Crime and politics have had a very close nexus the world over. But in India, this trend became dominant and struck deep roots from mid-Sixties when the Indian National Congress, the country’s oldest party, started losing its sway over the electorate to this decade. We shall discuss in this article that how the case of gangster Vikas Dubey has brought criminal-police nexus back in public focus. Vikas Dubey saw his rise in the underworld of Uttar Pradesh with his simultaneous bonding with political parties and their leaders. Dubey was responsible for the deaths of eight policemen and has around 60 charges levelled against him. It appears that Dubey’s clout with politicians across party lines and connections in the corrupt police allowed him to go scot-free, despite his chequered criminal history. He was seen as the uncrowned don of Kanpur’s crime world, and successive political parties sought his help to win elections in the region. He is not the first in this domain but there are many other ‘mafias’ backed by police and politicians and they raise enough in the ladder to become ‘eminent members of the legislative assembly.’ Also, we shall look at failed attempts at reforms in the police sector.
Unravelling the nexus between criminals, politicians, and police
There is an increase in criminalization of Politics where the criminals entering the politics and contesting elections and even getting elected to the Parliament and state legislature. It takes place primarily because of the nexus between the criminals and some of the politicians. The criminals need the patronage of politicians occupying public offices to continue with their criminal activities and the politicians need the money and muscle power that the criminals can offer to the politicians to win elections. Over time, the nexus led the criminals themselves to contest elections. They, in course of time, get police support and backing as we have seen in various instances. Money, muscle, and media became the tools of individual political leaders initially. With time, the political system was gradually overtaken by these three elements. In the naked pursuit of power, political parties and leaders readily accepted these elements as crime and criminals ensured electoral victory for them and their candidates.
Growth of the Nexus of the Political leaders, Criminals, and Police
In India, it is not a new phenomenon; the first instances of “booth-capturing” were reported in 1957, and involved hired goons who would mobilize or suppress turnout, or vote on behalf of disenfranchised voters. In return for their work, politicians would protect these criminals from prosecution. Until the late 1960s, the re-election rates of incumbents were high. Hence goons were relatively assured of political favors after they helped a politician win the election. As political competition increased, the uncertainty around the re-election of incumbent candidates also increased. This led to the entry of criminals in politics to maximize control over their survival and protection. Indira Gandhi banning corporate financing of elections in 1969 which eliminated the most important legal source of campaign finance and pushed financing underground. At the same time, the costs of contesting elections kept increasing due to a rising population, increasing political competition—the number of political parties increased from 55 in the 1952 general election to 464 in 2014—and the trend of giving freebies for votes. This also led to the growth of the criminals, now, especially in the financial aspect, chances of winnability, and vote bank.
Successive parliamentary and State Assembly elections increased the representation of criminals in legislatures. In the 15th Lok Sabha, 162 MPs had pending criminal charges against them. These cases involved a diverse array of charges, ranging from mischief to murder. If one were to focus only on serious crimes — such as murder, kidnapping and physical assault — approximately 14 percent or 76 MPs faced pending cases. In the State Assembly, one in three MLAs has a criminal case, amounting to 31 percent of the MLAs having at least one criminal case against them. Again about half of them, roughly 15 percent of the total, face serious charges. In November last year, in a survey conducted by the Transparency International India with LocalCircles, Uttar Pradesh police department had emerged as the most corrupt in the country. The survey showed corruption increased between 2018 and 2019.
Rise and fall of Vikas Dubey which highlights the crisis of governance and poor political system
Vikas Dubey was an Indian history-sheeter and gangster-turned-politician based in Kanpur Dehat district in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. He killed 8 policemen who came to raid his house. His relation with the police was so intricate that before the raiding team could reach his house in Kanpur, Vikas Dubey had got the reverse “tip-off” about the police movement. Now, more than 200 UP policemen are under investigation for possible links with Vikas Dubey. Police searched him and found him in Madhya Pradesh. After that, he was shot down in an encounter by the Uttar Pradesh police as he tried to flee from the overturned car carrying him on the outskirts of Kanpur. Once elected, these criminals have a free run, aided and abetted by the elected representative. Dubey’s crime and political graph fall exactly in that pattern. He started as a petty criminal and soon began to dabble in politics, getting elected several times at the panchayat level. This strengthened his bond with the police. The discovery of a letter that slain Deputy Superintendent of Police D K Mishra wrote, in which he complained of links between his policemen and runaway gangster Vikas Dubey, only underlines the extent of the criminal-police nexus in Uttar Pradesh.
Chaubeypur police station of Kanpur is the key to unlock the crime file of Vikas Dubey — though his own village Bikru is under Shivli police station of the district. Around 60 criminal cases are registered against Vikas Dubey at Chaubeypur police station. These cases include those involving murder and attempt to murder. Records show his reign of crime and terror in Kanpur for nearly three decades. Vikas Dubey has been arrested previously on many occasions but not convicted in any of the 60 criminal cases. Around the turn of the century, Vikas Dubey had emerged as a serious law and order challenger in Kanpur but his “friendships” across political spectrum offered him protection. In 2000, he was in jail and yet could allegedly hatch a murder conspiracy and get it executed. The victim was one Rambabu Yadav. The same year, Vikas Dubey was named accused in the murder of college staff. But most high-profile and shocking of all the crimes in which Vikas Dubey has been named an accused was the murder BJP leader Santosh Shukla. He was the minister of state in UP government. He was killed inside a police station with around 25 witnesses present on the campus. During the trial of the Santosh Shukla murder case, all witnesses – most of them police personnel – turned hostile. Vikas Dubey was acquitted by the court four years later – in 2005 – due to lack of evidence and corroboration. Even before his acquittal, Vikas Dubey figured in another sensational murder case in Kanpur. This time the deceased was a well-known local businessman Dinesh Dubey, who dealt in cables.
Locals say Vikas Dubey began his career in crime with snatching and robberies sometime in the early 1990s. He formed a gang of his own and aspired to be a don of Kanpur. When he earned enough notoriety, he feared inviting the government’s ire, and to protect himself he joined the BSP in 1995-96. In recent years, Vikas Dubey developed political ambitions and wanted to be an MLA. He even held positions at the Zila panchayat level. He got his wife in the Zila panchayat body as well. Locals say his village Bikru has not seen a panchayat election in the last 15 years. Vikas Dubey would decide the name, and the candidate would be declared winner unopposed. Vikas Dubey exploited his political connections to evade police action and made “friends” in the police department to add an extra layer of security.
In the early nineties, the government had appointed a committee headed by N N Vohra, then a serving bureaucrat, to suggest ways to deal with this menace. In its report, the committee highlighted how many criminals were running a parallel government and blamed the existing criminal justice system for failing to effectively prosecute these goons. The report was kept under the table and there was no action on recommendations of the committee.
On 25 September 2018, the Supreme Court of India delivered a major judgment directing the Election Commission (EC) to take immediate measures to address the rising criminality in the country’s politics. Highlighting the importance of full disclosure to the public, a five-judge Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice Dipak Mishra, observed that the voters should have all information about the antecedents of their candidates to be able to make an informed and competent choice while exercising their voting rights. The court was responding to the petition filed by a well-known democracy watchdog, The Public Interest Foundation, requesting the highest court to debar candidates facing serious criminal charges from contesting elections.
The major highlight of this important judgment was its five directives to the Election Commission of India. These were: (1) A candidate must fill in the prescribed form. (2) The candidate must fill in bold letters that he is implicated in some crime. (3) The candidate must inform his party that he is implicated in some crime (4) On receiving information from a candidate of his criminal antecedents, the party must put this information on its website. (5) The criminal antecedents should be published by the candidate and his party in newspapers, which are widely circulated in the locality. In short, the 100-page judgment by the SC explicitly cited its concern over the sufferance of Indian democracy because of the ‘unsettlingly increasing trend of criminalization of politics’. This step will at least for a start to bring the details in front and help people to make informed choices. Not only this, but this step will also discourage party people to give tickets to people with a criminal background.
These guidelines should be strictly followed and democracy is government by its people and it becomes the responsibility of the people to be aware and chose their leaders wisely. Not only it will help break the chain but also lead to a more accountable form of government. There should be no dependency on the criminals and unless there is a political will to reform the system and bring a strong law, people like Vikas Dubey will continue to thrive.