Don’t bless the mafia!

The film begins and ends with the prophecy:the mining mafia might one day overturn and usurp Indian democracy

Amit Sengupta Delhi

If the power establishment, big business and MNCs of the current political economy think that the mining mafia will only destroy traditional grassroots societies in remote tribal and rural forests, that it will only ravage and poison mountains, rivers, water bodies and ecological systems in distant, tribal eco hot-spots, that it will only mass-displace thousands of indigenous people in the margins who have no stake or voice in the largest democracy, that, therefore, the market fundamentalists must continue to patronise the mining mafia, then, surely, it must once again rethink. Because these volcanic mines might one day just blow up on everyone's face. And there is every sign inside the bowels of the devastated red earth which tells the dark prophecy.

This is the tangential and yet essential message of the meticulous short-long documentary film, Blood and Iron, crafted with a certain superb sense of objectivity by dogged, relentless and veteran journalist, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta. With a series of 'docus' in his bio, and this new labour of love, Thakurta has also showcased the evolution of a thinking, 'suffocated' journalist in the 'mainstream media' who has dared to move away from the mediocrity of business and power corridor journalism to the shallow graves of marginalised, mined India, transcending realism into a classic celluloid narrative.

The film begins and ends with the prophecy: the political-mining mafia might one day overwhelm, overtake, overturn and usurp democracy itself, in a nexus, using subversion, and manipulating cold-blooded bully power and dirty money power. And what seems so geographically distant now, in terms of the gigantic amount of ill-gotten wealth and daily violations of law, might actually come to dominate the epicentre of power in India. Because this is not a hide'n seek India can ignore and remain cushy about. This is a deadly game which is fast becoming more dangerous and dicey than we can imagine.

The notorious Reddy brothers of Bellary in Karnataka are a classic case of how a new mafia unleashed can call the shots, cocking a snook at every conceivable chess game of political and legal niceties. And when it comes to a tacit alliance with a super-rich warlord-landlord, ambitious son of an ex-chief minister in the neighbouring state (who died in an air crash), or a mix of mining and other interests, then, the concoction is full of dubious possibilities. 

Indeed, every time the BJP-led regime in Karnataka is found sinking in a filthy quagmire of corruption, the "Dracula-like" (in the words of a Congress spokesperson) presence of the Bellary mafia looms large. The amount of speculative, alleged bribes, to buy off politicians, often sounds impossible, beyond imagination in an abysmally poor country like India. No wonder, patronised by the maternal affection of a benevolent BJP lady in Delhi, they seem to be flourishing, dreaming up a grandiose plan to "set her up" for the next paradigm shift in the next Parliament. Is it a real dream, or just a pipedream? 

Who knows, with the kind of money power witnessed in the current Lok Sabha, in terms of millionaire-MPs, and when money power seems to have totally disarmed and coopted the "process of democratic elections", the mining mafia and other miscellaneous mafiosi might just about decide which way the anti-clockwise clock will turn. Thakurta's film exposes this epidemic with multiple voices of sanity and authority, interspersed with a beautiful and tragic melody by revolutionary balladeer Gadar, on how the corrupt made their treasures by ravaging the treasures of the earth, and pushing people to the wall. 

The point is, no one can escape this apocalypse now. Not the people in the margins, not the people who ride the insatiable addictions of power and wealth. The earth shall finally find all of them, in its shallow graves, mined, dynamited, dug up, sucked up, destroyed by the mining mercenaries of this new, neo-liberal democracy.

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: FEBRUARY 2011