By Archana Sharma
Jaipur, Jan 23 (IANS) Once upon a time, around 80 years back, there was a woman who walked with might with mausers and guns, used to fire shots in the air during festivities and celebrations and managed all the finances of her home single-handedly while doing all the household chores.
Today, the onscreen presence of 'Revolver Rani' in Bollywood and social media channels might fascinate us; however, this real life Revolver Rani story is quite fascinating and hence it echoes in the confines of erstwhile havelis in the district even after 70-80 years, telling the tale of women empowerment in India around 70 years back.
The dynamic lady was Saubhagya Kunwar who had licenses for five guns in her name during pre-independence times. She was invited by families and friends to fire shots in the air to celebrate weddings or the birth of a son.
'Saubhagya Kunwar in those times was the owner of a rifle, mauser, double barrel gun and local countrymade guns called 'dhamaka' or 'chhutanki' in the local language whose 'chharre' were quite big and had the capacity to injure 100 people at a time,' Umer Singh Mehta, son of Saubhagya Kunwar, told IANS.
Saubhagya Kunwar loved her collection of arms and ammunition. She used to store them with proper care and clean them regularly. On every festival, these arms were taken out and shots were fired in the air by her, says Umer Singh.
My mother was well versed in the use of a rifle, he says with a smile.
How did she get so much ammunition?
In pre-independence days, many people used to mortgage their weapons and jewellery to us. Also, there were people who sold their weapons to us. After independence, their licenses were made in my mother's name, he said adding, 'Then these rifles, mauser etc came to us.'
'After her death, we tried a lot to get the mauser and other arms licences transferred to our name in 1983 but, then they had to be surrendered/sold as we could not get their licenses. We just have a rifle left with us and its license has been transferred in my name but everything else has been surrendered,' says this Revolver Rani's son.
He sadly shared the tale of 'licence raj' under which licenses were issued only to MPs and MLAs and not to the common people. 'Imagine, in 1947, licenses were easily made in my mother's name and in 1983, despite all efforts we could not get licenses for these arms and ammunition which were more like antique pieces. We had to surrender them to people who hardly knew their value and worth. Many of them had gold carvings and others had work of elephant teeth. However, we had to sell them at quite a cheap price which are now covered with dust,' he says.
Mehta remembers how his mother used to clean her arms on Diwali when other women were busy cleaning houses and utensils. But he is sad as the story of this Revolver Rani could not be passed on to the next generation as they could not get licences.
'Her ammunition was sold to Rajasthan Gun House situated in Jaipur at quite a cheap price. It was our 'majboori'; we tried for licenses which we could not get and hence they were sold.
'Things became much more complicated in 1983 compared to 1947. In fact, this system killed the legacy of our mother,' he adds.
Captain Mohammad Shamsher Khan, the erstwhile Nawabzada of the former royal family of Tonk, says that many begums too had revolvers and gun licenses in their names in those times.
Many of them participated in the freedom struggle too, he said, quoting a book titled 'The Rebels of Tonk at Ajmeri Gate in Delhi in 1857' which was written by Nidhi Sharma, a lecturer in Kota government college.
Tonk once had the world's greatest artillery, best sportspersons, best talents and best cuisine, but its pristine history has been distorted, he says with pain as Umer Singh adds, 'There used to be Revolver Ranis in Tonk who walked with might, undeterred and firing shots in the air during festivities and celebrations. That era seems gone now.'
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