KALA HAFTA – KOTLA CHAPPAKI KIHDI MAUT AAYE E
Death is the answer – From Govt in Punjab, Drug Peddler in Village, Lynch Mob in MP
- S Pal
Death is the answer – From Govt in Punjab, Drug Peddler in Village, Lynch Mob in MP



2015. A self-inspired people's movement raging on the streets of Punjab, and social media leading it from the forefront. Corpses on the road. Police fired into crowd. Angry mobs going all out to take into their own hands the complex task of applying institutional correctives.

"Death to the perpetrators!" — the demand from the street was rising like a crescendo. The Street was rising.

This was the winter of 2015. Sukhbir Singh Badal had advisors no less intelligent than those Captain Amarinder Singh employs. Anger was raging on the issue of sacrilege.

Bingo! They found a solution: it was lying in the Street. Death penalty to anyone found involved in sacrilege of scriptures. "Change the law!", "Death to the heretics!" was the chorus in the Cabinet meeting. 

Eventually, they amended Section 295 A in the IPC and provided for life imprisonment for this heinous crime. 
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The core of the social-media inspired campaign against drugs is potently pristine, just like heroin at its purest – End the drug menace in Punjab, catch the drug smugglers, do what it takes, but save the youth of Punjab.
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Punjab is in a rewind mode now.

2018. Corpses punctuate Punjab's streets, needles still stuck. Chitte De Virudh Kaala Hafta is on. Mobs are out. They are angry. The social media is doing its job, in the only way it knows: it is enhancing awareness, decimating complexity, insulting anyone with a nuanced position, and making enough noise to scare an apathetic regime.

The core of the social-media inspired campaign against drugs is potently pristine, just like heroin at its purest – End the drug menace in Punjab, catch the drug smugglers, do what it takes, but save the youth of Punjab.

Now, who can take exception to such loaded positive messaging, particularly when it harks back to the great country it was – the land of the Sikh gurus, the land of five rivers, the land of rich kisans, its six feet tall gabhrus, its tractors and combines, its panthic glow, and its core belief of Punjabiyan di shaan vakhri?

The noisy campaign seems to be succeeding at many fronts. It has scared the brave Captain's army of ministers, advisors, guardians of governance (It is a thing, believe me!), and future would-be-advisors journalists/bureaucrats/cops so much that the Cabinet has delivered what the street asked for: an immediate solution. The death penalty.

When a movement's highest point is the colour code of its leadership, it is destined to achieve something spectacular and ineffective, both at the same time. Spectacular, since that is the only thing which can satisfy the mob. Ineffective, because when a demand is shorn of all politics, this is what any solution would look like.

Welcome to Punjab in the summer of 2018. The government has joined the lynching mob. It wants to solve a deeply complex problem with the simplest of solutions history has thrown up at various times in different parts of the globe: Death to the traitors!

Regimes and policy formulation propelled by social media are compelled to finally fall to the depths plumbed by the medium.

In Madhya Pradesh, this is exactly how an angry mob solved its problem. It meted out death sentence, carried out in all honesty. Personally, on camera. Total transparency.

In Punjab, the government has given a sign to the angry mob baying for blood of someone it thinks, or might perceive, as being responsible for those deaths. "Those who sell Chitta deserve to die." There's no ambiguity about the messaging.

From here onwards, the crowd only has to decide if the system will actually deliver on its legislative promise. Since the past record is not very coruscating, and the mob is currently riding on a can-do spirit, it might as well do the job on its own.

After all, if it can catch people trying to sell Chitta in the village street, it can do the rest also.

It is equipped with weapons like deadly cell phone cameras, and a handy stick. The tip off, the chase, the nabbing, the questioning, the production of evidence in the form of that sachet retrieved from the pocket, the confession, the cross examination, the consultation among the crowd of highly inspired citizens, the debate on proportionate punitive action delivery, its actual apportioning, the justice dispensing machinery in action for anyone wanting to watch the glory of democracy in action at the corner of the street, and then the victim left behind, writhing in pain, bloodied, crying for mercy, or already dead. Sometimes intact, sometimes dismembered.

The government has made it clear that it wants to give death to anyone selling drugs. The mob is so ready to go with it, volunteering to do the honour itself.

When governance fails, institutional structures crumble, greed gnaws away at the moral core of politics and dimwits start mediating a self-inspired people's movement seeking correctives, trust irony to strike back.
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When a movement's highest point is the colour code of its leadership, it is destined to achieve something spectacular and ineffective, both at the same time.
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In Chandigarh's Sector 17, at a major protest hours before the Kaala Hafta Movement kicked in, some of its leading lights saw the mob in action. Pali Bhupinder, a playwright of minor repute and some problematic stances, conducted the proceedings. BJP's Vineet Joshi was present there, but many in the crowd objected to his presence. "If he is allowed to speak, then this will become BJP show," the crowd said. Someone as veteran as Dr Joginder Dayal of the CPI was also there, reduced to a silent spectator. "We will not allow any politician to speak," the crowd said. So, Prof Manjit Singh, that sociology professor-turned-AAP leader-turned-anti-Kejriwal voice spoke in the same vein: "All politicians are bad. Very bad." The crowd was willing to forget that he himself was a politician because Prof Manjit Singh was wearing the colour of the crowd: all black, with flowing white beard.

Attire, beard, headgear and hair styles undergo timely makeovers in keeping with contemporary politics.

The one underlying theme of that protest, as of the entire social media campaign, has been that it is a non-political campaign. "Gair Rajnitak," proclaim the handbills dished out by Pali and ilk.

In a television debate, Shabdeesh, the theatre activist dedicated to propagate Gursharan Bha'ji's work and voice and the prime force behind the progressive Suchetak Rangmanch, was at pains to underline that while he supports the social media campaign and was backing the Black Week Movement, he can't wrap his head around this mumbo-jumbo of non-political or apolitical nature of this campaign.

Then he made a point: our schools, colleges, universities are churning out a depoliticised generation. This divorced-from-social-reality generation is fed only on social media, consumes celebratory Punjabi singing ("Jashni gayaki," he said) and becomes fodder for exploitative politics and politician.

Oh boy! You poor Shabdeesh! Alone even in that crowd at Sector 17.

"Tomorrow, when pictures of this protest will be published, and people will see BJP's Vineet Joshi, it will become a BJP show. So he must be asked to go," many in the crowd demanded.

It was Sector 17. As far as I think, kisi ke baap ka abhi nahi hai chowk. The crowd was violating the fundamental right of a citizen to stand in the chowk and at the edge of a circle of people where any passerby can stand. And no one noticed it.

So, trust the leaders of the Kaala Hafta not to have noticed what happened just hours before the Punjab Cabinet decided that drug sellers will be given death penalty when they are caught and convicted the very first time.

On Friday, Punjab's top police brass met under the leadership of DGP Suresh Arora to discuss the ramifications of conducting elections for student unions in Punjab's colleges and universities. An overwhelming view of the police brass was that these elections were inadvisable and will lead to a spurt in crime. A majority of SSPs, as per a report by senior journalist Devinder Pal in the Punjabi Tribune on July 2, said it will also lead to more gangsterism in the state.

Is the Kala Hafta Movement leadership capable of connecting the dots? Where is the debate on the link between unemployment and drug addiction? Can they see the links between the all pervasive culture of drugs and depoliticised youth? Can they see the link between privatisation of higher education and the missing social and political discourse from our campuses? Can they see the link between poor condition of rural school infrastructure and the propensity of a young lad in Tarn Taran's Dhottian village to fall prey to the cheap drug available that gives him a momentary high?
 
Can they see the link between liquor emerging as a key revenue head and the culture of drugs? Do they have the capacity to fathom the inter-linkages between democratic institutional breakdowns and the rise of the lynch mobs, and what it does for drug dealers? Do they understand the opioid crisis in the United States and the movement there and the lessons we must draw before we reach that stage? Do they think the US has less stringent laws for drug dealers, or do they think the capacity of the NYPD to enforce its writ in the streets of Harlem is much less than that of the Punjab police or of the army of social media inspired cell phone video equipped activists?

Should those selling Chitta be caught? Of course, yes, immediately. And those who were guilty of not catching them so far must also be brought to book.

Should drug dealers be given exemplary punishments? Of course. 

These are all no brainers.
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The government has made it clear that it wants to give death to anyone selling drugs. The mob is so ready to go with it, volunteering to do the honour itself.
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The real issues will have a lot of cognitive dissonance. The experiments that the modern young generation will indulge in on the campuses. The antics of the fans of Breaking Bad. The brush with weed, grass or other agricultural produce not much liked by parents but tempered with some chemistry or Bob Marley. Someone will be selling them stuff. The governmental answer? Hang them.

A non-political movement cannot have the genetic disposition to challenge the failure of political parties and developmental model that has failed to give our younger generations the one thing that they require to live: a dream.

Just a few hours ago, the South Australian Government has taken a dramatic step against drugs: it has hiked penalties for marijuana possession. The country's Parliament will debate it this week. A new maximum prison sentence of two years — the same as drugs such as ecstasy or heroin attract — is also on the anvil.

Allowing drug-sniffing dogs into schools is also being discussed. They are also having a debate on putting a restricting on how many times one can have the opportunity to say, 'well, I'll have treatment."

Don't think that Australians do not know how to hang a person. It is just that they take a little more time than the Punjab Cabinet.

Last time when the Badal Cabinet had proposed death penalty, it had mirrored the worst example. Another Punjabi had also amended Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code to provide such a death penalty. That was General Zia-ul Haq, and he wanted to hang anyone desecrating the holy Quran. Pakistan is paying for it till date.

Desperation is dictating political strategies. Uninformed anger is writing the political script. And mob is pushing the legislation drafting exercise.

This is the mindset that makes it easier to accept that migrants should be turned away from borders, that babies should be snatched away from mothers at deportation centres.

This is the mindset that says mobs should check the meat in your fridge.

The Kala Hafta Movement will be a turning point if it prods Punjabis into engaging with the broad spectrum of the complex problem. 
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A non-political movement cannot have the genetic disposition to challenge the failure of political parties and developmental model that has failed to give our younger generations the one thing that they require to live: a dream.
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Yes, it starts by catching the fellow who sells Chitta, but then it also starts by questioning the fellow who was responsible for not running the government school properly in the village of the young man who was selling Chitta

You stop a culture of drugs by giving your young men and women a dream - a dream that they can change their fate.

They can do that by rebuilding politics.

They can also do that by lynching a drug peddler to death.

The Punjab government has cast a vote. The Kala Hafta Movement's capacity is known. Its leadership is on its way to meet the chief minister.

A non-political movement can only achieve such a meeting.

It also achieved something else. Baljit Singh of village Bachhoana, Manpreet Singh of village Tahlian, Rajinder Singh of Ubha and Jaspreet Singh of Anoopgarh, all committed suicide in the same district of Mansa in the first 48 hours of the Kala Hafta Movement. The news was pushed to the inside pages. The front page is these days reserved for drug deaths.

The links between agricultural crisis are beyond the pale of non-political movements, and cannot be addressed by death awarding legislation.
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

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