any other arms which the Central Government may notify under section 4.”

Therefore, people are prohibited by law from carrying such weapons. The use of such sharp-edged deadly weapons for disrupting public harmony or creating an environment of fear attracts punishment under the Criminal Procedure Code (CRPC) as well as the IPC. They are neither allowed to be carried in public places or in public transport. However, under Article 25 (2) (b) an exception is made for kripan (a traditional dagger) carried by Sikhs.

Loophole being exploited by extremist groups

However, right-wing extremists appear to have found a loophole to the rules related to sharp objects. A Trishul, for example, is a sharp object and could be used as a weapon. Indeed, its significance in religion comes from it being a weapon wielded by two prominent deities.And though there is no religious mandate for carrying one, these tridents, often their smaller versions, are being distributed by right-wing groups often during socio-cultural or religious gatherings.

According to a June 2017 report published in Ahmedabad Mirror, after 75 youth were given trishuls by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Mahadev Desai, the organisation’s general secretary had revealed this loophole saying, “The trishuls are one centimetre smaller than the prohibited weapons.” The group had, by their own admission distributed at least 4,000 such weapons to youths in Gandhinagar district in the preceding two and a half years for the purposes of protecting cows and fighting “Love Jihad”. At that time, Gandhinagar Bajrang Dal president Shaktisinh Zala had told the publication, “We want to make a strong unit of Hindu youth who staunchly follow Hindutva and our Trishul Diksha event in Gandhinagar is part of that mission.”

Trishul Diksha events

Communalism Combat, a magazine brought out by journalist and human rights defender Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand in the early between 1993 and 2012, had documented the advent of the Trishul Diksha culture as far back as in our November 2001 issue. We had reported on “the systematic distribution of a few hundred thousand ‘trishuls’ — cleverly disguised Rampuri knives, six–eight inches long and sharp enough to kill”. These were being given to youth by the VHP and Bajrang Dal. At that time, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had revealed that nearly 40 lakh trishuls had been distributed nationwide by then.

Similar Trishul Diksha events were held across Rajasthan in early 2003, in the run up to assembly elections in the state. It was in fact during one such ceremony that BJP leader Praveen Togadia had made a deeply communal and incendiary speech. According to a report in The Frontline, Togadia reportedly asked people present at the ceremony to “raise your trishuls and pledge that you will worship Bhagwan Shankar and Ma Durga, that you will build the Ram temple, that you will destroy Pakistan and make India a Hindu Rashtra.”

Togadia was arrested on April 13, 2003, and booked under Section 121-A. According to this section, “Whoever within or without India conspires to commit any of the offences punishable by section 121, or conspires to overawe, by means of criminal force or the show of criminal force, the Central Government or any State Government, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

Interestingly, in the same year on April 8, the Rajasthan government had issued a notification prohibiting people from distributing, acquiring, possessing or carrying double or multi-bladed sharp pointed weapons.

The Trishul Diksha programs have now resumed in Gujarat. According to a March 13, 2022, report in the Economic Times, one such ceremony, where 5,100 people were administered Trishul Diksha, was held in North Gujarat at the Swaminarayan temple in Himmatnagar. In attendance were local Member of Parliament Dilipsinh Rathore, local Member of Legislative Assembly Raju Chavda and several senior leaders of the VHP and Bajrang Dal.

In January 2013, the Shiv Sena had distributed retractable knives to women for self defence. These knives were also well within the size restrictions, but are likely to cause more harm to the women being encouraged to use them, as it would require the woman being assaulted to be in stabbing proximity of her assailant, who can in turn easily overpower them and use the very knife to attack the woman. It is well known that items like pepper spray or chilly powder that can be used from a distance against perpetrators of sexual violence are much better that items that require one to engage in close quarter combat.

Some spiritual leaders have also been urging people to carry weapons. CJP’s sister organisation SabrangIndia has documented how Sadhvi Saraswati urged youths to carry swords to protect cows. It is noteworthy that swords are clearly larger than the maximum permissible limit of weapons one can carry, therefore carrying one would attract penalty under the law.

So, what can you do?

If you believe in traditional Indian values like harmonious coexistence and Constitutional values like Secularism, you clearly cannot stand back and watch as your friends or even family members get drawn into a vortex of hate by influential community leaders peddling hate. In such cases here how you can put an end to hate in your immediate vicinity:

Talk to your friend/family member

Very often, just talking to the person concerned helps diffuse tensions. Find out why they felt the need to attend a weapons distribution event. Ask them what makes them feel insecure and how you can help them deal with their anxieties. Try to talk them out of attending such events in future. Also try to convince them to discard the weapons. Inform them about legal provisions against possessing and carrying weapons. In many cases, good natured but gullible people are emotionally manipulated by extremists, and you can mitigate the damage by just reaching out with compassion and correct legal information.

Collect evidence

If you can find a way to take pictures or record videos without putting yourself in harm’s way, do it. Many times, you don’t even have to do this, as most extremist groups themselves upload and share images on social media. Save screengrabs and links of these posts, as these can also serve as evidence.

Approach the authorities

Given all the legal provisions in place, the right thing to do is inform the authorities. You can file a written complaint with your local police station and share the photographic and videographic evidence you have collected with them. Remember to keep multiple copies of your complaint as well as evidence. It is advisable to do so with a lawyer present, so that your rights can be protected.

However, this might not always be possible. Not everyone feels comfortable calling the cops- sometimes it is because of love and loyalty towards friends and family, other times it might be due to personal safety concerns. In that case you can try the next alternative step.

Write to CJP

You can share the images and videos you have collected giving the date and location, and a brief description of your concerns with human rights groups you trust. You can send them to us at CJP by clicking this link: https://cjp.org.in/hate-hatao#report-hate or emailing us at [email protected]

Contact government ministries and autonomous bodies

One can either register an official complaint with the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) online at http://cms.ncm.nic.in/ or write to them at:

O/o. Secretary (NCM),
National Commission for Minorities,
Government of India,
3rd Floor, Block-3,
C.G.O. Complex, Lodhi Road,
NEW DELHI – 110003.
Phone: 1800-110-088
Fax: +91-11-24363821
Email: [email protected]

You can also write to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) or various State Human Rights Commissions (SHRC) here:

https://hrcnet.nic.in/HRCNet/public/webcomplaint.aspx

The names and contact details of your state human rights commission may be viewed here:

https://nhrc.nic.in/about-us/state-commission?term_node_tid_depth=2369

 

Related:

Report Hate

Understand what constitutes Hate Speech

 

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