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The .303 is passe, no successor yet

The ancient Lee Enfield wielded by Karnataka policemen will go, but when and what will replace it is yet not known.

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After the fragging incident at Rajanukunte police station—where a constable frustrated over being denied leave killed a sub-inspector—the home minister informed the legislative council that the ancient .303 rifles issued to policemen would be replaced, but senior police officers differ over what the successor to .303 should be.

Although the uniform opinion among police officers is that the venerable .303 should be retired, some of the officers want a more effective crowd control weapon, like taser, while others want a more powerful gun to deal with criminals, who have begun using guns such as AK-47.

In a reply to member of legislative counsel K Govindaraj on the floor of legislative council, home minister R Ashoka assured to replace the .303 rifles to all the sentries. In a written reply, he said a meeting would be held with ADGPs for replacing the Lee Enfield rifle with a suitable weapon.

Speaking with DNA, Ashoka said the government had initiated the process to replace .303 rifle. He said that in a few places, the guns had been replaced.

DNA’s inquiries found that no such replacement had been effected. In fact, the police officers had not even identified their need, leave alone zeroing in on a successor to the 118-year-old Lee Enfield bolt action, magazine-fed repeater, which was faced out by the British 55 years ago, but continues to be used by Indian police.

Speaking to the top police officers, DNA found that they were not even aware of the home minister’s assurance on the floor of the House.

“I am not aware of the assurance given in legislative council and I will look into the matter and will take the necessary steps,” a surprised DG &IGP Lalrokhuma Pachau said. Lobbying the ball into the court of ADGP (law and order) Bipin Gopal Krishna and additional director general of police (crime and technical services) AM Prasad, Pachau said they would be able to answer about replacing the gun.

ADGP Prasad said: “Replacing the .303 is as yet a thought. All I can say is we cannot replace the it with a weapon having lesser fire power.”

Bipin Gopal Krishna’s views diverged with those of Prasad.

“Yes, we are in the process of replacing .303s with the Tasers or some other suitable crowd-control weapon,” Gopala Krishna said.

“When we deal with the public, we are not fighting against our enemies. The .303 is a dangerous weapon, so we want to equip the force some other standard issue weapon which is not lethal.”

“If policemen are armed with lesser weapons, rowdies and anti-socials will be encouraged to attacks police officers and stations,” another police officer said said.

City police commissioner BG Jyothi Prakash Mirji has no clear opinion on the issue. “If the police department takes a decision to replace .303 rifles, we will obey it and replace them with what they suggest.”

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