Mere Bharat Mahan – Haven for Mafia’s/Gangsters/Scamsters?
Rajiv Ghandy coined the phrase “Mere Bharat Mahan” in his hey days. At the same time, Rajiv Ghandy and his coterie joined the bandwagon Mafia/Gangsters/Scamsters what with “Bofors Scam” as the precursor of “Mahan Bharat” turning into a safe haven for all types of criminals.
The transformation of “Mere Bharat Mahan” to “Mere Haven for Mafia or Gangsters or Scamsters Land” is nowadays familiar even to a layman.
Rape, loot and scoot are the name of the game played out by all opportunists be it political class, their goons or the “Mafia Gangs” galore. In the outgoing Lok Sabha, 174 or 33.31% of the 521 sitting MPS have declared criminal records.
Who is responsible and accountable for turning “Mere Bharat Mahan” into “Mere Haven for Mafia or Gangsters or Scamsters Land”?
None in either the media claiming to be par excellent investigative journalists like N Ram of the HINDU stable or intellectuals discuss the above issue critically to enable the voters to exercise their franchise in favor of making “Mere Bharat Mahan” a reality primarily due to their complicity and collusion with Mafia/Gangsters/Scamsters.
Let me attempt to briefly review the growth story of “Mafia/Gangsters/Scamsters” in modern India. Gambling dens, illicit liquor brewing on the outskirts of towns/villages and prostitution (Human trafficking) was inherited from British colonial era that may be traced even into early periods of history. Cities and towns had “Red Light” areas.
Next, during the 1940s, the growth of “Mafia” was mostly restricted to “Port Cities – Bombay, Madras and Calcutta”.
At the outset let me highlight that just like “Terror has no religion”, “Mafia or Gangsters or Scamsters” have no religion.
In Bombay, Karim Lala, Haji Mastan and Varadarajan Mudailar, three mafia lords, carved their empires. Karim Lala or Abdul Karim Sher Khan, born in Kunar Province of Afghanistan - "Afghan mafia" or "Pathan mafia" known as ‘Don of Mumbai’ - was the founder of the Indian Mafia. Karim Lala commanded south and central Bombay. Karim Lala and his men were involved in gold smuggling, hashish trafficking, protection rackets, extortion, illegal gambling, and contract killings – undisputed king of the trade until 1985. He died on 19 February, 2001 at the age of 90.
Next, Haji Mastan, originally known as Mastan Haider Mirza, was a Bombay-based Tamil Muslim mobster who became the first celebrity gangster. In 1944, Mastan joined the Bombay docks as a porter and from there entered organized crime. He worked in association with Karim Lala and by the 1960s became a rich man. Smuggling gold, silver, and electronic goods was his prime preoccupation. Subsequently, he expanded his clout in the illegal construction financing and the film industry by investing his money with directors and studios for film production in Bollywood.
Forming part of the trio was Varadarajan Mudaliar, Bombay-based ethnic Tamil Hindu mafia mobster who operated from the early 1960s to 1980, and was accorded equal clout to Haji Mastan and Karim Lala. Starting off as a porter, he began selling illicit liquor. He commanded a lot of respect within the Tamil community in areas such as Dharavi and Matunga - controlling the criminal operations in the east and north-central Bombay. He later diversified into contract killings and the narcotics trade.
Emerged in early 1980s, Dawood Ibrahim organized D-Company in Mumbai: crime cartel of criminal and Islamic terrorist groups. Dawood is currently on Interpol's wanted list - number two on The World's 10 Most Wanted list. After the 1993 Bombay bombings, which Dawood allegedly organized and financed with Tiger Memon, both became India's most wanted men. According to the United States Department of the Treasury, Dawood may have had ties with Osama bin Laden. Consequently, the United States declared Ibrahim a "Specially Designated Global Terrorist" in 2003 and pursued the matter before the United Nations. Ever since he took to hiding, his location has been frequently traced to Karachi, Pakistan, a claim which Pakistani authorities have denied.
Some other big names of Indian “Mafias” in Mumbai include: Abu Salem; Chota Rajan (CBI Custody); Tiger Memon; Rajan Mahadev Nair - Bada Rajan; Chota Shakeel; Ali Budesh; Ravi Pujari; Arun Gawli; Sharad Shetty; Shabir Ibrahim Khaskar; Ezaj Lakdawala; etc.
List of major Indian mafia gangs include: in Mumbai -D-Company, Rajan gang, Gawli gang, Rajan gang, Surve gang, Mudaliar gang, Mastan gang, Budesh gang, Kalani gang, Pathan mafia and Lala gang; in Uttar Pradesh - Ansari gang, Yadav gang etc.; in Bangalore - Rai gang, Ramachandra gang, Jayaraj gang, and Kala Kaccha Gang.
Organized crime developed in several other Indian cities like Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mangalore, Calcutta, and most notably in Vadodara with NRI organized crime committed by people of Indian background. Foreign linkages with organized Indian crime Mafia’s developed to play a critical role particularly in Vadodara and Mumbai (Zaveri Bazaar, Dadar, Nariman Point and more affluent areas such as Andheri, and Bandra).
The range of classical Mafia activities broadly includes: smuggling - Gold and Diamonds via South Africa, arms, narcotics trafficking and foreign liquor; betting and gambling (Matka and Satta Markets) - Elections and Sports; human trafficking; money laundering post liberalization through the use of the traditional Hawala system, protection racketeering, arbitrating disputes between criminals, and brokering and enforcing illegal agreements and transactions, etc.
Add to it, even nomenclature of Mafias usually mentioned by the name of the economic sector in which they are involved to include: coal mafia, timber mafia (sometimes forest mafia), contractor mafia (sometimes road construction mafia or road contract mafia), land mafia and even media mafia.
What about other entrants into the Mafia field at local level like “Real Estate Dons” in almost all cities and towns besides sand mafia, red sanders mafia, trillion dollar monazite – rear-earth phosphate mineral mafia, crushed animal bones mafia, human hair mafia, and so on?
In sum, Mafia Raj is real. Over the past seven decades, an intricate web or criminalized nexus between political leaders, government officials, business entities, law-enforcement authorities, non-governmental organizations, trade unions or criminal organizations has developed and consolidated.
Criminalization of politics made headlines starting 1980s. And, politics and society are intertwined. So, society too stands criminalized. In today’s context, elected representatives in a majority of constituencies nation-wide cannot win elections without support from their criminal gangs. If poll violence continues to undermine the process of “free and fair” conduct of elections, the root cause can squarely placed at the door steps of the growing nexus between political parties and their leaders and criminal gangs operating under their respective umbrellas.
Due to the ability of these mafias to operate their illegal activities in a sustained fashion, sometimes openly and with the use of violent intimidation, terms like Goonda Raj (rule of the goons), Jungle Raj (law of the jungle) and anarchy are used to refer to the same phenomenon.
For example, the state-owned coal mines of Jharkhand were among the first areas in India saw the emergence of a sophisticated mafia. The coal industry's trade union leadership formed the upper echelon of this arrangement and employs caste allegiances to maintain its power. Pilferage and sale of coal on the black market, inflated or fictitious supply expenses, falsified worker contracts and the expropriation and leasing-out of government land have allegedly become routine. A parallel economy developed with a significant fraction of the local population employed by the mafia in manually transporting the stolen coal for long distances to illegal mafia warehouses and points of sale. Higher quality coal is sometimes selectively diverted, and missing coal is replaced with stones and boulders in railway cargo wagons. A human corpse has been discovered in a sealed coal wagon.
Most important, India is a major transit point for heroin from the Golden Triangle and Golden Crescent en route to Europe. India is also the world's largest legal grower of opium; experts estimate that 5–10% of the legal opium is converted into illegal heroin, and 8–10% is consumed in high quantities as concentrated liquid. The pharmaceutical industry is also responsible for a lot of illegal production of mandrax, much of which is smuggled into South Africa.
Goa was a principal hub of the international drug trade, apart from being a key point of consumption. Several local Indian, Russian, Israeli and Nigerian mafia groups are heavily involved in the organized drug trade in Goa. Sources reveal that there are also individual players who are British, French, Italian, Portuguese and from other European countries.
Punjabi mafia had always been active due to its porous borders. Prior to liberalization, gold smuggling was the prime occupation besides arms and narcotics smuggling. Post militancy, they took to contract killings. The real estate and industrial sector boom of the early 2000s saw several criminals surfacing with the primary objective of controlling unions. The flourishing of the banking sector, especially finance companies, spurred the demand for bouncers who ensured recovery of bad loans and helped in grabbing disputed properties. Cricket bookies too used their services. Around five years back when the boom in real estate ended, these gangs then tuned to extortion and protection money as their source of income. Most of these are inter-state gangs as well as the ones specializing in arms smuggling, narcotics and abduction. Kidnappings for ransom in Punjab, something which rarely happened earlier, are on the rise.
In retrospect, if you look around for one Mafia in a city/town, you will find at least over dozen of them in various fields. Most important, there is no need for educational qualification to prosper in the Mafia profession.
Today Bangalore is home to nearly 2,000 gangsters, 90 percent of them vying for a stake in the real estate market. Muthappa Rai, the real estate don, is a billionaire.
Add to it, Gurugram today is infested with real estate mafia gangs. It was in 1995 when advocate Bunty alias Fauji formed the first major gang. Today, there is mushrooming of real estate gangs: Sunil Takla, Dharambeer Ullahwas, Kaushal, Gadoli, Mahesh, and Bindar Gujjar, Sudesh alias Chailu and Raju Langda, among others.
Also, Madras, now known as Chennai, was famous for its Mafia gangs in the past to include: ‘Boxer’ Vadivelu, Ayodhya Kuppam Veeramani, Asai Thambi, ‘Vellai’ Ravi, ‘Bokkai’ Ravi and ‘Punk’ Kumart. North Chennai became synonymous with Mafia gangs. Some of the notorious rowdies now are Nagendran, C. D. Mani, Binu, Radhakrishnan, Mylapore Sivakumar, ‘Kadhukuthu’ Ravi, Kanagu, ‘Kalvettu’ Ravi, Kakathoppu Balaji, Adaikalaraj, ‘Seizing’ Raja, Tambaram Surya and ‘Dog’ Ravi. Most of them are either in jail or are lying low.
The big names of underworld Gangs and Don’s in Hyderabad include: Chaddi Baniyan Gang; land grabber Ayub Khan, wanted in over 50 cases and with a ‘red corner’ notice pending against him and actively involved in the communal riots that took place in the city in 1990; . Mohammed Nayeemuddin accused in over 15 murder cases, including that of IPS officer K S Vyas in 1993 and wanted by central and state agencies; Ashappa alias Ashok with close linkages with Mumbai underworld and involved in many criminal cases like murders, murder for gain, hired killings, extortions in the name of naxals; and so on.
All State Capitals today have land grabbers and real estate dons operating in close collusion with others in places of power. Similarly, their underlings are spread all over in towns and villages. Quite a few among them in groups or have developed net-works. And, majority of them enjoy political patronage.
How to overcome the menace of Mafia’s, Gangsters and Scamsters is the most internal security threat concern? There are no easy answers or prescriptions to untie the extraordinarily complex “Gordian Knot”!