Bob Marley has been dead for almost 33 years, but it appears police in Kerala, India are putting the blame on the late reggae singer, when it comes to teenage drug use.
A report from the The Times of India states that police in Kerala have made attempts to make the city safer by seizing marijuana and other recreational drugs during raids. But, along with drugs, police have confiscated anything that has an image of the marijuana plant, as well as anything that has an image of Bob Marley. This includes T-shirts; bumper stickers; key chains; and bracelets.
Marley fans know that he was a proponent of the drug, and a report from The Inquisitr states that he even used it during Bible discussions. But some Kerala residents believe that Marley should not be brought up, when it comes to raising awareness about drug use amongst teens in India.
“Please keep Bob Marley away from the issue,” said one person, who was listed as Kevin in the report.
Kevin added that he doesn’t find marijuana symbols “attractive.”
“If you like such tees, wear it in a country where marijuana is legalized,” he said. “You don’t have to show the world that you are smoking up and that’s why you are so cool. It’s a stupid thing to do.”
NG Suhruth Kumar, a civil police officer, told Indian magazine Open that they “have caught around 200 students for using ganja.” And a lot of them had something related to the reggae icon, when they were caught.
“Most of them had Bob Marley songs on their cell phones, and stickers of marijuana leaves on their bikes. These children are attracted to drugs by Bob Marley songs,” Kumar said.
Police in Thrissur and Thiruvananthapuram have raided any shops that sell T-shirts, key chains, and bracelets that feature Bob Marley. One unnamed street vendor in Thrissur didn’t know who Marley was, but he has noticed that T-shirts with an image of the late reggae singer have been a “huge demand” for teenagers.
“I have been selling T-shirts for more than 15 years,” he said. “I never knew that this man is trouble, and that selling such T-shirts is a crime.”
He has temporarily closed his shop out of fear of being cited by police under Section 3 (1) Young Persons (Harmful Publication) Act of 1956, which prevents the “the dissemination of certain publications harmful to young persons.”
Activist and filmmaker KP Sashi calls the whole thing “ridiculous.”
“If the police want to fight marijuana dealers, they should do it more smartly,” Sashi said. “Chasing Bob Marley lovers in disguise in a drive against drugs is nothing short of cultural policing. These cops don’t know anything about Bob Marley; they think that he was only a guy who promoted drugs.”
And even though this issue has received plenty of criticism, Suhruth Kumar said police won’t drop their belief that Marley is part of the marijuana problem.
“Bob Marley might be a good musician, but it is indeed true that the drug mafia is using him as an idol to sell their products,” he said. “When we interrogated them, we understood that many of these youngsters addicted to drugs are Bob Marley fans. His song, Ganja Gun, has been found on the mobile phones of several of these young people.”
Some students in Fort Kochi have launched a “Save Bob Marley” movement. One student, Anuraj K, said that none of the students in the area are “addicted to drugs” because of Bob Marley.
“We see his music in connection with the call for freedom of the oppressed, and not with the promotion of drugs,” he said.
K added that he plans on wearing a Bob Marley T-shirt every day in protest against the police.
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