Abdul Hameed is the general manager of the Indian Ordinance Factory, a state-owned company that produces guns.
He shows me the company’s latest product: a handgun specially designed for women. “It’s very light, weighs only 500 grams and very easy in operation. It’s also durable and can fire up to five hundred bullets without affecting the bore. Women can carry it anywhere because it’s small enough to fit even in their purse.”
The gun is called Nirbheek or fearless. It’s a synonym of Nirbhaya – the nickname given by the Indian press to the Delhi gang-raped victim who was murdered in 2012.
The incident triggered a nation-wide public outrage and anger in the country. Hameed says the gun is a tribute to her.
“We also thought about doing something about it and we sought suggestions from the staff at the factory. Many suggestions came and finally we agreed on Nirbheek. Now we are sure that women carrying this revolver will feel safe and won’t fear anyone.”
The gun is sold at 2,000 US dollars... almost twice the average annual income in the country. But the response has been good with more than 2 dozen guns sold so far and over a 100 enquiries recuieved. 80 percent of the bookings are made by women, like 30-year-old Shobha.
“For women’s safety it is important that weapons like this are made available to them. Women should now adopt these things because they have become a necessity in times when you really don’t know what awaits you. Anything can happen to a woman anytime.”
But for 23-year-old university student Deepa, this could create other problems. “So if you allowed to legally carry it, a lot of misuse could happen. Women could just take personal vengeance out on other people. I’m not not really sure.”
Human rights groups have strongly opposed the launch of the gun. Critics say it uses serious social problem as a marketing gimmick. Binalaxmi Nepram is the head of the Women Gun Survivors Network.
“Had Nirebhaya been alive she couldn't have afforded this gun, such is the level of poverty in our houses. The costs what is more than the yearly income of Nirbhaya’s family. It’s an insult to her memory.”
She believes having a weapon does not empower a woman in a hostile environment. “Research shows that having a gun doesn’t give you security actually. In fact if you have a gun the chances of you being shot dead are 12 times more compared to when you don’t have it. And there’s a lot of rising violence against women so it can be turned against her.