The days when Kerala/ Indian woman illegally carried unauthorized goodies like the safety pins, the razor blade and the hot chilly spray, in their vanity bags to fend off the indecent advancements from lust indiced male-beasts are over. They can go now legal, carry a revolver with them, wield it in public against the offenders and even finish them off by just pulling its trigger. Not a comic scene in the Mollywood movies. The government of India has launched a gun, first of its kind, for female users on 6 January 2014. Manufactured by the Indian Ordnance Factory, at Kanpur, named Nirbheek (fearless) as a tribute to the December 2012 Delhi rape victim, Nirbhaya, it is government's one solution to the not subsiding rape problem in the country.
According to its manufacturers, the specially made gun has many attractions; 'a .32 bore light weight revolver', made of titanium alloy and weighing only 500g, can settle snugly inside a female's purse or a small hand bag . In the view of the arms experts, it is ''an Indian hybrid of a Webley & Scott and Smith & Wesson, for its simple mechanism and light frame...''.
The cutey is intended to make the females, as the name indicates, fearless, that is if they keep a Nirbheek in their bag, they can easily face any assailants under any circumstances even as heinous as Nirbhaya's and even shoot them down if the situation gets out of control.
And it comes with a heavy price tag, at Rs, 1,22,360. Mail and Guardian in an article 'Is a Pistol the Answer to India's Rape Problem?' contends that the price ''40% more than India's average annual income – is far beyond the reach of the vast majority of (Indian) women''. But according to Abdul Hameed, the general manager of the IOF, 80% of the bookings received on the day of the launch came from women licensees.
For the government, it is an answer to the ever increasing rape cases in India, rated at one in very 22 minutes, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. But is facilitating the use of gun to solve a deep rooted problem like rape, which in itself is violent, has drawn criticism from women's group and anti-gun campaigners across the nation. According to them this is the state's failure to accept its responsibility, for solving rape is government's responsibility, and an insult to Nirbhaya. And I think the number of men and women who would share their sentiments would be a majority.
M& G contends that among India's estimated 40 million gun owners, the number the second largest in the world, next to that of US, only 15% are licensed, and Times of India concedes that ''the government offers arms licenses as incentive to achieve wheat procurement and immunization target'.
Given the conditions prevailing in the country; less female security both inside and outside their homes; less prepared law and order personals; the traditionalists' -both men and women included- attitude to use archaic methods to discipline the offended females and support the perpetrator males in the name of culture; the females haven't formed an effective net-work to be part of the solution etc, a consider number of Indian women would procure Nirbheek .
And in a country where lawlessness is perceived to be the order of the day, the government is not flexing its muscles where it should, and the elements of male-female antagonism and the urge to control each other are on the rise, what repercussions the ownership of Nirbheek can bring to its society and homes is indeed a matter of serious concern.