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  For the Edit Page
  Organised Mafia

Devesh Vijay

The Tribune


The Cancer of Organised Crime


            Organised crime is not unique to India. In the advanced west also, where huge profits are available in the flesh trade, drug peddling, money laundering and arms and human trafficking, thousands are organised in criminal syndicates ready to kill or maim for profit. But the extent to which hardened criminals have found entry in our legislatures, ministries and big businesses of late and accumulated power, prestige and apparent immunity from the rule of law in populous states such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh is a matter of immense concern for the whole nation. According to Intelligence Bureau’s latest estimate, nearly one fourth of MPs and MLAs from the above states have heinous criminal cases registered against them.

In this context, the introduction of the Uttar Pradesh Control of Organised Crime Act (UPCOCA) by the Mayawati government to counter the menace of a well entrenched mafia should have been widely welcomed. Yet, the cancer of criminalization has spread so far today that any reckless surgery also threatens to aggravate it further now. The opposition to the wide ranging powers bestowed by the above legislation on police and magistrates has thus emanated from all political parties in UP barring the ruling BSP. The criminal-politician conundrum in our society needs to be examined very closely in this complicated scenario.

Only a few years ago, the N.N. Vohra Committee, appointed in the wake of the 1993 bomb blasts, had observed that in several parts of the country “the mafia is virtually running a parallel government, pushing the state apparatus into irrelevance---criminal gangs and armed senas have developed extensive contacts with bureaucrats, politicians, media persons---(and) even the members of the judicial system”. A decade after the publication of this report, even this alarming portrayal appears rather dated as the virus of criminalization seems to be crippling not only the polity today but also the civil society as a whole. The Deol Committee report submitted by IB to the PMO spells out the same in some detail.

            Till the early sixties, for example, criminals could hardly dare to stand in elections. Today, in some states, they have graduated from aiding politicians to controlling them. Honest officers are transferred, promoted and, sometimes, murdered at their instance. Their henchmen can run kidnapping and extortion rackets even from jails while agents from enemy states use them for unleashing terror, riots and separatism at times. Their ‘businesses’ are not only run along corporate lines but whole industries such as real estate, bootlegging, entertainment and lately, the printing of currency too seem to be swamped by them.

Yet, this is not the entire story of criminalization in India. The problem has actually infected the very core of our society. For instance, extortion and molestation have been reported even from places of worship; vice chancellors of some of our universities have been known to have hired criminals to maintain ‘order’ on campuses; in several smaller towns it is scary for anyone to move alone on a new vehicle or with cash; youngsters from affluent families are also taking to kidnapping and carjacking just for ‘fun’; prostitution rackets have moved beyond brothels and hotels to middle class housing societies and government offices and, what is even more worrisome, we the people have not only watched the spread of the rot silently but have also learnt to laugh at it as evident in block busters flooded with the underworld’s lingo and paeans sung for film ‘stars’ who would not hesitate to dance like bar girls for the underworld. Even in smaller towns and villages now mobs seem ever ready to lynch petty offenders but ‘ethnic’ dons have enough clout to win elections with huge margins. Sadly, our academic discourses and text books seem nowhere ready to even register the problem in spite of this grim scenario.

            The need for a major overhaul in our legal system to plug the loopholes which enabled the mafiosi to spread its tentacles so wide is pressing. According to the latest report of the National Crime Records Bureau, the rate of conviction in the adjudged cases, in 2004, was less than 40% while the percentage of cases pending was as high as 85% of the total. Yet, an over dependence on laws which merely inflate the powers of the police and the ruling party to hang ‘criminals’ selectively, may turn out to be a case of killing a patient through over-medication.

The gauntlet thrown by Mayawati at the Bahubalis is undoubtedly bold and praiseworthy. Yet, just as in the case of POTA and TADA, the critical point is whether we need firm and fair implementation of existing laws or partisan application of draconian new acts. Fortunately UP, despite being high on crime and violence, has uptil now remained relatively free of the problem of naxalism and separatism. If the legal process is misused for crushing dissent, this saving grace of the Hindi heartland may also erode.

A number of inquiry commissions have listed a slew of small but vital steps for checking organized crime including a speedier criminal justice system (the pendency of 2.5 crore cases in the lower courts and another 3.5 lakh in different High Courts is truly demoralizing for the nation), better collation of intelligence—nationally and internationally, foolproof protection to witnesses daring to help the law against murderous gangs, electoral reforms to debar history sheeters from elections and prison reforms to turn jails into reformatories rather than universities of crime. Apart from this, extensive computerization of banks and property transactions as well as police stations and, above all, a resolve among political parties to not grant tickets to criminals for elections. Unfortunately, few of these have been meaningfully implemented. In this scenario, the media can make a vital contribution by keeping a relentless focus on the reach of the mafia and particularly the criminal antecedents of politicians and bureaucrats whether calling themselves nationalists, socialists, revolutionaries or watchmen of tradition or community.

The stakes in this war are very high indeed. Organised crime not only creates a spiral of violence and insecurity but also stalls development and perverts the functioning of democratic institutions entirely. Once over the hill, the slide into chaos or, its obverse-- fascism, may be extremely difficult to arrest in the present state of our political culture.



Dr. Devesh Vijay

Reader in History

Zakir Husain College, University of Delhi

Res: D 14-A/2, Model Town


Ph: 65470370.