The crackdown on Bob Marley merchandise has spread to many districts in Kerala

Voices Thursday, June 05, 2014 - 05:30
Keerthi Prakasam | The News Minute | March 7, 2014 | 12:25 PM IST  Guess who has become the Kerala police's biggest bane? The Lord of the Rastafarians - Bob Marley. Leading the list of massive hauls by Kerala police as a part of their anti- drug drive, are T-shirts, key chains and bracelets... Sounds innocuous? Not- say the police, if they have pictures of the Jamaican pop-star Bob Marley, who was the champion of using the cannabis route to spirituality. Their theory? Marijuana Spirituality, a la Marley, replete with dreadlocks and the Rastafarian colours of green, yellow and red is reportedly driving Kerala youth in droves towards using marijuana. Police say that the mere sight of the pictures of narcotic substances and associations can drive youngsters to use narcotic substances! So they are, to their mind, literally nipping temptation at the bud! The crackdown first started in Kochi and there was some outrage... But it's steadily spreading to other parts of Kerala. Arrests, detainments are being reported from Thrissur and the capital Thiruvananthapuram. Areas like Idukki have also came into scanner as the famous strain of marijuana, Idukki Gold, is said to be cultivated in this area. Last week, two shop keepers from Thiruvananthapuram who ran a shop called “Ganja – End of fashion” were arrested after police raids. Their crime- selling T-shirts with images of the cannabis leaf and wordings which supported the legalization of marijuana. Sub Inspector of the Cantonment police station, Shyam, told The News Minute that more such raids will soon be conducted throughout the state. Green, yellow, red- the Rastafarian colours are also under police scanner, he added. “The colour combination of red, yellow and green is a problem as kids associate it with marijuana. Under the law it is punishable to publish vulgar images or wordings and pictures which will directly or indirectly mislead youngsters,”, says Shyam. Meanwhile, the terrified shop owner was quick to change the shop's name from “Ganja-End of Fashion” to “Django”. When contacted by The News Minute, the shop owners declined to comment. Not just the Ganja shop, we were told by the police that another shop keeper was also arrested for selling 'such' T-shirts. It all started after some Malayalam news channels and newspapers ran campaigns against drug abuse by students. The police instead of focusing on the trail of drug supply into Kerala, focused on what they called the reasons of drug abuse. Their big haul ? Bob Marley and the bright drug inducing colours! One publication even called Bob Marley the new drug ambassador of Kerala. Police say the arrests were under Section 3 (1) Young Persons (Harmful Publication) Act 1956. The Act prevents the propagation of certain publications that are harmful for youngsters below the age of 20. Even top police officers believe Bob Marley is indeed a threat. The Deputy Commissioner of Police, R. Nishanthini says that these shops were filled with accessories that are about drugs. "We are setting up shadow police everywhere to gather more ground level information. We are also constantly searching vehicles and other places according to the information we receive. School Protection Committee’s in all schools will keep watch on drop outs”, she says. Not everyone is outraged though. Rahul Easwar, well known activist from Kerala says, “The state’s clampdown on the drug racket is totally understandable because as a guardian it is the responsibility of the state to act and discourage children from being misled. Though I don’t think people should be denied of their freedom to wear anything they want”. On the coverage in the regional media, Rahul says “Yes, marijuana certainly has medical and intellectual benefits. But I think the state media is right in taking a moralistic path specially because among our youngsters who use the drug, 95 percent are ignorant about the benefits, and of course do not use it wisely”. T.P Bineesh, State Secretary of the Student Federation of India also attributes addiction in the state to the “new generation” films being released in the state . "The problem is the portrayal of drug usage in the movies, and that is how Bob Marley came into the picture. He is a good artist and one should just appreciate that. But the media now portrays Bob Marley as an advocate of the drug. That is not correct”, he says. No one denies that the the state has a responsibility to crackdown on drug abuse. The problem of drugs needs to be treated as a crime. The Kerala police's efforts seem to be in diverting attention away from the main issue, which is criminal investigation into the drug industry. This is a law and order problem. Go after the drug industry.
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