Whenever debates on criminalisation and its link with politics, memories will resurface about the not yet fully published Vohra Committee Report of 1993. Actually the 12 page report prepared by Home Secretary NN Vohra names only fugitives Dawood Ibrahim, first parked in Dubai and now in Pakistan and late Iqbal Mirchy parked in London and then talks about criminalization of politics in Bihar, Haryana , Uttar Pradesh without any naming any politicians. It also talks about role of narcotics trade, film world mafia etc without naming anyone in the signed first 12 pages of the report. It is well known that Vohra who later enjoyed post retirement life of more than 25 years up to Governorship has annexed many unsigned intelligence reports, newspaper clippings and sensitive letters of many which names many big names.
Many portions of these unsigned annexure naming important politicians (one recently died) basically from Western region and their involvement with Dawood Ibrahim, narcotics gangs, hawala rackets are still available. Generally media avoided publishing due to its sensitive nature and these annexure are unsigned. Many Editors lost job for bringing out some of the portions of these annexure. Classic case was termination of late Editor Vinod Mehta for naming a big politician from Maharashtra for his links with Dawood Ibrahim. Not only Vinod Mehta lost job, the newspaper owned by Times of India also closed down after this incident. We leave it to the guess of readers about the name of the politician, still controlling the affairs of Maharashtra.
Basically criminalization of politics starts from election winning techniques like booth capturing and retain the power by terrorizing the people to ensure the money collection. “In certain States, like Bihar, Haryana and UP, these gangs enjoy the patronage of local level politicians, cutting across party lines and the protection of governmental functionaries. Some political leaders become the leaders of these gangs/armed senas and, over the years, get themselves elected to local bodies, State Assemblies and the national Parliament. Resultantly, such elements have acquired considerable political clout seriously jeopardizing the smooth functioning of the administration and the safety of life and property of the common man, causing a sense of despair and alienation among the people,” narrates Vohra Committee Report.
The Report goes on : “An organised crime Syndicate/Mafia generally commences its activities by indulging in petty crime at the local level, mostly relating to illicit distillation/gambling/organised satta and prostitution in the larger towns. In port towns, their activities involve smuggling and sale of imported goods and progressively graduate to narcotics and drug trafficking. In the bigger cities, the main source of income relates to real estate – forcibly occupying lands/buildings, procuring such properties at cheap rates by forcing out the existing occupants/tenants etc. Over time, the money power thus acquired is used for building up contacts with bureaucrats and politicians and expansion of activities with impunity. The money power is used to develop a network of muscle-power which is also used by the politicians during elections”.
The above two paragraphs of the Vohra Committee Reports neatly narrates the role of criminalization in Indian politics. Now let us back to the electoral violence. After introduction of Electronic Voting Machine, booth capturing violence is not happening from 2000. Thanks to maverick former maverick Election Commissioner late T.N.Sheshan for forcefully implementing Electoral Identity Cards and Electronic Voting Machines. But politicians are not fools. They devise new methods to grab power. Violence is perpetrated using the local anti-social elements to fear the electorate to stay away from voting, money pumping to bribe voters still going on.
Elimination of political rivals
Elimination of political rivals is the worst in Indian politics, where Left parties have a say. This intolerant barbarism happens in Left controlled areas like Kerala and West Bengal and Maoist infiltrated areas of central India. Sadly though Left parties are sidelined in West Bengal politics, in Trinamool Congress regime also this violence and elimination of political opponents are happening. It must be interesting note that such barbaric methods are not happening in areas where BJP and Congress are strong. So we can attribute the origin of elimination of political enemy methods to Left parties which once even passed a resolution (famously known as Calcutta Thesis) justifying the need of elimination of “class enemies”.
There is another kind of violence still practiced in India. This is the violence or elimination of enemies within the party. Here comes the real role of usage of mafia elements by politicians to eliminate their rivals within the party. Even terrorists, mafia underworld and ultra naxal gangs were used to eliminate the rivals within the party. Unfortunately probes in these cold blooded murders never proved due to the professional killings and alibis deployed with complete precision techniques. So still general beliefs on these murders remain as hear says without any proof. Famous film ‘New Delhi Times’ narrates this kind of elimination of political rivals from within the party.
Another such incident of big violence was erupted inside DMK. In a tussle for to become party’s No : 2, supremo Karunanidhi’s sons Stalin and Alagiri went to street fights leading to the murder of Stalin’s supporter MLA Tha Kiruttinan in 2003. The brothers’ fight for supremacy in the party ended up in burning of nephews Maran brothers newspaper office and burn to death of staffers. Alagiri lost temper when Marans’ newspaper published a “survey” saying people want Stalin as the leader. After this violent incident Karuanidhi ordered Dayanidhi Maran to resign from Union Cabinet in 2006.
Many big crimes involving politicians, agencies are literally tied of their hands. Police forced to act when public anger goes bigger. Many sleazy stories, black mailing also involved in the politically linked murders. These were many times stories for many action thriller movies. Aspiring lady politician Banwari Devi murder, activist Shehla Masood murder, journalist Shivani Bhatnagar murder cases are such full of sleaze involving many political leaders.
Sunanda murder case exposes the intricacies of politicians and IPL betting rackets. Sunanda was found dead in seven-star Hotel Leela within few hours when she was going to expose her Husband Minister Shashi Tharoor and his IPL controversies in January 2014. It took more than a year for Delhi Police to register FIR and forced to chargesheet Tharoor only in 2018. Actually Delhi Police was forced to act after BJP leader Subramanian Swamy approached Courts while all in politics and media were keeping criminal silence.
Smuggling, Narcotics rackets and Politics
Smuggling rackets and politicians are closely associated from time immemorial. From Mumbai under world dons to fugitives to latest Kerala’s UAE Consulate involved gold smuggling are the telling examples of this big syndicate. Government’s can if they want curtail this smuggling and narcotics syndicates. But no one wanted and that is why India’s Customs Department is known as the most corrupt department. Corruption in Customs Department is always so bigger than Police and other money spinning departments and it is well known that politicians routinely get their cuts from these dreaded rackets which are capable of eliminating the people who stood against them. Smuggling is basically due to the Government’s hyped taxation and when the tax terrorism ends smuggling will be ht hard.
“The big smuggling Syndicates, having international linkages, have spread into and infected the various economic and financial activities, including havala transactions, circulation of black money and operations of a vicious parallel economy causing serious damage to the economic fibre of the country. These Syndicates have acquired substantial financial and muscle power and social respectability and have successfully corrupted the government machinery at all levels and wield enough influence to make the task of Investigating and Prosecuting agencies extremely difficult; even the members of the Judicial system have not escaped the embrace of the Mafia.
“Certain elements of the Mafia have shifted to narcotics, drugs and weapon smuggling and established narco-terrorism networks, specially in the States of J&K, Punjab, Gujarat and Maharashtra. The cost of contesting elections has thrown the politician into the lap of these elements and led to a grave compromise by officials of the preventive/detective systems. The virus has spread to almost all the centres in the country; the coastal and the border States have been particularly affected” narrates Vohra Committee Report on the role big smuggling and narcotics trade syndicates,” narrates the Report.
Detailing the role of smuggling rackets, Vohra Report goes on : “It has been suggested that the menace has first to be tackled at the local level where the agencies of the State and the concerned Central Enforcement Agencies like Customs and Excise, Income Tax etc. would be required to take effective action. In cases where a crime Syndicate has graduated to big business, it would be necessary to conduct detailed investigations into its assets, both movable and immovable. It has been stressed that when such action is not timely and effectively taken, the lower functionaries of the concerned State and Central Departments/organisations start over-looking the activities of the crime Syndicates. To elucidate this point, the Director CBI has given the example of IQBAL MIRCHI of Bombay who, till the late 80’s, was merely a visitor to passenger and carrier ships to obtain liquor and cigarettes for selling the same at a profit.
“In the last 3-4 years, MIRCHI acquired real estate valuing crores of rupees; he has many bank accounts and has been paying lakhs of rupees to his carriers. The growth of MIRCHI is due to the fact that the concerned Enforcement agencies did not timely take action against him and, later, this perhaps became difficult on account of the enormous patronage that he had developed. If MIRCHI is investigated, the entire patronage enjoyed by him and his linkages will come to light. Director CBI has observed that there are many such cases, as that of MIRCHI where the initial failure has led to the emergence of Mafia giants who have become too big to be tackled.
“Director CBI has stated that the main mode of communications/contacts of the Mafias operating at the international level is through telephonic communications. Referring to the useful leads emerging from the investigations into the activities of Dawood Ibrahim, a Mafia leader, the director CBI has stated that the effective monitoring of the telephone calls made from India/received from abroad would yield useful information and, for this being done, Government may grant sanction to monitor certain telephone connections”.
Role of Banks
Banks are always hesitant with the probe agencies in sharing details of the money movements. There are even instances of Enforcement Directorate, DRI which are under Finance Ministry complaining to the Ministry for resistance of State Bank of India in sharing details. See, all these organizations come under Finance Ministry. This is the system created and political boss is sole answerable. We have seen former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley venting his anger against CBI when it charged top bankers for frauds. What poor probe agencies and its good officers can do in such Catch 22 situation? Many whistle blower officers were kicked out and got all kind of service punishments and some were even jailed for concocted cases.
“The assistance of Banks is an essential input. The Bank Managers can be placed under obligation to render reports on all heavy transactions and suspicious accounts to the Enforcement agencies. Such a practice obtains in UK,” said the Vohra Committee Report, which is not yet implemented for the past 28 years.
Rarely do big cases came up before the trial. Many cases landed before the Courts due to maverick officers. But here come the problems in trial. Many big cases fail in trial due to bad prosecution and corruption in judiciary. There is a bizarre incident must be referred here. One smuggler and his brother now running India’s big law office in handling smuggling and tax evasion cases. The smuggler was caught and jailed in his young age and from jail he passed LLB. Now he is running a big law firm handling such cases and few years ago he was caught flying with country’s Attorney General to Dubai.
From the above mentioned incidents, how system can be cleaned up? The only answer is for the electorate to select ethical political leaders who have the desire, capacity, and moral integrity not only to root out systemic corruption and break the nexus between politicians, officials, and criminal elements, but also to fully support whistle-blowers, worthy officers, and prosecutors in order to ensure justice is delivered at all costs. And there is a responsibility for the electorate while selecting credible leaders and to be vigil always.
(J Gopikrishnan is a senior journalist working with ‘The Pioneer’ newspaper)