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Image: File photo of a BJP armed rally in Burdwan district.

Kolkata: IN a significant move, Kolkata Police have imposed a ban for a year on carrying of weapons in public places within its jurisdiction that covers both Kolkata and its suburbs.

This is the longest ever ban in post-Independent Kolkata on weapons that normally do not require a licence.

The last time such a ban was imposed was in the 1980’s to deter the Ananda Marga saints from rallying with weapons. But on that occasion, the ban was only for three months, state government sources said.

The year-long ban, which will be in force from 2 January 2018 to 1 January 2019, has been imposed by Kolkata Police commissioner Rajeev Kumar by issuing a notification under the Calcutta Police Act and the Calcutta Suburban Police Act of 1866.

The two laws empower the police commissioner to impose such a ban for a maximum of one year at a stretch. Kolkata Police have plans to renew the ban subsequently, sources said.

A violation of the ban by an individual or group will enable police to arrest and book such people under the Arms Act and under laws on maintenance of public order. The maximum punishment on being proven guilty in a court for this will be seven years in jail.

The ban is primarily believed to have been imposed to deter the RSS, BJP, and their allied organisations from carrying out processions with weapons as they had done in Bengal during the Ram Navami on 5 April this year. [READ: Rare scene in Bengal: RSS frontal organisations hold armed rallies on Ram Navami]

In fact, the notification specifically mentions “swords, spears, bludgeons (gada), or other offensive weapons” that the saffron organisations brandish in public rallies from time to time almost all over India. The ban makes it a crime also for the Muslims in carrying swords and other weapons during the annual Muharram processions.

The state government is apprehensive that to muster political dividend, saffron organisations may try to take out more such weapon rallies in Bengal in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and hence, has imposed the ban. Similar measures are soon likely to be initiated in the rest of the state.

The President, Governor, their guards, the armed forces, and rifle clubs are exempted from this ban under a Central government rule.