The death of an eight-year old boy during celebratory firing after block pramukh polls in Kairana-Shamli, shook many but came as no surprise. Incidents of celebratory firing are quite common in UP and some of them do turn fatal.
In Uttar Pradesh the most common request at the gate of any minister’s house is, leave your firearms at the gate. This is done routinely as if it is an accepted practice to carry firearms in UP. Firearms have become an integral part of UP despite standing orders that ban their public display or celebratory firing. Such incidents do occur and the police seldom takes action against offenders although there are provisions for cancellation of firearms’ licenses and to lodge a case against the accused.
A senior minister in Akhilesh Yadav’s cabinet Ramgovind Choudhary admits the harsh reality. “The trend began when criminals got tickets and were directly involved in active politics. We still remember when dacoit Tehseeldar Singh was fielded by BJP against Mulayam Singh Yadav,” he says.
Earlier, political parties kept criminals at a distance. But now a leader’s clout is measured in the number of rifles accompanying him. Now politicians accompanied by men carrying guns have become a common sight. Politicians with gun wielding supporters are a matter of pride at any function.
The trend entered the cities too. Most of the SUVs in towns have two things in common: a political party flag and armed supporter. A senior official in the chief minister’s secretariat confided that a young leader submitted an application for the sanction of a gunner for his security. His case was that he was beginning his political career and without gunners nobody would take him seriously in his constituency. Thus, armed men have become a status symbol.
During procession, including political, religious or marriages, people do not hesitate to carry firearms and shoot randomly. The tragedy in Kairana is outcome of this culture.