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Guns, Songs, and Punjab: Will Govt's Restrictions on Weapons Do the Trick?

The state government has said it will review all firearm licences issued in the state over the next three months.

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Explainers
5 min read
Guns, Songs, and Punjab: Will Govt's Restrictions on Weapons Do the Trick?
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In a bid to curb gun violence in the state, the Punjab government on Sunday, 13 November, took various measures, including imposing a ban on songs promoting gun culture and violence, as well as any public displays of firearms. 

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)- led state government also ordered a review of arms licenses within the next three months, according to an official order. But why was such an order issued? The Quint delves into more on this.

Guns, Songs, and Punjab: Will Govt's Restrictions on Weapons Do the Trick?

  1. 1. What Does the Order State?

    In a communication to the Director General of Police, Commissioners of Police, District Magistrates, and Senior Superintendents of Police, the Punjab Home Department ordered that:

    • "Public display and exhibition of weapons including on social media” as well as songs glorifying weapons or violence are to be banned.

    • A review of all firearm licences issued in the state so far have to be carried out within three months.

    • Officers must "immediately cancel the arms licence” if it is found to be issued to any miscreant during the review.

    • No new firearm licence should be issued in the next three months, except when competent authorities are “personally convinced that issuing of arms licence is necessary due to extraordinary circumstances”.

    • FIRs have to be registered against persons "making hate speech against any community”.

    • A complete ban must be imposed on the carrying or showing off of weapons in public gatherings, religious places, marriage functions, or other events

    The move comes in the wake of the rising incidents of shootouts in the state. While Punjabi singer Sidhu Moose Walla was gunned down in May this year, Amritsar Shiv Sena (Taksali) leader Sudhir Suri and sacrilege-accused Dera follower Pardeep Singh were killed within the span of a week this month.

    In May, Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann had issued a warning to singers who allegedly promote gun culture through their songs.

    Expand
  2. 2. What Does the Data Say?

    He had condemned the "trend of gun culture and gangsterism being promoted by some Punjabi singers" and urged them "to desist from fanning violence, hatred and animosity" through their songs.

    According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Punjab reported 2,073 cases related to gun violence between 2016 and 2020.

    Even though the state has only 2 percent of the country's population, Punjab holds more than 10 percent of the gun licenses in the country.

    Punjab, which was hit by terrorism in the 1980s and 1990s, has approximately 4 lakh arms license holders, including those of prohibited bore and non-prohibited bore, and most of these were issued during the militancy period, according to official sources.

    Demand for Illegal Firearms

    Owning a gun has become a fashion statement and a matter of prestige in the state. This love for firearms has, in turn, led to a demand for illegal firearms, which are readily available and affordable. According to a report by India Today, illegal arms are mainly smuggled from Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, besides Pakistan.

    The report said that country-made pistols or “desi katta” are available for somewhere between Rs 2,500 and Rs 15,000. Automatic country-made pistols price range between Rs 25,000 and Rs 60,000 and 0.30 bore and 9 mm pistol are priced between Rs 50,000 and Rs 1.50 lakh.

    Expand
  3. 3. How Does Pop Culture Glorify Gun Culture?

    The proliferation of arms and ammunition goes hand-in-hand with the popularity of Punjabi pop music videos that show men with guns, and have lyrics making references to guns/firearms.

    For example, Sidhu Moose Walla in his track ‘Outlaw’, sang: “Assi goliyaan de naal mukne nahi..medalan wangu parche ne, aidde-aidde kaand kare, Parliament tak charche ne… (We aren’t the ones who will be finished with bullets, FIRs on us are like medals, our deeds are a matter of discussion in Parliament).”

    On 1 February 2020, Moose Walla, along with Mankirt Aulakh, was booked for allegedly singing and promoting the song ‘Pakhiyan, pakhiyan.. gun vich panj goliyaan‘.

    In May of that year, he was booked under the Arms Act after pictures of him firing an AK-47 rifle at a shooting range during the COVID-19 lockdown went viral. When asked to stop promoting guns, he had defiantly asked that if “he stops singing, will the gangsters stop?”

    In July, he again got into trouble and was booked for allegedly promoting violence and gun culture with his song Sanju. 

    However, it would be wrong to say Moose Walla was the only artiste promoting such a culture. Punjabi singer Elly Mangat was booked in November 2019 by Ludhiana police for participating in alleged celebratory firing at a birthday party and sharing the video on social media.

    In March 2020, the Moga police registered an FIR against Punjabi singer Sippy Gill for allegedly promoting violence and weapons in his track ‘Gundagardi’.

    Expand
  4. 4. 'Movies, Music a Mere Reflection of Society'

    For some years now, there has been a hue and cry over how Punjabi pop culture has been normalising gun culture. So much so that in 2019, the Punjab and Haryana High Court, taking a note of this culture, directed the Director General of Police in Punjab, Haryana and the Union Territory of Chandigarh to ensure no songs glorifying liquor, wine, drugs and violence were played or performed.

    In the decades after Independence, there has been profound social and political changes and conflict that has created existential angst among Punjab’s youth.

    "It is this very angst and the anger and alienation that the government has to get to the root of and help channelise this energy into something positive", said Harinder Happy, a PhD scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

    According to him, there are myths about gun culture in Punjab that he would like to debunk. "Films, songs, movies reflect the society. It would be wrong to say that songs are encouraging gun culture. It rather is a reflection of how the society is. The society is not a homogenous one. Not everyone has the means and access to a gun. You cannot therefore say gun culture is rampant," he said.

    Expand
  5. 5. 'Forms of Weapon Have Changed'

    He pointed out that Sikhism has been seen as a "weaponised religion". Weapons like the sword are intrinsically linked to Sikhism, but they don't realise the history and origins behind it, he adds. During the Khalsa movement in the 17th-18th century, these weapons were used to fight against the atrocities of the Mughal rule. They were used to fight oppression. From, time to time, the type of weapon has changed and that has grown to include a gun to some extent."

    He also disagrees that gun culture originated in Punjab.

    "There is a song called Kanpuriya by Balkar Ankhila and Manjinder Gulshan where they make a reference to "Kanpuriya katta" (which translates to a gun from Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh). Similarly, Garry Sandhu in his song Illegal Weapon has talked about the illegal weapon trade in Uttar Pradesh. It would be wrong to point it out as a problem that is specific to Punjab."

    "No one refers to the gun culture in movies like RRR or Gangs of Wassepur or Mirazpur. Why all the hue and cry about Punjab then?" he added.

    He also feels that the recent order by the government will do more harm than good. "When you are making something illegal, people will want to do it more because that is how human psychology works," he added.

    Rather than pointing out what the problem is, the government should look to why it is happening and try to solve it, Happy said. He added that the state government is under a lot of pressure after Moose Walla's murder to bring in measures to prevent easy access to gun.

    "Of course, some people will have objections to this. But the government is doing this so that they can say they tried bringing in gun control laws but people themselves did not accept them. This absolves them of blame," he added.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

What Does the Order State?

In a communication to the Director General of Police, Commissioners of Police, District Magistrates, and Senior Superintendents of Police, the Punjab Home Department ordered that:

  • "Public display and exhibition of weapons including on social media” as well as songs glorifying weapons or violence are to be banned.

  • A review of all firearm licences issued in the state so far have to be carried out within three months.

  • Officers must "immediately cancel the arms licence” if it is found to be issued to any miscreant during the review.

  • No new firearm licence should be issued in the next three months, except when competent authorities are “personally convinced that issuing of arms licence is necessary due to extraordinary circumstances”.

  • FIRs have to be registered against persons "making hate speech against any community”.

  • A complete ban must be imposed on the carrying or showing off of weapons in public gatherings, religious places, marriage functions, or other events

The move comes in the wake of the rising incidents of shootouts in the state. While Punjabi singer Sidhu Moose Walla was gunned down in May this year, Amritsar Shiv Sena (Taksali) leader Sudhir Suri and sacrilege-accused Dera follower Pardeep Singh were killed within the span of a week this month.

In May, Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann had issued a warning to singers who allegedly promote gun culture through their songs.

ADVERTISEMENT

He had condemned the "trend of gun culture and gangsterism being promoted by some Punjabi singers" and urged them "to desist from fanning violence, hatred and animosity" through their songs.

What Does the Data Say?

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Punjab reported 2,073 cases related to gun violence between 2016 and 2020.

Even though the state has only 2 percent of the country's population, Punjab holds more than 10 percent of the gun licenses in the country.

Punjab, which was hit by terrorism in the 1980s and 1990s, has approximately 4 lakh arms license holders, including those of prohibited bore and non-prohibited bore, and most of these were issued during the militancy period, according to official sources.

Demand for Illegal Firearms

Owning a gun has become a fashion statement and a matter of prestige in the state. This love for firearms has, in turn, led to a demand for illegal firearms, which are readily available and affordable. According to a report by India Today, illegal arms are mainly smuggled from Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, besides Pakistan.

The report said that country-made pistols or “desi katta” are available for somewhere between Rs 2,500 and Rs 15,000. Automatic country-made pistols price range between Rs 25,000 and Rs 60,000 and 0.30 bore and 9 mm pistol are priced between Rs 50,000 and Rs 1.50 lakh.

ADVERTISEMENT

How Does Pop Culture Glorify Gun Culture?

The proliferation of arms and ammunition goes hand-in-hand with the popularity of Punjabi pop music videos that show men with guns, and have lyrics making references to guns/firearms.

For example, Sidhu Moose Walla in his track ‘Outlaw’, sang: “Assi goliyaan de naal mukne nahi..medalan wangu parche ne, aidde-aidde kaand kare, Parliament tak charche ne… (We aren’t the ones who will be finished with bullets, FIRs on us are like medals, our deeds are a matter of discussion in Parliament).”

On 1 February 2020, Moose Walla, along with Mankirt Aulakh, was booked for allegedly singing and promoting the song ‘Pakhiyan, pakhiyan.. gun vich panj goliyaan‘.

In May of that year, he was booked under the Arms Act after pictures of him firing an AK-47 rifle at a shooting range during the COVID-19 lockdown went viral. When asked to stop promoting guns, he had defiantly asked that if “he stops singing, will the gangsters stop?”

In July, he again got into trouble and was booked for allegedly promoting violence and gun culture with his song Sanju. 

However, it would be wrong to say Moose Walla was the only artiste promoting such a culture. Punjabi singer Elly Mangat was booked in November 2019 by Ludhiana police for participating in alleged celebratory firing at a birthday party and sharing the video on social media.

In March 2020, the Moga police registered an FIR against Punjabi singer Sippy Gill for allegedly promoting violence and weapons in his track ‘Gundagardi’.

ADVERTISEMENT

For some years now, there has been a hue and cry over how Punjabi pop culture has been normalising gun culture. So much so that in 2019, the Punjab and Haryana High Court, taking a note of this culture, directed the Director General of Police in Punjab, Haryana and the Union Territory of Chandigarh to ensure no songs glorifying liquor, wine, drugs and violence were played or performed.

In the decades after Independence, there has been profound social and political changes and conflict that has created existential angst among Punjab’s youth.

'Movies, Music a Mere Reflection of Society'

"It is this very angst and the anger and alienation that the government has to get to the root of and help channelise this energy into something positive", said Harinder Happy, a PhD scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

According to him, there are myths about gun culture in Punjab that he would like to debunk. "Films, songs, movies reflect the society. It would be wrong to say that songs are encouraging gun culture. It rather is a reflection of how the society is. The society is not a homogenous one. Not everyone has the means and access to a gun. You cannot therefore say gun culture is rampant," he said.

ADVERTISEMENT

'Forms of Weapon Have Changed'

He pointed out that Sikhism has been seen as a "weaponised religion". Weapons like the sword are intrinsically linked to Sikhism, but they don't realise the history and origins behind it, he adds. During the Khalsa movement in the 17th-18th century, these weapons were used to fight against the atrocities of the Mughal rule. They were used to fight oppression. From, time to time, the type of weapon has changed and that has grown to include a gun to some extent."

He also disagrees that gun culture originated in Punjab.

"There is a song called Kanpuriya by Balkar Ankhila and Manjinder Gulshan where they make a reference to "Kanpuriya katta" (which translates to a gun from Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh). Similarly, Garry Sandhu in his song Illegal Weapon has talked about the illegal weapon trade in Uttar Pradesh. It would be wrong to point it out as a problem that is specific to Punjab."

"No one refers to the gun culture in movies like RRR or Gangs of Wassepur or Mirazpur. Why all the hue and cry about Punjab then?" he added.

He also feels that the recent order by the government will do more harm than good. "When you are making something illegal, people will want to do it more because that is how human psychology works," he added.

Rather than pointing out what the problem is, the government should look to why it is happening and try to solve it, Happy said. He added that the state government is under a lot of pressure after Moose Walla's murder to bring in measures to prevent easy access to gun.

"Of course, some people will have objections to this. But the government is doing this so that they can say they tried bringing in gun control laws but people themselves did not accept them. This absolves them of blame," he added.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read and Breaking News at the Quint, browse for more from explainers

Topics:  Punjab   gun culture 

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