Guns, power, and killings in Delhi

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New Delhi:  The daring daylight killing of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Deepak Bhardwaj at his farmhouse in Delhi has brought back into focus the city's thriving gun culture. Mr Bhardwaj, Delhi's richest Lok Sabha candidate in 2009, was shot dead on Tuesday by two men who left the place brandishing guns.

On the same day, Delhi's notoriety as an unsafe city was again on display when a man shot his wife and father-in-law over a marital dispute at the Karkardooma metro station.

In November, liquor and real estate baron Ponty Chadha was killed in a sensational gunfight at his south Delhi farmhouse.

These incidents, almost one after the other, highlight a culture of uncontrolled aggression in Delhi. In 2011, toll attendant Umesh Kumar Pandey was shot dead by two men in Gurgaon after he asked them to pay Rs 27 as toll tax. The men wanted a free ride across the toll plaza.

However, this is nothing new for Delhi. In 1999, model Jessica Lall was shot dead at a South Delhi bar by Manu Sharma, son of an influential Haryana politician after she refused to serve him alcohol beyond permitted hours at night.

But the case and the spotlight on it changed nothing for Delhi.

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"This culture of aggression is getting pan India. In Delhi it has acquired certain legitimacy. People are not afraid to flaunt their power, or their capability to eliminate anyone at short notice," said social theorist Ashis Nandy.

"There is a culture of aggression here. People lead much more stressful lives in metropolitan cities. People are on short fuse. At very small provocation they tend to take laws into their own hands," said former Delhi Police Commissioner B K Gupta.

According to the last data available on the number of gun deaths in Delhi, of the 63 people killed in 2011, as many as 57 were killed with unlicensed firearms. In 2012, there were an estimated 60,314 gun license holders in the capital; the number of unlicensed firearm holders is not known but is suspected to be much higher.

 


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