“Underworld Ascendance: The Resurgence of the Mafia Amidst Legal Decline”

“Underworld Ascendance: The Resurgence of the Mafia Amidst Legal Decline”

  • Introduction –

The interplay between law and crime has been a consistent theme throughout history, with power often teetering between those tasked with upholding the law and those who thrive in its absence. In contemporary times, a troubling narrative has emerged that presents the resurgence of the Mafia, a clandestine underworld force, in tandem with the decline in the effectiveness of legal frameworks. The complex fabric of societal order and criminal subversion has thus become the focus of investigation, as the underworld ascends in the face of decreasing legal authority.

The intersection of organized crime and law enforcement has long presented a compelling narrative that showcases the dynamics of a society caught in the middle of competing forces. Our examination of this fascinating subject centers on the intricate dynamics that propel the Mafia’s resurgence against the backdrop of a faltering legal order. This is not merely a record of criminal activities but rather an exploration into the multifaceted interplay of sociopolitical factors, systemic frailties, and unscrupulous alliances that fuel the rise of underworld entities.

Our journey will take us through the corridors of power and deceit, as we unravel the elements that connect the Mafia’s renaissance to the gradual decline of legal efficacy. This topic calls into question the very foundations of societal equilibrium and the delicate balance between law enforcement and organized crime, as we strive to comprehend the profound implications of the underworld’s ascendancy amidst the backdrop of legal dilapidation.

  • Historical Context –

The resurgence of the Mafia in India is a complex issue with multisectoral aspects. It has predominantly been fuelled by a decline in legal efficacy, economic opportunities, and societal factors. The country’s struggles to establish effective law enforcement mechanisms created gaps that organized crime exploited. Smuggling and black market activities, driven by economic scarcities of the post-independence period, laid the foundation for criminal syndicate involvement.

The liberalization policies introduced in the 1990s fostered rapid economic growth, but the loophole in regulatory frameworks and widespread corruption created opportunities for illicit activities and provided a conducive environment for organized crime. The rapid urbanization and rural-to-urban migration that occurred subsequently contributed to the growth of informal economies, creating an ideal environment for criminal syndicates, which gained prominence in the areas of extortion, drug trafficking, and land mafia activities, among others.

The nexus between organized crime and terrorism became a significant concern in recent years, with criminal syndicates often providing logistical support to terrorist activities. Political patronage and corruption have also played a role in shielding underworld figures from legal scrutiny, with criminal elements exploiting political affiliations to evade justice and operate with relative impunity.

With the emergence of technology, the Indian underworld has adapted to new forms of crime, such as cybercrime and financial fraud. These challenges, coupled with the evolving criminal tactics, bureaucratic inefficiencies, and corruption within law enforcement agencies, have provided a conducive environment for the resurgence of the Mafia and other organized crime entities.

Understanding this historical context is imperative for addressing the current landscape of organized crime in India. The intersection of socio-political, economic, and cultural factors that have evolved over time has shaped the current environment in which organized crime thrives, posing a formidable challenge to legal authorities in the country. The evolving nature of the issue means that India’s legal system must keep pace with these challenges to maintain its effectiveness in combating organized crime.

  • The Rise of Organized Crime –

According to recent studies, criminal networks are prevalent in a variety of criminal markets in the country, which include illegal sand mining, drug trafficking, trade in counterfeit goods, and smuggling of excise goods. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the risk of local crime gangs that engage in fraud, violence, and extortion in India, thus becoming a notable concern in the country. The role of state-level actors in organized crime varies depending on the market, with low-level officials often involved in activities such as poaching, mining, arms trafficking, and sand mining. 

Furthermore, the private sector, mainly the real estate sector, is active, where a builder mafia controls construction, and a land mafia illegally grabs forest land. Extractive industries such as mining employ private security firms, some of which commit criminal acts. Mafia-style groups and militia insurgencies have had a considerable impact on the security and stability of certain parts of the country. These groups are involved in various criminal activities such as extortion, illicit mining, drug trade, and arms trafficking. 

Despite state anti-insurgency operations having helped reduce violence, there remains a substantial level of violence in some areas. These groups often use violence to sway the outcome of elections by targeting politicians from parties that are not in their favour. To tackle these activities, the government has implemented measures such as cracking down on the illegal coal trade and arresting the groups’ supporters. Foreign actors, particularly from West Africa, dominate India’s drug trafficking market, with some involvement from Pakistani nationals. There has been a rise in criminal activity by foreign actors.

One recent incident is the confirmation of the death of Punjabi singer and politician Sidhu Moosewala was followed by an announcement from the Punjab Police suggesting that his demise could be attributed to inter-gang rivalry. Although Moosewala himself was not involved in any gang-related activity, members of rival groups had taken a position around him, and his former manager was named as a suspect in a gang-related murder case. In the days following his death, gangster Goldy Brar, based in Canada, claimed responsibility, and the plot thickened as the name of jailed gangster Lawrence Bishnoi was also linked to the killing. It was later reported that Moosewala may have been targeted due to his perceived glorification of a rival gang in one of his songs. The prominence of previously obscure gang names within the wider public and the confrontations and killings that have occurred serve to highlight the prevalence of gang culture in India.

The report ‘Crime in India’ states that there has been an increase of 24.4% in cybercrime cases compared to the previous year, with a total of 65,893 cases registered in 2022. The crime rate per lakh population in this category has risen from 3.9 to 4.8. A majority of the cases, accounting for 64.8%, were for the motive of fraud, followed by extortion with 5.5% and sexual exploitation with 5.2%. Additionally, the report indicates that a total of 1,93,385 cases were registered under economic offences, showing an increase of 11.1% compared to the previous year. The majority of these cases were related to forgery, cheating, and fraud, with 1,70,901 cases, followed by criminal breach of trust with 21,814 cases and counterfeiting with 670 cases in the last year.

  • Law Enforcement Challenges – 

The issue of growing gun culture in India, despite the existence of strict gun laws. Unlicensed firearms are rampant in some states, leading to an increase in crime and violence. The government has taken measures to curtail this trend, but the black market for firearms still exists. Social media has played a significant role in normalizing gun culture, particularly among young people in certain regions of India. In addition, foreign countries like Pakistan, Canada, UK, and USA have been accused of spreading instability in India by supplying illegal firearms. The Kartarpur corridor, which was inaugurated in 2019, has been used as a means for illegal firearm supply in Punjab. Ultimately, the gun culture problem in India is complex and involves both internal and external factors.

In India, the ownership of firearms is recognized as a lawful right under the Arms Act of 1959. Nevertheless, this privilege is accompanied by a number of regulations and limitations. Acquiring a license from local authorities involves a thorough scrutiny of the individual’s background and extensive training. Even when granted, the license is only valid for a limited period, and renewals necessitate a review of the owner’s credentials and an updated background check.

As per the recently released National Crime Records Bureau’s (NCRB) 2022 report, police forces in Bihar confiscated 4,035 illegal firearms in 2021. This marks the fourth highest number of recoveries in the country, following Uttar Pradesh (40,212), Madhya Pradesh (13,097), and Rajasthan (6,790). To provide context, in 2020, the number of illegal arms seized in Bihar was 3,166.

  • Conclusion –

In conclusion, the resurgence of the mafia amidst legal decline reflects a complex interplay between historical context, economic motivations, and societal dynamics. As legal structures weaken, creating a vacuum, organized crime finds new avenues to flourish. The global reach of the mafia, coupled with technological advancements, poses significant challenges to law enforcement.

This resurgence has profound implications, not only economically but also socially and culturally. The influence of the mafia extends beyond borders, infiltrating various aspects of society. The emergence of new leaders and structures within the underworld suggests a dynamic and evolving landscape.

Addressing this issue requires a comprehensive approach that goes beyond traditional law enforcement measures. Understanding the nexus between corruption, politics, and organized crime is crucial for effective counteraction. Initiatives to strengthen legal frameworks, bolster law enforcement capabilities, and empower communities to resist criminal influence are essential components of a multifaceted strategy.

As societies grapple with the complex forces driving the underworld’s ascendance, there is a need for international cooperation, innovative policies, and a commitment to addressing root causes. The future trajectory of the mafia amid continuing legal decline will depend on the collective efforts of governments, law enforcement agencies, and communities to adapt, counteract, and ultimately overcome the challenges posed by organized crime.

By Kartik Kanodia, Student at DBRANLU.

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