Criminal Wealth: Lords of Indian Politics

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Criminal Wealth: Lords of Indian Politics

Crime is caste, community, liaison, political connections and the biggest business in India. If Mafia turned politician Atiq Ahmed was worth Rs 11684 crores, Dawood Ibrahim is estimated $6.7 billion and there are others who have wealth more than the budgets of many State governments.

The syndicates are widespread from the jungles of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam, Jharkhand, Odisha, to the western most Gujarat to Kerala, Karnataka or Tamil Nadu to the crest of Kashmir.

Their nexus with regional parries in the south, east, to every individual State is an open secret. Different leaders, groups within parties have it. If Atiq and Asad Ahmed represent the Muslim gangster, Vikas Dube, eliminated “as he tried to escape” while being transported was a Brahmin don and enjoyed support of fellow Brahmins.

Atiq was an emerging dada in 1980s. His career started before 1979, when he committed the first murder. By 1989, a powerful gangster, won the Allahabad West constituency as an independent, retained the seat for two consecutive terms. He was elected to the Assembly on Samajwadi Party ticket. Each year his wealth multiplied and so did his gang’s criminal aggression. From 1999 to 2003 he was President of Apna Dal, a faction of which is part of the NDA now. He was elected on Apna Dal ticket in 2002. In 2004, he was in Samajwadi Party. Criminality was the reason for his political success that helped him multiply wealth.

In 1980s, Gorakhpur was known for conflict between a Brahmin gang of Hari Shankar Tiwari and Thakur gang of Virendra Pratap Shahi. Tiwari was minister in many governments. The State today has at least eight major groups as per police lists. Each of these have properties, cash and other assets worth thousands of crores. Atiq’s 1400 crore assets are spotted by Enforcement Directorate. Many were bulldozed. Still, nobody knows how his properties in Okhla, Jamia Milia and Shaheen Bagh in Delhi would be dealt with. Other Uttar Pradesh gangs also own properties in and around the national capital.

The post Babri demolition also led to the rise of many land mafia and all have good moorings. Much of Atiq’s rise was also linked to the Mulayam Singh Yadav’s bid to lean on him to counter the saffron rise. Vikas Dube or Atiq are not exceptions. There are others rising. The mafia rise has been a concern for the business houses in the State. Firozabad, was once dreaded even by police officials as it was known as the centre of kidnappers.

In 2022, UP arrested 16000 criminals and recovered a fraction of their possessions at Rs 2100 crore. The BJP claims that Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has struck terror with bulldozers and encounters. That is correct, but the Yogi has not been able to galvanise the force to do proper investigations, draft out appropriate FIRs leading to large acquittals at district courts. These are not even discussed, and political messaging of administrative success is carefully managed for image burnishing.

Every other State has its gangs, be it West Bengal, Assam, or the tiniest North-East States. The gangs in Tripura have links with Bihar, other North eastern States and smuggle cattle, drugs and arms to Bangladesh right through the borders, manned by the BSF. Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha are linked to coal, minerals and the forest produces and function cross border.

Some of the major gangs with wider connection even to the local or regional gangs are that of Dawood Ibrahim, Arun Gawli, Ashwin Naik, Varadarajan Mudaliar, Karim Lala, Haji Mastan, Abu Salem and Ravi Pujari mostly based around Mumbai. Their monetary worth is estimated to equal many State budgets. They have diverse connections with corporate, international businesses, movies and politics.

Tamil Nadu has ten major and richest gangs as has Karnataka and other States. It is futile to say that they are ensconced in political parties and indulging in many crimes. Gujarat has the wealthiest mafia and legend has it that dons like Shankha Daitya were a terror when Dwarka was ruled by Lord Krishna.

In 2018, the Supreme Court asked the government about the status of criminal cases pending against elected ministers, underlining the importance of breaking from the history of law-breakers becoming law-makers. Criminalisation of politics is traced to 1957 for booth capturing. From there to their rise to become lawmakers has been a phenomenal change. In return, genuine politicians would protect or are coerced to protect the criminals.

From such petty engagement with elections, goondas and gangs have come a long way to contest elections themselves. Hence goons were relatively assured of political favours after they helped a politician win the election. This led to the entry of criminals in politics in order to maximise control over their own survival and protection. Many goons who had not been involved in politics joined it as a competitive response as they feared missing out on opportunities, or a crackdown by a competing gang.

From banning of corporate funding by Indira Gandhi in 1969 to outsmart the core Congress called Syndicate to electoral bonds the influence of money and crime is a phenomenon. The not so transparent electoral bonds find their ways to parties. Though it was supposed to cleanse the politics, it is said money and its takers have taint of many sorts associated to it. These are allegedly paid back through various government deals. Crime is becoming more sophisticated. LegalserviceIndia.com says that the electoral bonds are legalised form of corruption.

The electoral bonds have so far not had the desired results, on the other these have further obscured the process of political funding and its source. The Legal service says this interferes with the most fundamental piece of information that voters need to know, affecting their free will and flaunting the norms of a free and fair election.

The ambit has widened. The corporate growth, change in stock businesses, digital money has widened the gambit. Now even some of the topmost social media companies are alleged to be patronising cyber “slave” goons to earn billions in a day through popular sites, advertising for pseudo jobs or disguised gambling with anonymous protection to save the “slaves” from any exposure or digital or trace. The ill-equipped police forces are incapable to match their swift and advanced techniques that swindle millions in seconds. It is estimated that cybercrime is possibly worth trillions of dollars a day across the borders and done in a very organised corporate manner. So much for cleaning up the system. —INFA



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Criminal Wealth: Lords of Indian Politics