Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the Right to Bear Arms

I respect two former prime minsters of India — Shri PV Narasimha Rao and Shri AB Vajpayee. If only they had had the mandate to make those fundamental changes that they wanted to make. Both, unfortunately, did not have the necessary popular support in the parliament. And equally unfortunately, those prime ministers who did have massive parliamentary support did not have the vision to put India on a path to prosperity. Indians collectively suffer very bad karma.

But I am thankful for small mercies. Today I learned that Shri Vajpayee supported the right to self defense and wanted Indians to have the right to bear arms. (Hat tip: Akshar Prabhu Desai.) 

The Nehru government passed the Arms Act of 1959, which imposed more stringent gun control laws than the British had during their raj. Vajpayee was the only one who stood up against Nehru and dissented. Nehru, like his mentor Gandhi, was a tool of the British.

Here’s what Vajpayee said in his dissent, on Aug 8th, 1959. (That’s just a few days over 59 years ago!):

“The present Bill seeks to repeal the Indian Arms Act enacted by the British rulers eighty years ago with a view to disarm the whole nation. Apart from the consideration of safeguarding the Empire, this policy of depriving the whole people of arms was motivated in the main by a sense of deep distrust and an attitude of contempt towards the Indian people. I am sorry to note that even after twelve years of independence, the present Government have not been able to shake off completely the legacy of their predecessors. The present Bill as by the Joint Committee is an improvement on the original Bill no doubt, but traces of this distrust linger still, and restrain the Bill from going as far as it should. Hence this note of dissent.

“The right to bear and carry arms is an inviolable and sacred right of every free citizen and though this has not been included in the list of fundamental rights enumerated in the Indian Constitution, the right of self defence accepted and guaranteed by the Indian Penal Code implicitly acknowledges the right to possess arms. Since India is not in a position to run into a race of armaments with big powers, or their satellites, surrounding our boundaries and having hostile and expansionist designs against us, the only course open for us is to arm our people and make military training compulsory for all adults and able-bodied citizens….

“….The present Bill seeks to liberalise the licensing provisions, but the liberalisation is very halting, the procedure of securing a license still remains irksome and dilatory and the license-seeker left to the whims and caprice of the bureaucracy….”

Let’s stress this bit. Vajpayee said, “… by a sense of deep distrust and an attitude of contempt towards the Indian people.” That sums up Nehru’s attitude precisely. That Nehruvian legacy continues even today.

The day Indians get themselves the equivalent of the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution, that will be the day that they will take a step toward being free. Will they? I have my doubts.

Shri Vajpayee was a good man. May his spirit live on. Om Shanti.

Note: The US Second Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights which was adopted in December 1791, reads:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.



Author: Atanu Dey


9 thoughts on “Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the Right to Bear Arms”

  1. During the debate on the draft of Indian constitution there was indeed non-trivial support for adding Right to bear arms to Indian constitution. In fact Indian National Congress itself has always supported this right.

    But when they got the whip in their hand they decided to ditch the issue.

    To use Mr. Ambedkar’s words

    ‘..I personally myself cannot conceive how it would be possible for the State to carry on its administration if every individual had the right to go into the market and purchase all sorts of instruments of attack without any let or hindrance from the State.’

    Not sure how he and other members of Congress imagines the British government going about its oppression with Indian citizens owning arms but they demanded it nevertheless.


    1. The freedom to choose what you do with your own life is sacred. Who died and made you in charge to decide who does what with his life, whether to end it with a knife, a gun or a noose? What gives you the right to pass judgment on what others want to do that which you have no control over? That’s arrogance. You are out of your depth when you arrogate for yourself the right to decide who shall live and who should die. It’s simply disgusting and abhorrent.


      1. It seems you’re referring to suicide in your reply that suicide is a personal right and that I should not dictate or prevent someone from suicide.
        I clearly differ from you in that respect. My reasoning is simple:
        1.) Individuals sometimes do things in rage which they regret later on, but suicide is something which doesn’t give individuals the chance of regret.
        2.) There are others too who have stake in one’s life, like wife, children and family with whom the person voluntarily associate. Do they not have a say in the life of a person?
        You are the one who criticized on your blog Gandhi for taking a vow of Brahmacharya, because he felt so, not considering his wife. The point being that suicide concerns others too. How many you think take consent of others before doing such a thing?Are they not shirking off responsibilities knowingly or knowingly in many cases?

        Suicide becomes easier by accessing a means of killing which finishes the individual in a second. Not allowing citizens to have guns is a sort of ‘nudge’ (As Nobel Laureate economist Richard Thaler used the term) to lessen the suicides. Perhaps you might argue that even rules enforcing wearing of helmets is coercion. That government doing a ‘nudge’ is out of their depth.

        Let’s leave suicides aside for a moment, what about enormous homicides due to guns?
        If guns are widely used to harm another person so frequently, why not ban it if it brings the numbers down?
        With all due respect, I think it’s you who are out of your depth by appealing to only sacred cow of Liberty in every argument at the expense of everything else. Liberty matters, yes it does, but there are other important considerations as well too, about which you simply don’t care.


  2. Equating a knife and a gun as killing machine is incorrect. Being human, we all go through uncontrolled fits of anger. A gun in hand is a disaster in those scenarios. Hence I am of the firm opinion that right to carry firearms should NOT be there.

    Do you have any detailed post on gun-control? I am sure you have your reasons and I would like to know those.


    1. I have not written about gun control on this blog although I agree with the 2nd Amendment. I don’t think it is good to disarm a society. At best that is paternalistic — Says the government to the people, “You are too irresponsible to have guns and only I get to have them.” Then when the time is right, that government moves against the disarmed people without any resistance. Why did the British disarm Indians? So much the easier to gun them down in a cul-de-sac as in Jallianwala Bagh.

      There is a price to pay. Guns make it easier to defend but also easier to attack. But there are more people who are interested only in defending than there are people who would initiate violence. Hence my argument for gun ownership. (I don’t own a gun but if I feel that I need to, I will not hesitate to get a gun.)


      1. The balance of power is always OVERWHELMINGLY in favor of the government or the state. The idea that any armed resistance by civilians against the state is conceivable is simply outlandish.
        If people would have been armed in Jalianvala Bagh with guns, Government would have blown them with grenades or something more powerful.
        You think you can resist against state power by owning a gun?

        Liked by 2 people

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