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Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2008 > March 29, 2008 > Time to Smash the Mafia

Mainstream, Vol XLVI, No 15

Time to Smash the Mafia

Saturday 29 March 2008, by Nikhil Chakravartty


The BJP leader, L.K. Advani, is right in stating, as he did in Madras on March 21, that the bomb blasts in Bombay and Calcutta had nothing to do with the Ayodhya issue. At the same time it would be naïve to claim that the communal upheaval that came in the wake of the Ayodhya happenings on December 6, did not provide the ideal setting for the blasts in Bombay on March 12. The general environment of violence in the country certainly got a fillip from the uninhibited demonstration of violence at Ayodhya on December 6—whose reverberations were felt in many parts of the country and abroad. As a responsible political leader, one would not expect Advani to gloss over this aspect of the present crisis.

The BJP leader has taken the line that these blasts in the two metropolitan centres of the country are the logical extension of the terrorist violence in Punjab and Kashmir, which are linked to Pakistani interference in our internal affairs: hence the demand for declaring Pakistan a terrorist state, which incidentally was raised a year ago in some of the official pronouncements as well. The “foreign hand” theory is widely held and with it is linked the likely role of the ISI. While there is nothing to refute such a possibility, what needs to be emphasised is that the channel through which this latest round of terrorist violence is being perpetrated in our country is very much indigenous and fairly unmistakable. Whether it is the Memon brothers in Bombay or the Rashid-Omar gangs in Calcutta, these have become familiar figures in Indian politics particularly in the last two decades.

In the early seventies Haji Mastan and his fellow-mastans came into limelight as patrons of well-known political figures. Not only were they not punished for openly engaging in magnum-size smuggling as their regular profession, but their political patrons provided them with safety and freedom since they brought abundance of funds with which the politician could pollute politics. The emergence of the mastan as a factor in Indian politics can no longer be denied or overlooked, and practically all major political parties have their involvement with the mastan fraternity.

The mounting violence during election season has to a large measure been due to the readiness of political parties to use such gangs for the election warfare. In the rural areas, the powerful among the landed gentry keep their private army which the police dare not touch for fear of annoying the political bosses. It is the private army that is used to terrorise the deprived sections raising demands for their legitimate dues or resenting ghastly social inequities. The politician linked to the landed gentry would not touch such private army: rather they make use of them.

In the urban centres, the mastan flourishes. In fact, our mastans have reached the global standards of mafia dons, complete with their godfathers. It is no secret that some of the party bosses and Ministers, including some of the Chief Ministers, quite blatantly extend their patronage to such characters from the underworld. This is a feature which is not confined to the Congress though the involvement of the Congress leaders with mastans at the local and Pradesh levels, and even at the national level in some cases, is fairly well known.
The Calcutta disclosures have brought out that the virus has spread to other parties as well. The satta don whose store of explosives blew up, is widely publicised as a close friend of some of the CPI-M leaders of the city, and there has been no convincing refutation of the charge from the Left party leaders. The only thing which has come out is the counter-charge that the local Congress also had another mastan in the area by the name of Omar. What is disturbing is that a party known for its well-knit discipline is not immune from this vicious infection from the underworld.

As for other parties, there are numerous instances of hobnobbing with such anti-social characters. Haji Mastan’s solicitude for a top Janata Dal leader once hit the headlines and has never been rebutted. The muscle-men of the Dhanbad coalifields have throughout enjoyed the patronage of some of the leading lights of the Samajwadi Janata Party. The DMK and the ADMK leaders have often been reported as having involvement with smugglers and brewery magnates, and so are some of the Karnataka political leaders. During the Emergency, the drive against smugglers had to be toned down in Kerala because that might have led to the collapse of the house-of-cards coalition then in office. In distant Assam, the AGP leaders are often mentioned having amassed wealth through contractors. In the North-East, one of the Chief Ministers once confided to the present writer that in the social hierarchy of his State, the contractor came on top and then came the politician who sanctioned the contract. In Punjab, gun-totting militants are known to have close liaison with drug smugglers, which means big money. And in Rajasthan and Gujarat, politicians on the border districts can hardly be immune from the blandishments and blackmail of the brisk network of smugglers. Not everyone of our political leaders have the opening for kickbacks on arms deals, but that by no means affect their intake of black money, of which the mafias more than any others provide the common channel.

Here is the ugly face of criminalisation of politics about which learned treatises in seminars are heard nowadays. It is, however, ominously significant that the Governor of Andhra Pradesh recently found himself in hot waters for having referred to this trend towards criminalisation of politics.

All this not only leads to corrosion of political life but opens up the opportunity for insidious forces from outside subverting the country’s security and sovereignty. The recent bomb blasts in the two leading cities of the country make it abundantly clear that all this is not the mere prattle of scaremongers or Cassandras in our political life. This is a very real danger right here and now. The phenomenon of the ugly mastan has emerged in all its fearsome hideousness when explosions killed many an innocent citizen and brought down buildings in Bombay and Calcutta.

It is time for all political leaders, whether in office or in Opposition, and more importantly, the million-strong concerned citizens who constitute the silent majority of this great Republic of ours to come forward in a mighty crusade to weed out such deadly parasites from our public life. Let Parliament pass draconian laws and force the government to act. We have had enough of petty squabbles and false issues to deflect the public from this very urgent task of saving the polity of our country. A thousand dip in Surajkund this week shall bring no piety that one determined action against the mastan mafias can. If anything can unite the nation and cleanse our politics from the frightening pollution of today, it is only this that the time has come for exterminating the entire gang of such mafias. That will lead to the punishment of politicians who thrive with the support of such mafias.

(Mainstream March 27, 1993)

- Themes Beyond Borders
- Selections from Nikhil Chakravartty’s Writings
- Introduction by K.R. Narayanan

Over quarter of a century, the general reading public, particularly the more intellectually inclined in the subcontinent, had looked forward avidly to the editorials and other writings of Nikhil Chakravartty in Mainstream for illumination and understanding of the bewildering developments within the region since 1947. It is, therefore, with nostalgia and great expectations that we turn to the present volume, focusing on Indo-Pak relations, containing Nikhilda’s precious writings on the complexities of developments in the subcontinent since 1947, and look for his analysis of the issues involved with flashes of prophetic ideas the relevance of which now strike us with added poignancy.

The predominant and recurring theme of this publication is to harness the common humanity of both the countries for durable peace and friendship.

The present volume is valuable from the point of view of correctly understanding the evolution of our relationship with Pakistan and educating public opinion about certain historical facts so that those are appreciated in the proper perspective. It is appropriate that on the 90th birth anniversary of Nikhilda this publication is being brought out.

This important book will be of immense value for scholars, policy-makers, students and readers.

(From Introduction by K.R. Narayanan)

Available at all major bookshops Price Rs 400

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