Singer Sidhu Moose Wala’s death has brought conversations around gun violence in Punjab back to the table. But to say that Moose Wala fell prey to a culture he endorsed in his songs, like many other hit Punjabi singers, is a bit of a stretch. The narrative around gun glorification in Punjab is disproportionate, and we are being unfair while judging the state and its people.
Yes, Moose Wala did glorify guns. Look at his last picture on Twitter — he is seen holding a pistol and a phone while the caption reads ‘U Donee?”
U DONEEEEEEE ????? pic.twitter.com/96sCDt4rqj
— Sidhu Moose Wala (@iSidhuMooseWala) May 10, 2022
But the ongoing commentary around the singer’s death and gun glorification can easily make an alien reader or a non-Punjabi assume that the state is India’s ‘Wild Wild West’ where gang wars erupt every now and then, every second person possesses a gun and a prolonged enmity can cut short your life.
But give it a thought. Doesn’t that sound a bit too Bollywood? This myopic inference is far from reality. If Punjab really was a gangster land, then why was Gangs of Wasseypur based in Dhanbad? If we are talking about gun violence, then there are many other states we should think about first. And its only data that can put things in perspective.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Punjab has reported 2,073 cases relating to arms between 2016-2020. This averages out to be about 400 cases per year.
Now look at the same data for Ghaziabad, a satellite town in western Uttar Pradesh. The NCR district recorded, on an average, 1,204 cases every year in this period. In the last five years, the district has reported 6,204 cases.
Pegged to the population, Punjab also boasts low incidents of crimes reported under arms and explosives-related matters.
In the last five years, on an average, for every 1 lakh population, Punjab reported 1.4 arms-related cases in a year, which is almost 3-4 times lower than the national average of 4.8. What this means is that compared to the national average, people in Punjab are less likely to report arms-related cases.
Here, the Hindi heartland tops the charts. Madhya Pradesh has the highest rate of arms- related cases. For every 1 lakh people, the state records at least 14 cases a year, which is more than once every month. Indore, one of its prominent cities, reports the second-highest arms-related cases in the country. In 2020 alone, Indore recorded 1,406 arms and related cases, which for a population of 32 lakh stands out at 65 cases a year and more than five cases a month.
In Uttar Pradesh, this rate is 13 per lakh, followed by nine in Delhi and eight in Uttarakhand and Rajasthan each.
In 2020, Uttar Pradesh’s Shahjahanpur district reported 1,570 such cases, Madhya Pradesh’s Indore district reported 1,556 cases, followed by UP’s Meerut 1,522, Bulandshahr 1,475 and Ghaziabad district 1,334. Collectively, these districts, according to Census 2011, host a combined population of about 1 crore 65 lakh, which is nearly half of Punjab’s 2.7 crore population, yet they had reported 7,457 cases (clubbed together) than Punjab’s 431.
Why go that far? Look at what is happening in Punjab’s neighbouring state Haryana where on average seven arms and related cases per lakh population are reported every year.
The problem is graver Haryana. Enmity in the state has also claimed lives of many sportspersons. Gun violence is gaining ground. The arms-related cases were 6.8 per lakh in 2016, which shot up to eight per lakh in 2020. In Punjab, this has come down from 1.6 to 1.4 in the same period. And you just type ‘Badmashi Haryanavi Songs’ (Badmashi means mischievous) on YouTube and you will find scores of tracks with guns and pistols as their thumbnail. But where is the outrage against them?
The popularity of Punjabi songs is a double-edged sword. Debate glorification of gun violence we must, but without singling out Punjab. In Punjab, you will find intellectuals, artists, professors, activists going to courts to seek banning of gun violence from Punjabi songs, but who is advocating against gun culture in other states?
Views are personal.