Punjab gangsters turn to Facebook to keep their ‘messaging’ alive
After cracking down on gangster-turned-activist Lakha Sidhana for his alleged role in the violence that broke out on January 26 during the farmers’ tractor rally, security agencies in Punjab are now confronted with a plethora of social media accounts allegedly being operated directly or indirectly by gangsters for ‘disseminating their message’ through social media.
Interestingly, some of these Facebook accounts exist several years after the deaths of the gangsters. Punjab police sources revealed that about 100 such accounts/pages handles are being run either by gangsters or their close aides.
Some are even using the accounts to boast about their crimes. For instance, gangster Sukha Gill, a few months ago, ‘announced’ through his Facebook account that his gang members had gunned down a Dera follower in Bathinda. Though his account was disabled by the police, he surfaced days later using another account. Another gang claimed online that it was behind the killing of Shaurya Chakra awardee Balwinder Singh Bhikhiwind in Tarn Taran recently. Yet again another account sprang up soon after this one was disabled.
This is where the challenge lies, say police officers. “It’s a sea of accounts out there. You disable one, they come up with another to disseminate messages to their followers,’’ said a police officer. Even in the case of Sidhana, police suspects that new accounts will surface through which the fugitive gangster-turned-activist could relay his messages.
Some gangsters even while in detention operate social media pages, say cops. One Ludhiana gangster even issued a ‘statement’ on his page denying a particular extortion bid by his gang. Another Patiala gangster intermittently used his page to send out messages that ‘he was alive and kicking’.
Gangsters like Devinder Bambiha and Prema Lahoria were killed in encounters a few years ago but their pages continue to be active. On his Facebook page, Bambiha is celebrated as a ‘Youth Lion’, ‘Son of Soil’. Some pages even provide an insight into the life of gangsters almost eulogising them. “These gangsters bombard the online world with their ideology, their carefree attitude, no fear of law. In fact, these pages as potential recruiting grounds for impressionable minds, ’’ commented a senior police officer.
Significantly, pages of these gangsters even carry messages on the ongoing farmer’s agitation, some even calling for an ‘armed struggle’ to assist the farmers. “There is already apprehension that the extremist elements are trying to take over the agitation. The use of these Facebook pages and social media accounts can come in handy,’’ said an Intelligence officer.