A new diktat by the Punjab Police aimed at striking those who glorify gun culture and violence has once again triggered a strict enforcement versus self regulation debate.
The police recently cracked down on glorification of guns and violence via social media and filed an FIR in the matter. But faced with outrage after a 10-year-old boy was booked, the cops were forced to cancel the FIR.
Soon after, however, director general of police Gaurav Yadav announced a 72-hour window to pull down such posts. The top cop appealed for the removal of such posts glorifying weapons failing which action will be initiated.
Punjab has 3,59,249 active gun licences issued over the past two decades. This was not the first time that such an appeal has been made by the DGP or chief minister. In the past too, there have been repeated appeals to desist from glorifying weapons. Chief minister Bhagwant Mann as well as his predecessor Captain Amarinder Singh have both urged people not to indulge in such acts.
In February 2020, Captain had announced in the Vidhan Sabha that his government will not allow the release of any movie or song promoting gangsters and violence. Soon after, the government banned a movie called ‘Shooter’, which was based on the life of gangster Sukha Kahlwan. The makers of the movie were also booked for choosing to make a film on this subject. This was followed by several similar actions.
But in Punjab, strict enforcement at times interferes with religious and cultural sensitivities. “The government might be trying to take steps in the right direction, but it is part of Punjabi culture to carry weapons if not brandish them all the time. Some singers who have been showing off weapons in their songs do it not as part of a culture and not to glorify violence,” said Punjabi singer Saanjz, who is the husband of popular singer Afsana Khan.
While there have been attempts to control the promotion of gun culture in the past, with commissions being formed but since their recommendations are not legally binding, the purpose is defeated.
Earlier in May, Akal Takht jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh had announced that every Sikh youth should think of getting a licensed weapon. In a video message, he had said, “Even today, there is a need, especially for Sikh boys and girls, to follow the orders of Guru Hargobind Singh. They should take training in ‘gatka baazi’ (a traditional martial art), sword fighting and shooting. And every Sikh should also try to possess a licensed modern weapon in a legal way because such are the times and the developing situation is such,” he said.
While the state government did a flip-flop on providing him security, the jathedar announced that Khalsa Panth and Sikh youth were enough for his security cover even though the state government attempted to restore his security.
The issue is invariably sensitive. The police order coincided with the Khalsa Vaheer procession, which is taken out from the Golden Temple complex and, after passing through many parts of Punjab, culminates at Anandpur Sahib on December 20. The issue gained momentum when questions were raised over brandishing of swords and guns by several Sikhs during the event.
Then there are some who believe that rather than religious significance, brandishing weapons is a matter of showing off. “A lot of people put it in the name of religion, but it is unemployment and easy access to social media among youths that has led to this rising culture. More than religion, it is like a social status to brandish weapons,” said analyst A Sodhi.
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