The first meeting of the National Association for Gun Rights India (NAGRI), took place on 17th January 2010 at the Habitat Centre, New Delhi. What follows is a brief summary of the meeting:
The weather gods don't heed the best laid plans, and come Sunday, Delhi saw some of the worst fog of the season. Traffic was backed up for hours and most morning trains & flights were cancelled/ delayed/ diverted. Despite this initial setback, the vast majority of our enthusiastic invitees braved the conditions and made it to the venue in time for the meet.
In all 34 attendees, from more than 10 Indian States/ UTs, were present, the list (in alphabetical order):
1. Abhijeet Singh
2. Ajay Singha
3. Amit Kr Gupta
4. Anupam Kamal
5. Arti Singh Rao
6. Ashok Mittal
7. Barun Mitra
8. Biren Deep Sodhi
9. Col Rakesh Passi
10. DigVijay Singh
11. Gusti Noria
12. H S Bedi
13. J P Nautiyal
14. Jaspal Rana
15. Malvinder Singh Sodhi
16. Moraad A Khan
17. Naveen Jindal
18. Nishant Mangla
19. P Deepak
20. Rahoul Rai
21. Rajeev Singh
22. Rajpal S Kochhar
23. Reet Singh
24. Sanjay Mathur
25. Sanjay Saini
26. S Ahmed
27. Shivashish Das
28. SS Sidhu
29. Sukhdeep P Singh
30. Sushil Lodhi
31. Vijay Soni
32. Vikram Bhatnagar
33. Vishavdev Singh Sidhu
34. Wg Cdr (Retd) Sarvagya Mathur
Since this was an all day conclave, besides a lunch break, there were several tea/ coffee breaks throughout the day. However for the sake of simplicity we'll divide the description into the 1st & 2nd halves of the day.
Once everyone had warmed up with piping hot tea/ coffee, the meet started out with informal discussions wherein various people voiced what they felt were immediate and long terms issues, what needed to be done to protect the interests of gun owners, etc.
The meeting was then called to order by Shri. Rajpal S Kochhar and he gave a brief presentation on the areas that need to be addressed immediately, systematically dividing each area of responsibility based on the kind of tasks to be executed & the skills that would be required. It was decided to set up volunteer committees for each one of these areas to get things moving at a fast pace. The committees formed were:
1. Legal & Legal Structure – Tasked with finalising the name of the organisation, putting in place the constitution, society registration etc.
2. Parliamentary & State Legislative Thrust – Tasked with sensitising and bringing on board MPs & MLAs, by explaining the issues to each, explaining our position, the government's position, the impact of policy changes etc. and then having them sign letters in our support, requesting them to raise starred/ unstarred questions in the house.
3. Dignitary Liaison – Tasked with sensitising and bringing on board public figures, retired senior Generals, IPS & other officers. Aimed towards having them publicly speak out in our favour.
4. Media Relations – Tasked with media management, both in terms of raising awareness & sensitising the media to our position as well as scrutinising all media reports related to areas affecting us and sending them our responses on an ongoing basis.
5. Internal communication – Tasked with Internal e-mail list, Website, Member Directory etc. to ease communications between the various members & committees.
6. "Case" – Tasked with building our case including preparing content for dissemination + research, this would include preparing ready-made counter arguments to dispel popular anti-gun myths, prepare a counter proposal to amend the Arms Act/ related policy in a more rational & pro-gun fashion.
7. Membership – Tasked with driving membership enrolment and making the organisation more representative of all demographic segments of gun owners (mass based). Also to take care of all other membership related issues.
8. Fund raising – Tasked with preparing short term & long term fund raising strategies
This was followed by a short talk by Abhijeet Singh, outlining the three main areas requiring legislative action.
1. Grant of License – towards making the process objective & fair completely free of fear or favour
2. Acquisition – towards repealing ammunition quotas and limits on the number of arms allowed to be owned by a private citizen.
3. Jurisdiction – towards simplifying jurisdiction issues and easing the grant of All India licenses
Next came the task of assigning volunteers to each committee, those present volunteered based on what areas they felt they could best contribute. It was decided that each team would work independently but in overall co-ordination of the other teams as this would allow for faster action/ reaction.
1. Legal & Legal Structure – Moraad A Khan, Sukhdeep, Abhijeet, P. Deepak, J.P. Nautiyal, Vikram Bhatnagar
2. Parliamentary & State Legislative Thrust – Gusti Noria, Jaspal Rana, Moraad A Khan
3. Dignitary Liaison – Wing Cmdr Mathur, Jaspal Rana, Moraad A Khan, Rahoul Rai
4. Media Relations – Sanjay Saini, Moraad A Khan, Arti Rao, Jaspal Rana
5. Internal communication – Abhijeet Singh and Team
6. Case – Abhijeet, P.Deepak
7. Membership – Anupam Kamal, Shivashish, Rajiv Sharma, Nishant Mangla
8. Fund raising – Rajpal Singh Kochhar, Sanjay Saini, Naveen Jindal, Amit Kr Gupta, Jaspal Rana
Shri. Jaspal Rana, someone who is well known not only to everyone in the shooting fraternity but also a sportsman with a huge fan following amongst the general public, stood up and volunteered to join more than one committee while also going so far as to promise to speak up on every public forum whenever requested to do so.
Shri. Moraad A Khan, renowned trap shooter who has represented India for many years, attended every single session and frequently contributed to the discussions taking place. He also volunteered for several committees, expressing his opinion that the time to do something positive was now or never.
Kr. Arti Rao, renowned skeet shooter who has represented India on several occasions, while promising her & her families whole hearted support, also undertook to bring more women shooter into the fold. She also happily volunteered to be a spokesperson for the organisation.
Shri. Rajpal S Kochhar, took the podium after lunch to appraise everyone of who all had volunteered for which committees. This was followed by further discussions on possible strategies.
Shri Digvijay Singh (senior Member of Parliament & President of NRAI) joined the meeting post-lunch and after being brought up to date on the discussions, spend some time expressing his views on how Parliamentarians should be approached and sensitised. He also promised the whole hearted support of NRAI towards making NAGRI and our collective cause a resounding success.
Shri Naveen Jindal (Member of Parliament), joined us during the post-lunch session. He expressed his whole hearted solidarity and promised to do everything in his power towards helping protect the basic right of every Indian citizen to own arms. While regaling everyone with some well chosen anecdotes, he brought to everyone's attention the sheer enjoyment that owning guns & shooting bring to all of us and also that while crimes are seldom committed using licensed arms, unfortunately arms licensees were being constantly harassed at every step. He promised the full support & help of his personal secretarial staff, as well as to help sensitise & bring on board as many fellow MPs as he could.
The body of members unilaterally lauded the efforts of Shri. Naveen Jindal towards the improvement of the lot of the shooting community (enthusiasts, athletes & license holders).
There were discussions on which best short term and long term strategies should be adopted. Shri Gusti Noria, Shri. Rahoul Rai, Shri. Vikram Bhatnagar, Shri. Sukhdeep P Singh, Shri. Vijay Soni, Shri. P. Deepak, Shri. Shivashish Das, Shri. Sanjay Saini, Shri. Anupam Kamal, Shri Barun Mitra, Shri JP Nautiyal, Shri. Ajay Singha, Col (retd) Passi and Shri. Sushil Lodhi were amongst the most vocal and active participants in these discussions and contributed hugely in arriving at the final outline that was decided to be put in action immediately.
Immediate course of action was decided as staying focussed on the current threat of the impending amendments to the Arms Act/ Rules, while long term attempts would be aimed at eventually having the laws & policy rationalised, with an eventual goal of having the right to keep & bear arms recognised as a fundamental right.
* Team of individuals have already met up and got many MPs on board
* Tabling of the amendment bill has been deferred for a few months due to the concerted efforts of many
Action to be undertaken:
1. Finalising name & constitution of organisation, so that membership can be opened to all ASAP
2. Ongoing media management & sensitisation of general public
3. Ongoing drive to bring on board more individuals
4. Increase number of signatories and gain approval of MP’s by meeting them in person and apprising them of the issue at hand and its associated legalities. Each one of should try and garner letters of support from as many MP's as we can, especially those who are part of either the Home Affairs Standing Committee or Consultative Committee
5. Drafting of the ‘Case’ against the amendment and drafting ‘Questions’ for parliament.
6. Draft letters to be sent across to all MP’s in co-ordination with Col. Passi (750)
7. Try to form a core support group of 200 MP’s
8. Identify luminaries and public figures who will act as patrons for the cause.
9. Form an internal group which is to meet up with: Hon'able Prime Minister / Hon'able Home Minister / Hon'able Speakers
A final summary was presented by Abhijeet Singh, after which the meeting was declared closed.
A very special thanks to Shri. Rajpal S Kochhar, without whose support we would not have come so far. The entire community of Indian gun owners, owes him a debt of gratitude for his initiative & drive in making this possible.