The grisly end of Vikas Dubey, the Kanpur gangster, at the hands of the police last week was a foregone conclusion once he had committed the cardinal sin of killing eight of their colleagues. Police may well be in cahoots with the crime syndicates but no gangster is big enough to kill men in khakhi and expect to get away unscathed. Peaceful co-existence between the police and the dons is shattered once in a long while when the latter cross the intangible ‘Lakshman Rekha’.
After all, Dubey had not only survived but flourished when in 2001 he pumped bullets into a cowering BJP neta, a junior minister to boot in the state government, inside a police station. The court case fell to pieces when the eyewitnesses, including police bodyguards, turned hostile, a normal occurrence in all such cases. The high-profile murder of a sitting minister only furthered Dubey’s career in crime. Now he was the unquestioned numero uno don in his designated geographic jurisdiction. All parties sought his assistance at election time, with his own family members cornering positions in village councils and zilla parishad. He even arranged postings of low-level police and administration employees. But there was nothing extraordinary about Dubey. There are Dubeys galore in every part of the country. They thrive on the patronage of politicians and the police. Let us face it, before Dawood Ibrahim challenged the Indian State following the demolition of the disputed Ayodhya structure in December 1992, he was the unquestioned boss of a huge crime syndicate whose empire straddled the cash-rich realty sector, gold and electronics smuggling, protection rackets, etc. He was a household name whom the authorities were unable, or rather unwilling to apprehend for his criminal activities, because they were in cahoots with him. Dawood had left Haji Mastan, the original mafia don of Mumbai, far behind. In retrospect, Mastan seemed to be a neighbourhood crook, not a particularly nasty fellow in case you didn’t cross his path. In sharp contrast, Dawood’s criminal operations extended to a number of West Asian countries as well since these economies were beginning to grow and had a large contingent of expats from India. But then Mastan was a product of gentler times, the newly-independent country was just finding its feet, cash was scarce in a socialist economy, smuggling of gold and a few other items which were prohibitively expensive due to high tariff barriers yielded huge profit. A few years later, Mumbai also saw another powerful don, Vardharajan, who gained acceptability among the people he lived with in Dharavi due to his Robin Hood-like generosity. Politicians did not unduly concern themselves with the operations of the criminal gangs because they helped keeping in check particularly troublesome constituents and rendered much needed help at election time. It is public knowledge in Mumbai, for example, that beginning with Mastan every gang boss has enjoyed the patronage of the incumbent regime regardless of its political complexion.
In short, outrage at the Vikas Dubey crime-soaked saga is momentary. It will pass, that is until another Vikas Dubey hits the headlines. Meanwhile, talk of police reforms is pointless. Without reforming politics, no worthwhile reform is possible.
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