Chandigarh, May 8: Warriors from the defence forces might take offence at the nomenclature of Punjab as Senikland and Gangland (Wild West) but the liberty has been taken as there seems to be no other word to describe so many Senas and the gangs operating in the state with majority of their leaders having been provided security cover by the police apparently to protect them from the peaceful people. It is a strange paradox as an ordinary person can’t get register even a theft complaint with the police station without nod from the political bosses. Of course, there are so called modern centres to provide various civil and police services to the ordinary citizen but one finds little qualitative change at the grassroots.
Gangster Jaswinder Singh Rockey who was shot by the rival gang near Timber Trail resort in Himachal Pradesh recently had two Punjab police personnel to guard him. His pictures with top Akali leaders became viral after this killing. None has explained as to how this gangster who also had the image of a Robinhood in his own area was provided police protection.
Yet another person Deva was gunned down in broad day light today in Faridkot in yet another gang-war. Many of these gang leaders operate with impunity from jails which are considered to be safest haven by them.
The situation has to be seen in the context of forthcoming Assembly elections in this gangland due in February 2017. In states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, such gangs have been playing very active role earlier. There is reported to be little change in the situation in UP. Punjab has acquired this image of the Wild West mainly after 2012 elections. The gangs and mafia can’t survive without active political patronage and one need no proof in the context of police protection provided to several of these elements.
In Punjab, a person moving about under the shadow of the guns is part of what is known as the VIP culture and it becomes a major issue when the security cover of a political leader, mainly in the opposition, is scaled down. This virus has hit every political party. The exception among the Akali ministers used to be Manpreet Singh Badal who parted company to chart his independent course.
Manpreet was the first leader to raise his voice against this VIP culture and his agenda was later adopted by the Aam Aadmi Party.
Some of the police officers are known to have played active role in the elections since 2007 and they have been rewarded too. Majority of the districts are now manned by the PPS officers from the state cadre. At one time, only an IPS officer used to be posted as the district police chief. The distortion that was introduced during militancy has been perfected now as a political tool. Going by the change in style of governance and electioneering over the period in the state, Punjab having turned into a gangland and senikland falls under certain pattern.
Director General of Police Suresh Arora himself yesterday admitted to the existence of 57 active gangs with about 423 members. Almost same used to be the number of the militants-cum-terrorists groups and their members during the turbulent period. These senas were patronized by the state during that period and now their number too have multiplied. These Hindu senas and Shiv senas too function virtually like gangs.
An interesting part of the Punjab situation is that even some of the leaders of the so called Gau Raksha samitis too have been showered with the favour of police protection, perhaps from the Holy Cow.
Police in the state is for the protection of politicians with one armed battalion only for chief minister and deputy chief minister. One fails to understand as to why the chiefs of the Sikh takhts should move around under heavy security. They are the religious heads and should quit in case they have lost their credibility among the Sikh masses. Of course, protection provided to the gang leaders is a different issue.
The basic issue is the likely role of the gangs during elections. After all, their leaders survive on political patronage.