ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Gun Culture in Punjab

A burgeoning gun culture in Punjab, aided by changes in the police administration that have made offi cers subordinate to full-time politicians, has led to meaningless violence breaking out every now and then. In the absence of mass mobilisation and welfare-oriented politics, this has furthered the growth of a politician-criminal nexus.

A series of violent incidents involving supporters and activists of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in Punjab have made headlines in the national media. Police officers, revenue staff, tax officials, hoteliers, teenage girls, political opponents, and the common people have been victims in these incidents. In two prominent episodes in 2012, the victims were young girls. In the first case, a 15-year-old girl was abducted during the day from her house in Faridkot town. Her parents were injured and the neighbours were kept at bay by firing guns in the air. In the second case, the daughter of an assistant sub-inspector (ASI) of police was harassed by an armed group of youth in a car in Amritsar. When the ASI, who was in uniform, tried to stop the delinquents, he was injured. With their ammunition running out, they went to the house of a member of the group to fetch a gun and shot the ASI dead in full view of his young daughter and a crowd. In another incident, an assistant inspector general (AIG) police was assaulted in Ludhiana, fracturing his leg. Earlier, a tehsildar was assaulted in his office in Ludhiana in the presence of a crowd, and a hotelier was killed in Jalandhar.

The media alleged that supporters and functionaries of the SAD were involved in all these cases. They attracted wide publicity and the persons involved were arrested and cases registered against them. But there are a large number of cases that go unreported in the media. In many of them, the victims are ordinary people living in rural areas and small towns. The Congress has been complaining that a large number of its members and supporters have been framed by the police. The People’s Party of Punjab led by former SAD finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal has also made similar charges. The frightened people are fast losing trust in the police, which tends to act in a partisan manner when charges are made against ruling party members, supporters, or sympathisers. The ruling SAD-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance has been in denial, stating that those involved in crimes have been expelled from the SAD or are not related to the party. They have even been labelled as drug peddlers. But the sequence of the events before and after ugly incidents makes these claims ring hollow.

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