The Symbolism of Progress (or lack of progress)
The New York Times’ India Ink blog ran an interesting story about melting police-seized guns into agricultural tools to try to reduce the levels of violent crime in Bihar. While peace will likely be harder to attain than just by melting guns (especially guns which have been seized after already being used to commit murder), the symbolism of reworking weapons to rework the land is interesting and sounds like something Gandhi would have approved of.
The question now, of course, is whether all these new farm tools will be put to use. Many of the weapons seized were “country-made firearms,” known as katta. This is to say that they are made fairly cheaply and easily. A gunsmith in Ganga recalls:
“The barrel can be made from any hard good quality metal pipe, the butt and the trigger are fashioned from raw metal, the hammer is generally improvised from the spring of a stove and some nails. And if I have the raw material, I can manufacture it in one-and-a-half hour’s time. All I use is a hammer, chisel, pliers, a screw-driver and a forge with bellows,” he adds.
If kattas are made this easily and cheaply, what’s to say that melted guns-turned-farmtools can’t be reworked once more? If the stashes of weapons across the province suddenly disappear, what’s to prevent demand for more guns from rising? It takes a whole societal shift, not just fewer guns. As the same gunsmith observes, “Weddings, festivals and election time usually spell higher sales.” Ironic, no, that weddings, festivals, and fair elections are usually associated with peace and prosperity elsewhere?