For a week now, Hindi newspapers have been regaling their readers with copious details of a gangland-style murder of someone called Tillu Tajpuriya in Delhi’s high-security Tihar Jail. In colourful language, readers are told how the victim was stabbed at least 50 times.
Admittedly, the presence of gangs and gang leaders inside Tihar Jail dates to the bad old days of ‘Old India’. The reasonable assumption was that a corrupt police force, at the beck and call of a corrupt political leadership, was unequal to the task of enforcing order and discipline, at least inside the jails.
After all, jail is the most demonstrative symbol of a sovereign’s unlimited and absolute power to deprive criminals of their life and liberty.
That gangs continue to flourish and operate in ‘Naya Bharat’ can be taken as a reassuring sign of continuity – except that the high priests of new India insist that post-2014, the full efficacy of law and order has been restored to its most desirable standards.
Tillu’s murder suggests things have not exactly changed; it is possible that after 10 years of unaccountable power, the new ruling elites have found it useful to patronise their own gangs of criminals and quasi-criminals.
Welcome to the gangs of New Bharat.
Of course, not all gangs consist of hardcore criminals. However, by implication, a gang does not necessarily subscribe fully to the majesty of the law; it recognises no boundaries; by reputation, a gang leader develops an aura of defiance and daredevilry, a capacity for leadership of men, and a flair for the high-wire, and, often, with a righteous chip of victimhood on his shoulder. Such leaders can be found not only in the criminal underworld but can be easily identified in almost every known sphere of human activity – business, politics, sports, bureaucracy, entertainment, the literary world, etc. Crime, admittedly, comes in different collar colours and sizes.
It is almost obligatory for a political sociologist to try to discern the gang syndrome of new India. A tentative list can be compiled. Some cry for immediate attention.
The Kiran Patel-Sherpuria Syndrome
This phenomenon is not at all new; it can probably be traced back to the days of the Nagarwalla operations. It is a shadowy world of conmen who practice their craft in connivance with and at the behest of the operators of governmental power, who in turn monetise their discretion in favour of the conman’s clients. In the good old days, such characters were vaguely called “middlemen” or “facilitators.” In the new Bharat version, the play-book was first re-invented in the CMO in Gandhinagar; a handful of “trusted” officials “run the show” behind puppet chief ministers and this arrangement necessarily mocks the once-sacred “rules of business.” The syndrome manifests itself in almost every state capital and in New Delhi. Absolute power spells absolute discretion and patronage. Hence, the need for gangs of resourceful conmen who use their “connections” to help the process of sale and purchase of patronage.
The “Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh” Gang
The gentleman has been in the eye of the storm because medal-winning athletes have accused him and other sports officials of systematic sexual harassment. Now, the gentleman is not a new phenomenon. Almost all media outlets have given graphic details of a career of a text-book “don.” The BJP and the RSS leadership have found his reputation useful for a certain kind of caste politics, both in Old India and Naya Bharat. The liberals and other advocates of political morality have cried themselves hoarse that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not yet uttered a word of censure against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. The liberals are barking up the wrong tree.
Since the managers of New Bharat pride themselves on their exquisite ruthlessness, they cannot possibly allow themselves to get all mushy because some young female wrestlers have decided to violate the code of silence. The New India crowd is not weak-kneed like those in the UPA days. If the principle is conceded in the case of one Brij Bhushan Singh, then many, many other gang leaders would need to be sacrificed. And that won’t do. India has changed. We can be rough and tough.
The North-East Gang
More than 50 persons die in one afternoon and none of the guardians of “national image” gets perturbed. It is all in a day’s work; after all the same old gangs – local leaders, insurgents, arms dealers, intelligence agencies, armed forces, police establishments – which have coalesced themselves into functional cartels continue to manipulate Central leaders and their political need to ‘solve’ the ‘north-east problem.’ Periodically the cartels produce an acceptable face which is adopted by the central leadership as the product of its ‘outreach.’ Meanwhile, the useful matrix of animosities remains unchanged as does the usefulness of the region for ‘national’ operators’ unappetising needs.
The 40% Commission Gang
Though the moniker has been coined in the context of how the BJP has run its “double-engine” government in Karnataka, the phenomenon is discernible in almost all governments with varying rates of old-fashioned ‘hafta’ culture remaining unchanged in New India. Our national leaders, of course, proclaim loudly to have banished corruption and jailed all the corrupt, but the sachivalaya gang culture has only been refined and finessed by distinctly more savvy politicos of New Bharat. Corporate crooks and the corrupt and corrupting contractors are happy to let the new priests crow noisily about Amrit Kaal.
The RSS Gang
Perhaps a new addition to the smorgasbord of gangs. After nearly ten years of the Modi regime, it is plain to every middle-rung journalist that the Nagpur brass no longer pretends to be the moral guardian of the BJP. It has been told to stay in its lane. The organisation has now been infected with the corrosive virus of ‘politics.’ At the senior level, the doings of the gentleman known as B.L. Santosh point out how the much-touted Swayamsevak gets ensnared by the temptations of power of politics. At the lower level, the RSS operatives find themselves enmeshed in the dirtiest of the dirty games that are played by the BJP in the run-up to any elections. And, these games are becoming more and more filthy and demeaning. Yet the Nagpur bosses remain enamoured of the organisation’s moral and ethical purity.
The Central Vista Gang
Not exactly a new entity but consists of the most expedient of the old Khan Market Gang. These polished and urbane operatives take great pride in their cosmopolitan tastes, global connections, and working familiarity with geopolitical undercurrents. The gang has, as could be expected, some new members too and it boasts of deploying its talent at the behest of those who claim to be supreme protectors of ‘supreme national interests.’ But these men are, make no mistake, time servers in the old mould, and have made their peace with the ugliness represented by the other gangs.
This is not a complete catalogue. But all these gangs are brought together into a surged purpose and turbo-charged delusion by the Great Alchemist of Naya Bharat. Time to shout “Jai Bajrang Bali.”
Harish Khare is a former editor-in-chief of The Tribune.
Note: An earlier version of this article erroneously suggested that Tihar Jail is manned only by the Delhi Police.