India's Punjab state bans public display of firearms and songs glorifying gun culture

Order follows spate of violence in state where gun ownership is often regarded as status symbol

An exhibition of defence equipment by the Indian Army in Amritsar, Punjab, this year proved popular. AFP
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Residents of Punjab in northern India will no longer be able to flaunt guns or express their fondness for weapons through music after the local government clamped down by tightening arms regulations.

Punjab's chief minister Bhagwant Mann on Sunday issued strict instructions regarding gun ownership and display, including banning the flaunting of weapons in public, as well as online.

Mr Mann also suspended the granting of new gun licences for three months, while police review those already issued by the state.

A government order announcing the decisions, issued after a spate of shootings, said they were “aimed at checking gun culture and to maintain law and order".

Mr Mann, whose Aam Aadmi Party came to power in Punjab in February, also ordered random checks for illegally owned guns.

His government imposed a complete ban on songs “eulogising gun culture”.

Owning a gun is regarded as a status symbol in Punjab, which has a history of glorifying firearms. Punjabi pop music videos often portray men using guns to settle land disputes or personal scores. The practice of firing weapons at weddings and occasions is widespread despite being illegal.

Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann has spoken out against the glorification of guns and violence in popular music. AFP

Punjab had the third-highest number of gun licence holders among Indian states between 2018 and 2020. One licence entitles the holder to own three firearms.

According to government data released in January, there are more than 400,000 licensed weapons in the state.

However, there is also a lucrative trade in illegal arms such as home-made pistols, which are readily available for 15,000 rupees ($185).

Experts have often blamed social media, poor literacy and unemployment as the reasons behind the popularity of gun culture in Punjab.

Last Thursday, a person accused of sacrilege was shot dead in Faridkot district, only days after a local politician was gunned down in Amritsar city.

Sidhu Moose Wala performing in London. He was shot dead in May. WireImage

In May, a famous pop singer-turned-politician, Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu, popularly known as Sidhu Moose Wala, was shot nearly 30 times by unknown assailants as he was driving an SUV near his home in Moosewala village in Mansa district.

Moose Wala, 28, had achieved national and global fame, with songs charting in the UK and Canada, but was controversial for glorifying gun culture and violence in songs that often had inciteful lyrics.

Shortly before the killing, Mr Mann 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 in society through their songs".

Updated: November 14, 2022, 3:14 PM