CHANDIGARH With gangsters in Punjab openly using social media platforms to highlight their criminal activities, challenging each other and the law enforcers, and updating their status even from inside prisons, the Punjab Police have finally woken up to the need to tackle them in the cyber world.
With thousands of "likes" for Facebook and other social media updates made by gangsters, the top brass of Punjab Police now wants to get active in cyber space to counter these gangsters and also curb the free run of the criminals.
Punjab's Director General of Police (DGP) Suresh Arora had recently admitted that 57 gangs were active in the state.
In recent years, gangsters have been involved in major crimes like the Nabha jailbreak, shootouts with the police and internecine gang wars.
In February, gangsters Devinder Singh and his accomplices shot dead a 25-year-old financier in Longowal town in Sangrur district in full public view. The gangster danced over his body and later put up four videos to claim that he carried out the killing, throwing a challenge at his opponents and the Punjab Police.
DGP Arora said the Punjab Police will increase its presence on the social media.
"The police will set up its own Facebook and other social media handles to nullify all such rumours. This will be a proactive approach to tackle the hate spread online," Arora said recently.
With gangsters and criminals having a free run on social media, the Punjab Police are working on an image makeover by hiring a private agency to enter the social media world.
Private companies with expertise in social media publicity were recently called by the police top brass to give proposals on activating the Punjab Police on social media.
"The need to hire an expert agency was felt in view of the huge penetration of social media into the minds of the young and professionals and the importance of these media in disseminating information," Arora said.
The Punjab Police want to have a "strong presence" on all social media platforms, including Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter. At present, the police do not have much of a social media presence and their accounts are not so active.
Senior Punjab Police officers admit that the criminals and gangsters were using the social media to "glamourise" their crimes through updates. Hundreds of youth in Punjab are seeing these posts and even sharing likes.
One of the most wanted gangsters in Punjab, Vicky Gounder, regularly posts updates. Recently, he even posted that he was not involved in a particular crime. Facing over 15 cases of murder and robbery, the gangster operates three Facebook accounts in his name. One of his accounts has over 32,000 followers.
Gounder's rival, Sukhi Vidhipuria, who is lodged in the Kapurthala Jail, has been posting updates from the prison. He has over 1,300 friends on Facebook.
The FB account of gangster Sukha Kahlon, who was shot dead by a rival gang in 2015, continues to be operated and has over 80,000 followers.
Punjab Additional Director General of Police Rohit Chaudhary recently said in Patiala that the state police will contact the US-based companies running social media platforms to get the accounts of the criminals blocked.
"The district police have been directed to identify the criminals, compile a list, attach their criminal records and approach the companies to block or de-activate the accounts," Chaudhary said.
"Social media sites came in handy for gangsters to promote a criminal mindset among the youth in the state, which is a harmful trend. This gives them publicity," Chaudhary told the media.
The Punjab Police, despite efforts, have failed to curb the tendency of criminals lodged in jails from posting updates and even issuing threats to rivals.
The Punjab Police recently got a budget of Rs 20 crore from the state government to monitor activities of different criminal groups on social media.