Punjab: Gangsters thrive on hype, let’s avoid it. Almost every Punjabi has rejoiced in the folklore of Jeona Morh and Jagga Daku, if not during childhood, then certainly during their youth. Later, Robin Hood replaced them with his audacious and heroic saga of helping the needy ones with money looted from the rich. Such stories, which elderly members in families used to tell with much interest, eventually took an ugly shape with youngsters, taking inspiration from movies and other sources, started projecting themselves as the replacement of those traditional heroes.
But in fact, many of these current fellows are goons of the high and mighty and majority of them are also on the payrolls of the mafia dealing in liquor and other illegal activities. These current lawbreakers want the maximum publicity of their illicit exploits for kudos, being the subject of a moral panic has become a source of pride and an inducement to offend. Punjab, a state which has waded through the extremely dark period of terrorism, now reels under the panic of these young criminals, projected as the dreaded gangsters. The way these gangsters are described as infamous or ‘dreaded with police and media sensationalising their exploits acts, they take it as free publicity and all this eventually leads to a recruitment drive for such groups of young criminals.
This police media-fuelled moral panic is increasing the lawbreaking behaviour of such groups. This phenomenon, as learnt, was originally thought to arise through further isolation of these groups but with time the projection has bounced back on the system as these youngsters, who love flaunting sophisticated weapons and swanky SUVs in their possession, have now launched a race within their halo, where everyone desires to grow bigger than the others. No doubt the law enforcing agencies are after them but the more they are being talked about, the merrier they feel about. Many of their acts are ‘performance crimes staged to build fame, reputation and notoriety. Giving the individuals and groups who undertake these crimes additional media attention is, therefore, exactly what they want.
According to studies, colleges and universities are these days working as their nurseries, where participating in student elections and other activities they tend to assume centrestage and for that they would hardly mind launching murderous attacks on rivals. Once entered the jail, these youngsters gain access to more network, develop better understanding of the loopholes in the law and make a way to get into a bigger gang or expand their own. Earlier, there was a name Dimpy Chandbhan who had his alleged connections in the underworld. After his death that took place more than a decade ago, his close aide Jaswinder Singh Rocky of Fazilka started emerging. Then numerous others gangs of young criminals flourished in Punjab, with each having a competition with others.
To rise or to take revenge, these youngsters, many of whom were in fact once friends, landed into a gun battle which started claiming their lives. Rocky, who lost Punjab Vidhan Sabha elections with a small gap, was killed by rivals near Parwanoo. Earlier, Sukha Kahlwan, who had gained lot of media attention for police highlighting him a lot, was killed by his rivals in police custody on Jalandhar Ludhiana national highway. His killing virtually created a split in the groups of young criminals with many standing either of the two sides to target the opponents. Meanwhile, the state police killed many of them in encounters. Gurshaheed Singh Shera Khubban, Devinder Bambiha, Prema Lahoria and Harjinder Singh Bhullar alias Vicky Gounder are the few names whose lives ended with police bullets.
However, terror of these young criminals is still not fading away as their names get consistent mention in media reports. Finding the ‘special care’ of media, the aides of these young criminals, whose prime liking is snatching cars, have become so audacious that they have now started threatening police officials of dire consequences. And, media is so kind to them that every time they get bigger space than the activity of the chief minister. It is high time for police and media to understand that giving such groups sustained media attention and sensationalising their crimes are certainly having negative consequences. While the media certainly didn’t create them, it has virtually helped transform these groups into brands.
Such hype has fostered several crimes committed under these groups’ names. No doubt police should be answerable for their acts, it may still avoid displaying the wide range of weapons and repeatedly addressing these young criminals as ‘infamous’, ‘noted’ and ‘dreaded’ ones, as such conferences organised with the label for media consumption,’ if at one hand strengthen the officers’ claim for prestigious discs and awards, ultimately promote the criminals and instill a sense of terror among the minds of the innocents. So, let’s join hands, understand our responsibilities and work for the betterment of the society, with also due respect to human rights.
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