Patronising crime

Patronising crime

The grisly murder of a Janata Dal (Secular) corporator last Sunday was not just a manifestation of strengthening criminal terror in a city like Bangalore which appears to be increasingly coming under the grip of urban mafias. These are gangsters who oscillate between running their own criminal networks, murdering, looting and pillaging, and acting as storm-troopers for individual political leaders or parties. Bangalore, like other urban sprawls, is gradually becoming the playground for criminal syndicates seeking to have their hands on the economic spoils of rapid urbanisation. That becomes easier still when it comes with political control of the city.

The murdered councillor, Haji Mohammad Ali, enjoyed the patronage of the JD(S) which plucked him when he was at the prime of his career in crime: an easy prey for a party to suborn and use during elections. That relationship benefited Ali too, for, he thought he had the protection of his political bosses. In the dingy quarters of Yarabnagar, where Ali lived, people say his political affiliation made him better equipped to grant protection to local inhabitants. Ali is only one among an army of criminals that political parties of all hues have employed from time to time to further their electoral interests. That the suspected mastermind of Ali’s murder, who aspires to take his position in the criminal hierarchy, is at large, is testimony to the fact that criminal networks would be hard to dismantle.

Over the past decade, Bangalore’s high crime rates have become a normal social fact. These days, despite its wholly uneven distribution, crime is accepted not as an aberration, but a routine part of consciousness, an everyday risk to be managed like air pollution and road traffic. Fighting crime has to do with a battle that is political, but could also have to do with the various vested interests that have a stake in the criminalised system that runs the parties. At a time when there is little confidence in the administration’s capacity to solve or fight the problem and the obvious limits of the criminal justice system to do anything about it, the onus is on the Election Commission to step in to take the sternest of actions against political parties who dole out patronage to mobsters and crime lords. Only that might alter the cultural basis of our politics.

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