Crime Rocks

New age crime becomes legit in the new age economy. It's boom time for big money and big crime
Amit Sengupta Delhi 

Money money money, oh, it's so titillating and tempting and it's tangier than honey, makes you feel so smart and sexy and horny, running and cunning and corny, fast, faster, faster, because it's a such a goddamned rich man's world! 

So they just arrive in the middle of the night, sometimes flaunting their mug shots openly, otherwise wearing helmets to cock-a-snook at the closed circuit camera; they hold the old man, emaciated, undernourished, underpaid security guard with his fancy captain's cap and cheap tie, and decide to burgle the ATM machine, literally, lock, stock, barrel. They try to break it open, hammer and brick and iron rod in symphony, and indeed, if it does not work, try lift the entire damned machine with the money inside for a ride on a tempo. Oh! How original! Riders of the night with the entire bank under their belt!

There is this commonwealth of motorcycle gangs all over the deconstructed landscape of ravaged Delhi, emerging like an epidemic from the earthquaked, murderous dengue pits of mud, rubble, marble tiles, filth, drainage, rotting garbage, male piss, Yamuna sewage flood waters - snatching whatever they can lay their hands on: cash, mobiles, ear-rings, necklaces, lockets, credit cards, laptops. They snatch and speed, other times they shoot to kill. They killed a man in west Delhi in cold-blood walking across the road from his sister's house after dinner, for no rhyme or reason, he was not even carrying enough cash. They did the same when a stranger came to the rescue of a girl whose chain they were snatching in Noida: he was shot in the stomach. Ah! he thought he was dead. The bullet hit the buckle of his leather belt and ricocheted into the dark absurdity of the night. 

Reminds you of the mean streets of the West? American ghettos? Or is it South Africa? Or, the death squads of Brazil during the 1980s? Or, mugging as a divine right, when the locals would tell you, always carry some money, don't argue or refuse - or else they will simply pump a bullet inside you. 

They are killing for money in economic superpower India, for a video, a television or two-in-one, jewellery, emptying homes, almirahs, anything that stands as remote testimony of being quickly rich. Even for a short, nasty, brutish period. They even looted a funeral gathering last month in Delhi.A group of barbarians killed 20 plus people on NH8 on the Gurgaon highway, often for money which could buy them just a fast snack of fried chicken and chilled beer. Some years back the car-jackers killed cartoonist Irfan (once my colleague in a daily newspaper, one of the best in the business) at Ghazipur in East Delhi. He resisted, they stabbed him so many times and sold the car so dirt cheap that how more tragic and mindless can it become? Others are killing for big money. Some of them are happily making piles and piles of unimaginable money, even without killing anyone. Post-modern, non-violent money with Gandhi's ahimsa symbolism on brand new currency in secular, socialist, sovereign India. Bombay films in the 1970s/80s, with their ridiculous villains would talk about one lakh, ten lakh, one crore, a suitcase full of gold biscuits: now it is tens of thousands of crores, millions, billions. More is less. 

Check out Satyam, CWG, Spectrum, Lalit Modi's IPL, mergers, mining contracts/profits, disproportionate-proportionate assets of politicians and their dynasties most of whom have never done a day's honest work in their entire life, corporate bank balances, expense accounts, five star food and holiday packages, holidays on luxury yachts, real estate heavens, private jet bills, film star 'salaries', box office cinema's production costs. Big money and big crime flies on the wings of desire, and there is a method so transparent in this sociology of crime, even that urchin or drop out on the street knows it. Yes, money can buy you love.

Ahaa! This money's not funny, it's horny and corny, and everyone wants it in this sexy, sensex political economy of globalised 9 per cent growth. It's just that only a tiny, microscopic club gets to get it and has it all and multiplies it all the time. Remember: capital multiplies capital, even speculative capital, even dirty money. 

Rest, the majority, toiling citizens of India: they work and die for a daily meal and an honest night of peaceful sleep. Some just die. Even while others choose crime. Organised, individual, spontaneous, catalytic, schizophrenic, clinical, first-time, addictive crime. As vengeance, as aspiration, as perversion. Because, they are convinced, in these Crime Times of Great Divide, in this obscene public spectacle of big money: Crime Pays.

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: SEPTEMBER 2010