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Mumbai, 30 June 2016: Hundreds of savvy and well-educated flat buyers have purchased "luxurious" flats in RNA Exotica without noticing what their sale-purchase agreements clearly says: that RNA Exotica is actually a large and shabby slum rehabilitation scheme with a tiny island of rich flat-buyers. The rich people's housing project is married and tied to the rehab component in the same undivided compound -- a marriage made in hell! Not just RNA Exotica's sale-purchase agreement, but also project layouts and plans presented to MOEF, give a birds-eye-view of this nightmarish neighbourhood. With clever advertizing, a tight-lipped sales staff, and several clauses in the sale-purchase agreements that forbid investors from asking the right questions, RNA Corp has been consistently misleading its investors for many years. A prospective home-buyer never gets to read the true facts before he is inside the builder's trap!

So let us take a close look at all the ugly truths that the sale-purchase agreement reveals. As a specimen, take the sale-purchase agreement of actor Arif Zakaria (Flat no. 1903, D-Wing).

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NINE WAYS THE BUILDER SCREWED YOU:

  1. RNA Exotica is a Apartment and Slum Rehab Project in a single compound, so you can't object to general public and outsiders in your compound. The agreement makes sure that flat-buyers will have no right in future to object to the rehab building and car park constructed adjoining RNA Exotica, in the same compound. This clause tells flat-buyers in no uncertain terms that the public parking being constructed on the rehab building is not available for their cars. Read this on page 13 and this on page 21 of the registered agreement. So, the proud flat purchasers should know from this clause that their building compound is only semi-private, unlike most of the apartment compounds that are completely private.

  2. RNA Corp can construct anything on top of your flats, so keep quiet and mind your business. The agreement gives the builder the unlimited right to build anything on top of the "top floor" flat, and the flat-purchaser must keep mum about it. In other words, the builder can continue to commercially exploit any increase in FSI or any changes in rules, even if it causes great delay, inconvenience and losses to the flat-buyers, and the only thing that they can do is smile and feel privileged about owning a luxury flat in RNA Exotica.

  3. RNA Corp can construct servants' toilets, septic tanks, electric sub-stations, closed garages, etc. etc. anywhere in the compound or in the building, so shut your nose, mouth and ears.The ground plans or floor plans shown in the agreement can and will be extensively changed to suit the builder's requirements, and this is plainly stated in the agreement itself. All kind of noisy, smelly or intrusive structures can and will be constructed in various parts of the building and compound where you live, including the same floor where you live, but you cannot object on any grounds because you have signed on an agreement that ties your hands. Your rights as a flat-buyer are restricted to the premises that you have purchased, and not, as is the case in other building projects, the common amenities.

  4. RNA Corp can and will create third-party rights and entitlements to various parts of your building and compound, including clubhouse and various parts that you may mistakenly consider as your common amenities. Read this point carefully again, and you will see that this clause is not just a routinely-drafted formality, but is cleverly drafted to take away all your legal rights.

  5. RNA Corp can decrease the common areas and facilities in your building, and you waived your right to raise any objections.People book luxury apartments not just because of spacious flats, but because of spacious and well-designed common amenities and facilities. These amenities and common spaces are factored into the price of the flat as "super-built-up area". But, after paying lakhs of rupees up front to book a flat in RNA Exotica, buyers are informed by their registered agreement on page 37 that the common areas cannot be taken for granted, and they have no right to object!

  6. You unknowingly gave a power-of-attorney to RNA Corp to sign legal waivers on your behalf before all government authorities, without even informing you. According to this clause, the developer need not consult you or even inform before making big or small changes in the plans, because he can always sign an indemnity or undertaking on your behalf to tell the government that you are OK with anything that he does!

  7. You have surrendered your right to independently verify title and ownership of the plot of land on which RNA Exotica is built... because agreement says you have already verified it and satisfied yourself! Mr flat-buyer, when you signed on every page of the agreement in the Stamp Duty Registrar's office, you definitely were not looking for tricky clauses like this one. But here is a clause on page 17 and another on page 25 that says that you have already verified the title and satisfied yourself, and now you have agreed not to investigate any further, or raise any objections.

  8. Possession date is deliberately left blank. Therefore, you have no way of holding RNA Corp accountable for delay of several years, although there is technically a clause for delays. Read this clause on page 37 and its continuation on page 39.

  9. RNA Corp can allot you car parking according to their own sweep pleasure, and you cannot object. The builder may allot you a really shitty parking in the basement, podium or stilt, and the builder may sell favourably-positioned parkings to others. You have no right to object. Read this clause on page 41.

So, Mr and Mrs Flat Purchaser, it is only in theory that you bought a luxury apartment in RNA Exotica. Your luxury apartment exists only in pretty advertisements. The fact is, you just bought a 2BHK or 3BHK in a shitty slum rehab neighbourhood overlooking the railway tracks, and you signed up on a document that says that you have no right to keep the people of your neighbourhood and sundry public from accessing your compound... and you have no right to object to this entire scheme of things. The only thing you can say now is, "It was nice being screwed by you, Mr Anil Aggarwal."

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Sincere thanks to Sulaiman "Superman" Bhimani (9323642081) for his continuous detective work, which enabled and motivated me to write this article.

ISSUED IN PUBLIC INTEREST BY

Krishnaraj Rao

9821588114

krish.kkphoto@gmail.com

5

As the magic 49 number of days of Modi sarkar comes to a close, it has been a good journey. Looking back at some of the hilarious points of what is fast coming to be known as the U-Turn sarkar.

Should India be entertaining Pakistani VIPs if there is conflict at the border?

That is how the Modi sarkar began. Before, Modi had only contempt for Manmohan Singh's sarkar that apparently did not retaliate strongly enough to Indian soldiers being killed at the border. That too, in Telugu, it seems.

Modi blasts Manmohan Singh for taking killings at the LoC lightly
Modi blasts Manmohan Singh for taking killings at the LoC lightly

Modi himself had refused the evil Pakistanis in a massive demonstration of patriotic solidarity. Little did Dr. Manmohan Singh know that when people say his silence was a problem, they mean it. He could have tried something as simple as inviting Pakistan's Prime Minister for an important national function. Like so:

Modi on LoC conflicts and relations with Pakistan before and after
Modi on LoC conflicts and relations with Pakistan before and after

Or perhaps I may be wrong, and this may not be a patriotic move so much as the first installment on the election campaign expenses. Even as the poor beheaded jawan's wife was protesting. Sometimes greater good has to be seen.

Modi's sponsor Adani wants to sell power to Pakistan
Modi's sponsor Adani wants to sell power to Pakistan

But at least Modi was right about the other borders I think. Illegal Bangladeshis are such a nuisance. Modi was right to threaten to deport them

Bangladeshis were to be deported before elections
Bangladeshis were to be deported before elections

 

but there is a problem. After all, he'd just invited their Prime Minister for his coronation. So he at least tried to get rid of the "illegal" from it, if not deporting.

Visa-free entry to Bangladeshis under 18 years and over 65 years
Visa-free entry to Bangladeshis under 18 years and over 65 years

The solution was so simple, one must really wonder why Dr. Mannu never thought of it. Simply allow them visa free entry - voila! Now they can stay where they are legally!!!

This Modi sarkar is pure genius, I tell you.

What about that evil Gandhi bloodline (excluding the pure blood of Varun Gandhi, BJP). Dr. Subramanian Swamy had Priyanka Gandhi red handed. Multiple DINs! That evil witch and that Karti Chidambaram!!!

 

Appropriately terrified, Priyanka Gandhi confessed to making multiple applications and offered to pay the fine (and nicely ignored the jail time, thank you very much).

But wait. That was before. Now that Modi sarkar is in place, the greater efficiency showed that Priyanka Vadra may have applied as many times as she liked, but the super efficient (retrospectively as well) Ministry of Corporate affairs had actually issued her only one DIN. What a DIN about DINs. Just like Nitin Gadkari (No, you can't check now, the extra DINs nicely show "not yet issued" now that a better government is in place.)

Oops! Priyana Vadra and Karti Chidambaram had only one DIN each
Oops! Priyana Vadra and Karti Chidambaram had only one DIN each. Fooled ya!

Modi sarkar had Vadra terrified while UPA2 was in rule.

Vadra security privileges - before
Vadra security privileges - before

Then, as they campaigned, they probably thought a panicked Vadra would fight too hard to defeat them, so they kinda.... reassured.

Action against Vadra or no? Election Campaign
Action against Vadra or no? Election Campaign

And never let it be said BJP goes back on its word. Robert Vadra remains unscathed.

What about Robert Vadra's security exemptions?
What about Robert Vadra's security exemptions?

They had even terrified the couple together. Imagine losing security privileges and having to go through security checks at airports? I bet the couple lost sleepless nights.

Modi Sarkar has brought acche din to the country.

Jaitlet had thought that the Income Tax exemption slab should be raised to 5 lakh before the elections. Now that he got to present the budget, he raised it to 2.5 lakh.

 

What should the IT exemption slab be? Beore and after
What should the IT exemption slab be? Beore and after

Hey! No need to get outraged! If you ignore the decimal point, 25 is five times 5.

What about investments in railways?

Everything perfect on that front. Just watch.

What about the railways? Before and after
What about the railways? Before and after

We have no hesitation in telling you that UPA2 would have totally messed up the privatization of railways and FDI, but now that it is a BJP sarkar and BJP no longer plays dog in the manger with the government, many things that UPA2 wanted to do are now possible without BJP staging a walkout against itself.

Still not convinced? You are a cynical sickular. Try this.

Modi railway hike before and after
Modi railway hike before and after

Oh wait. I meant this.

uday-lalit-amit-shah-after

Amazing, isn't it, the things you can do when you can get a dozen newspapers to publish near identical articles without sources that can push things that happened before the election aside? Like this one?

Did Uday Lalit represent Amit Shah? Before
Did Uday Lalit represent Amit Shah? Before

There are many, many such gems. And you cannot blame BJP. After all, they have delivered the only real promise they made before the election - Modi as PM. To avoid confusion, they even avoided publishing a manifesto as far as possible.

So you really cannot claim that they cannot do U-Turns.

Welcome to the opening innings of U-Turn sarkar. May the remaining period be as hilarious as so far... and may worries about the country never plague your dazzled brain.

Note: This post actually has a lot of things missing (mostly because I got tired of doing screenshots). Feel free to nominate your favorites to this collection in the comments. I will update as and when I am back in the mood to play screenshot-screenshot.

Some ideas to get you started. Google up what Jaitley thought about declassifying the Henderson Brooks report on the 1962 war before and after the elections

Arun Jaitley's U-Turn on the Henderson Brooks report on the 1962 war
Arun Jaitley's U-Turn on the Henderson Brooks report on the 1962 war

or Aadhaar cards, or.... you get the idea? Or you could try non-specific U-Turns like strict action against criminal politicians, inflation, using ordinances in non-emergencies and the infamous "Acche Din"!

Let's see what you come up with.

You're welcome.

2

Criticism of Ajit Kumar Doval's appointment as National Security Advisor has led to a dangerous new propaganda initiated by Modi supporters. They claim that Doval had to create Chhota Rajan to counter Dawood Ibrahim creating some kind of romantic fiction of the flawed hero who steps over to the dark side for a good cause. Sells his soul so that yours may remain in tact, etc. This couldn't be further from the truth. Chhota Rajan isn't a creation of India's intelligence agencies, he's a gangster and a one time crony of Dawood Ibrahim who became a rival. Dawood Ibrahim became untouchable after the Mumbai blasts, but had merry patronage of politicians as well, including the oh-so-patriotic Shiv Sena (remember the others who got guns from the same source, though Sanjay Dutt alone got arrested for it?).

Gang rivalry led to intel on rivals to security agencies, not patriotism. Chhota Rajan wasn't exactly going to volunteer and die when Dawood's men attacked him if Dawood had been a patriotic gangster. Nor did IB exploiting the rivalry for law enforcement mean that the side that got used was somehow noble. We are talking extortion rackets, bloody gun battles, smuggling, extortion, drug trade, kidnapping, murders and more signature characteristics of Mumbai's underworld, not a Hindi film script, though those too are known to be sponsored by gangsters. Perhaps film producers are patriotic in accepting black money too.

Here is a quick reminder of what is getting glamorized and whitewashed into BJP's invented war of good gangster and evil gangster - it is as fake as "good Taliban and bad Taliban".

There is no such thing.

The Dark Face of Mumbai

By Prabhat Sharan

25 October, 2010
The Verdict Weekly

Blood stained brown gold and mean streets of Mumbai housing mafia and Mumbai underworld

It was business as usual in the infamous Kamathipura lane - prostitutes were busy preparing for the long night that laid ahead, the pimps were luring customers to the buildings, and the lanes thronged with people on sundry errands. On that June evening Kamathipura had an unusual visitor: Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Prem Kumar Sharma and his family, who had come to celebrate his daughter’s success at the intermediate examination with a dinner at the famous Delhi Durbar restaurant.

Scarcely had Sharma got down from the car that the waiting assailants pumped bullets into him. The din of the street drowned out the pistol shots, and it was only after his wife and daughter started screaming hysterically that the passers-by came to the rescue of the family. By then it was already too late: the BJP MLA was dead and the assailants had escaped in the ensuing confusion. Subsequent police investigations traced the cause of the murder to dubious land deals in south-central Mumbai. The murder shook the city, even as the police after the serial bomb blasts had claimed to have broken the spine of the criminal syndicates. This was in 1993.

Three years later in April, the picture of respectability that the Kukrejas had created for themselves was suddenly torn apart, much to the dismay and bewilderment of the real estate developers in Mumbai. On that hot sultry afternoon the tinted glass walls of the Kukrejas’ Chembur office in north-east Mumbai was spattered with blood as three visitors took out their guns and sprayed a sleeping Om Prakash Kukreja with bullets.

Om Prakash had only joined the elite circle of real estate developers and builders, men who fashion their dreams in steel and cement, raising skyscrapers to accommodate a growing population and pocketing millions in the process. The killing of Om Prakash Kukreja did indeed send a ripple of shock in the city.

Eight years later: Land developer and builder - Suresh Wadhwa in the rain drenched satellite town Navi Mumbai was sitting in his office and three persons sauntered in his office and saturated his plush office walls with bullet holes. Wadhwa escaped by ducking under his mahogany table. After a long respite, the builders lobby has once again been shocked out of its stupor. The down in the dumps real estate business, is once more looking up optimistically and the organised criminal syndicates ever on a lookout has slowly started uncoiling its tentacles once more in the city. But despite the shock waves unleashed by a series of attacks on developers in the city coupled with a grim realisation that very soon they are going to be the main targets the business goes on as usual for the developers. And why not?

Mumbai is a city where the land is scarce, the resources unlimited, the greed simply insatiable - a few dead bodies is considered worth the money raked in by those involved in land grabbing and illegal constructions - both in and around the city.

However, transgressions of laws means the network must be spread far and wide. Unscrupulous real estate developers could only work in the shadow of the gun, and the link with the underworld was gradually formed. Soon the dividing line between the two became blurred. They needed protection from the police and politicians were drafted in, obviously in exchange for a substantial cut.

It was sooner or later bound to blow up in the face of the politician. And it did with the alleged murder of Ramesh Kini whose dead body was left behind in an empty cinema hall. A wailing widow’s allegation of foul play saw the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) pick up Bal Thackeray’s nephew, Raj Thackeray, for questioning. The show in the city of dreams had truly begun.

The one worrisome question perpetually dogging those sloshed with slush funds is: Where and how to launder the ill-gotten wealth so as to convert black into white? Export-import businesses and films are the obvious avenues. The films with their overseas rights, during the late nineties and early 21st century cleaned a substantial chunk of tainted money, which saw the film stars and film producers grabbing headlines not for their celluloid impact but for their links with criminal syndicates.

However, both films as well as import-export businesses simply lack the one unique property real estate in Mumbai boasts of - the losses are rare and minimum, and the initial investment multiplies at an astonishing rate, every year, even during the economic crashes.

This factor saw the convergence of interests of both the criminal syndicates and the real estate developers, and the connection forged between the two in the Fifties and Sixties gradually tilted in favour of the city’s dreaded gangsters. In the Eighties, the new generation of criminals began to use their formidable muscle power to grab prime plots of land for themselves. This had two distinct advantages: Not could they launder money profitably but also sport the veneer of ‘respectable’ land developers.

Earlier, in the Fifties and Sixties, smugglers like Walcott, Gawandi Ram, Gafoor Supariwalla, Ibrahim Patel, Haji Mastan, and Sukur Narain Bakhia had a profile and lifestyle completely different from their ambitious successors of today. They were swashbuckling adventurers who lived their lives, as if there was no tomorrow. Their dreams had limits, their desire for wealth a certain proportion.

But soon the situation changed rapidly: The world of crime became more organised, the technology of killing more sophisticated and modern, the structure of the underworld decidedly more corporate and the inter-gang relationship chillingly more interpersonal. They were now eager to compete and, as it is true of the corporate world, each perceived the other as potential rival. More significantly, the crime syndicates were prowling about the bustling city in search of new and profitable ventures.

Paucity of land goaded the syndicates into eyeing the Congress Government’s decision to reclaim Backbay, and the nexus between gang leaders and the political class soon came to the fore. The then Opposition leader Mrinal Gore moved the court against the VP Naik Government’s proposal to sell plots in Backbay at a price in excess of the prevailing market rates. Gore won the case, but lost the war, the politicians and gangsters were now willing to strike a deal.

The hegemony of the Congress obviously meant the Congressmen had the largest share of the booty. But the Shiv Sena, hitherto lagging behind was taking a different route: it decided to exploit the grassroots terrorism and fight the civic elections to control the bureaucracy. And it did this with enviable success.

The nexus between the political class and the criminal syndicates changed the profile of land developers and builders. The pipe-smoking real estate speculators and developers were replaced by a new crop of builders like Lokhandwala, Raheja, Dr Maker and Rizvi. To this list could be added the names of dreaded smugglers like Umar Malbari, Manu Narang, Gafoor and Ibrahim Supariwalla.

These men had only one thing in common - political patronage. If Dr Maker had the support of the Congress, then Yusuf Patel, Manu Narang, Gafoor Supariwalla could bank on Rajni Patel. Thus, both the political class and the underworld were neatly split, every camp attempting to carve out its own turf and guard it zealously against poaching. This laid the foundation for a gang war that was to shake the city more than a decade later.

The syndicate entered the arena dramatically. On a wintry December night of 1979, the congested Belassis road was suddenly engulfed in fire; high flames leapt out of the stables that lined the road: hundreds of horses neighed to death, and the fire brigade mysteriously failed to reach the spot in time.
Yusuf Patel later erected buildings on the ashes.

He was not alone. Smuggler Manu Narang was already going haywire with constructing buildings and hotels. The message had gone home loud and clear, and scores of small-time builders and contractors were making a beeline for the offices of smugglers like Manu Narang, Vardrajan Mudaliar—seeking investment as well as help for grabbing land and evicting legitimate tenants.

Vardrajan Mudaliar, though a wharf king, taught the embryonic world of criminal syndicates the importance of grabbing the land, housing the mushrooming slums. Even though his reign period was small, he also drove home the importance of developing contacts with influential men and use of the police force through tipping them on the whereabouts of small-time lackeys of the crime world as well as the use of the media.

One of these small-timers learnt the lesson well and soon emerged as the most dreaded person in the construction business. He was Arvind Dholakia, a scrap cloth dealer and errand boy for smuggler Supariwalla. The latter helped his disciple to parachute into the building industry. Arvind Dholakia emerged as the city’s most sought after builder.

But Arvind and his bother Mahesh went a step further: They moved into the hotel business and effectively used the cover to start pick-up joints. Slip Disc, Hotel Ceasar’s Palace and Fishermen’s Wharf entitled the Dholakias to establish their monopoly over the flesh trade and develop contacts among the city’s bigwigs hungry for exciting night outs on the sly.

In the early Eighties, with Vardarajan Mudaliar’s power on wane, the Dholakias were no doubt firmly entrenched, but were gradually feeling the heat in the underworld rivalry. Dawood Ibrahim had arrived; he was the new contender who wanted the mantle of the undisputed Godfather.

In the political arena a fresh alignment was being worked out between the then Chief Minister AR Antulay and Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray who was soon to realise that charismatic power could match, or even be deadlier than the formidable clout of the underworld.

The new phase in the war was inaugurated with Chief Minister Sharad Pawar’s decision to de-reserve land in the western suburbs of the city. A mad rush ensued, but the first to establish his sway over the new turf was Sharad Shetty alias Anna. Once, a ‘stockist,’ of Dawood’s contraband, Shetty was receiving huge amounts from builders, wishing to enter the construction business there.

This only escalated the rivalry between the Dholakias and Dawood, and blood spill was inevitable. Mahesh Dholakia was the first victim of the war; he was shot dead on the neon-lit swanky Peddar Road. There could now be no hope of truce.

But so strong is the lure of land in Mumbai that is has the potential of driving a wedge in even the powerful and tightly knit gang empire. Thus, Dawood’s most trusted hit man Rama Naik, who controlled the eastern side of Central Mumbai, staked his claim to a plot in the far-flung Jogeshwari area. His problem was that Sharad Shetty too had similar designs. The Jogeshwari slums were cleared off in just 12 hours, but the gunmen of neither of the dons were willing to back out.

This war was a classic case for the intervention of the Godfather. Dawood interceded on behalf of Sharad Shetty, and his monolith empire split vertically. The subsequent gunning down of Rama Naik in a police ‘encounter,’ saw Arvind Dholakia who had started developing Mahakali, Andheri and Jogeshwari change his allegiance; he began financing the Arun Gawli mob to keep Dawood at bay.

The first big blow in this new round was delivered by Gawli; his trusted aide Ashok Joshi intercepted Satish Raje’s car in the busy Byculla crossing, smashed his head with a hammer mowing him down with bullets.

The murder of Raje infuriated most members of the Dawood gang for an important reason: He was their finance man who kept the account of benami transactions as well as investments in the real estate and other lucrative ventures for laundering black money.

The reaction of Raje’s murder drew the battle lines afresh - Amar Naik and Arun Gawli struck a deal, promised not poach on each other’s territories, and joined hands to strike at Dawood’s empire. The builders as well as the small fries of the organized crime world thought it prudent to jump on the Dawood’s bandwagon.

What about the political class? Changing political equations saw the political parties revise their strategies. A major chunk of Shiv Sena took the side of Dawood Ibrahim. But in the underworld, allegiance to money and turf predominates, and Shiv Sena MLA Vithal Chavan was gunned down precisely for this reason - he fell out with Dawood’s mobster, Guru Satam (who later left the folds of Dawood), over the issue of sharing the spoils of the protection racket that they were running together in eastern-central Mumbai.

The Dawood-Sena link, firmly established in the early Nineties, came under the increasing strain of Hindutva politics of Bal Thackeray. His diatribes against the Muslims needed a visible symbol and Dawood, who had fled to the safer confines of Dubai, was one easy target he could easily exploit. Indeed, charisma could be pitted against gun-power and capture of the State machinery could provide a clout sufficient enough to match the arsenal of the dreaded underworld don as well as challenge the hegemony of the Congress.

Thackeray could be reckless, never mind the fact that a substantial chunk of Sena corporators owed allegiance to Dawood. For one, the Amar Naik-Gawli pact had weakened Dawood, who found that ruling the crime world through remote control was not quite the same as being there on the scene. And then came the serial bomb blasts, the disclosure of Dawood’s role the planning of it, overnight changed the scenario for the mafia king dramatically. The Dubai-based don was now a liability whom only a foolhardy politician would court.

It was probably the new political equation that saw some of the Sena corporators assert their independence---and pay dearly for it. So BJP MLA Prem Kumar Sharma was bumped off because he allegedly tried to take a lion’s share in the spoils of illegal constructions. Soon Shiv Sena MLC Ramesh More was killed by Chhota Rajan’s (a long-time Dawood’s crony who later branched out into a formidable independent branch) men who wanted to establish their own protection racket in the discos and pubs located in the western suburbs of the city.

The Shiv Sena, once the wind started blowing in its favour, openly patronized Amar Naik and even gave tickets to its relatives to fight the municipal corporation elections. It probably had little option. For, with Gawli leaving the Shiv Sena fold after Chhagan Bhujbal joined the Congress, the Shiv Sena had to woo Amar Naik lest it was deprived of firepower and support of the lumpen elements who ruled the roost in the central Mumbai.

It was due to this nexus that the Shiv Sena-BJP Government maintained a deafening silence over the killing of industrialist Sumit Khatau, which was linked to the controversy over the multi-crore Khatau mill land. Nothing could be more eloquent testimony to the political patronage extended to the underworld - and all for a land in a city teeming with millions.

The collapse of the smuggling rackets, due to the liberalization policies juxtaposed with the crunch in the real estate business and serial bomb blasts, brought the chinks in the monolithic empire to fore and gangsters desperately seeking legitimacy by hobnobbing with film stars, doling out interviews to the media to keep their clout alive.
Notwithstanding the oft-repeated claims of the Mumbai police of destroying the mafia through encounters of small-time hoodlums, the organized criminal syndicates itself had gone into hibernation. The law-enforcing agencies know this fact very well, and several of them used this as a cover to their own nefarious activities.

And the wheel continues to rotate. Wherever and whenever elections are round the corner and political parties need campaign funds, builders, developers and land grabbers all poise themselves to extract concessions from the political parties.

The result: A boom in the real estate. With substantial tainted money floating in the city needing to be cleaned, the hydra-headed organized criminal syndicates, rear its head spitting blood and fire. And since in the organized crime chessboard, names and personalities do not matter, the turf-war clashes continue. No peace, no lasting truce for the players. And Mumbai continues to grope in the darkness of an endless night.

The author is a senior journalist, writing on environment, issues, labour and human rights, politics and crime. He may be contacted at theverdict@sify.com

The Caravan has published yet another of its very excellent mini-novel grade stories. This time around the Operation Blue star by Hartosh Singh Bal. For someone who was but a child in the times covered by this story, this was an enlightening read and I recommend you read it, since I'm not going to be summarizing the story here at all. I am no authority on the history or politics of Punjab. This post is about linkages and patterns I see beyond the story - which are also more perceptions than referenced fact.

Several things struck me about the story that I think have a deep insight for India's politics as well.

The first was the role of the Congress government in the build up of religious extremism to the point of instability and largely for reasons of political gain for the party rather than the well being of citizens. It isn't unlike what is going on with the rise of the Hindu right wing in India, with the Congress making vague comments about alarm or criticism, but never really doing anything to strike a solid blow, to the point its leaders could be publicly humiliated and party decimated this elections.

That tendency to cater to the most violent representatives of a religion (Muslim zealots included) rather than defuse aggression and uplift the masses at large seems to be alive and well to the point where the claims of secularism fell flat. This time, it seems few bought the idea that tolerating zealots of all hues is secularism and a rogue right wing ran away with the narrative. Not unlike what it sounds like from the Punjab of those days, except perhaps the violence is now uniformly perpetrated against the unarmed.

The massive following of Bhindranwale in the face of criminal acts, impotence of the state machinery to deliver justice or regain control and more too sounds like a recurring theme for India.

Short sighted strategies for political gain with little view for the impact on the larger picture? Yep.

The inability of the state to control rogues within the security establishment as well continues with encounter killings being covered up rather than brought to justice.

Bad advisers, bloodthirsty youth leaders and a leadership unable to see beyond what was presented? Yep. Leadership regretted? Yes. Leadership paid heavy price? Yes. Bad over reactions to a long nurtured problem created martyrs opposing state?

In some ways the cult like following of Bhindranwale reminds me of Bal Thackeray. The man who got a state funeral after a life of taking the law in his hands at whim. In our area, the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi rules. This party is unheard of in most of India. Founded by a local don with a murder to his name, and sporting an MLA who thrashed a cop in the Assembly, the bling of the Lok Sabha Election campaigning didn't touch our area. No posters, no mega rallies, no vans blaring messages. Perhaps they may have happened nearer the station, but not here. Our area was completely Modi free, even when the BJP candidate won - some celebrations probably happened in more central areas, but I didn't hear any fireworks sitting at home. Yet when Bal Thackeray died, his posters were splashed all over and again for the anniversary. They remained up long after the date had passed.

When it comes to love of the masses, clearly sentiment trumps law - something a state insensitive to people is ill equipped to deal with.

What was the charisma of the law breaker? Identity. Bal Thackeray may have done little to improve the lot of Maharashtrians, but in a state where the natives feel increasingly marginalized, he gave their frustrations voice, even if he did nothing very useful with it. His political affiliations too were courted, not unlike Bhindranwale.

Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and Sant Harcharan Singh Longowal
Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and Sant Harcharan Singh Longowal

And in Punjab, it seems every other car sports stickers in honor of the "dreaded separatist terrorist" and the BJP that is normally vociferous against terrorists and had indeed supported his killing meekly falls in line, just like Bal Thackeray's political opponents respectfully attended his funeral, even as they worried whether his party will continue to squat over the Shivaji Park and demand a memorial there.

In hindsight. I wonder if Bhindranwale's "evil" was not the violence, but the Anandpur Resolution. After all, India is a country with a rich history of might not only being right, but being rewarded with more might. On the other hand, all calls for decentralization and redistribution of power would hardly have induced cheer in the hearts of those wanting to use him as a puppet for political profit.

In many ways, the story of Operation Bluestar is still a story of India without the outright "Gangs of Waseypur" effects. What has the state learned? It is unclear.

The Bhindranwale legend continues to grow even though Bhai Mokham Singh has renounced the gun. It is clearly about identity more than legality or lack thereof. The mistrust of the central government continues to manifest in many ways, even when there remains no serious militancy anymore. In a Punjab reeling under the toll of drugs, "restoration" of many youth from alcohol and drugs takes on significance of its own. In 2003, at a function arranged by the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, Joginder Singh Vedanti, former jathedar of the Akal Takht made a formal declaration that Bhindranwale was a "martyr" and awarded his son, Ishar Singh, a robe of honour.

But perhaps the most fascinating for me was the last page. After losing a generation to the militancy and on the verge of losing another to drugs (or is it already lost?), what resonated in my mind was that the extent of political marginalization of the Sikhs could be expressed with one mind boggling fact.

The United Sikh Movement led by Bhai Mohkam Singh of Damdami Taksal announced to support the Aam Aadmi Party this January - partly due to the Aam Aadmi Party constituting a SIT to finally probe the 30 year old anti-Sikh riots. The only four seats Aam Aadmi Party got out of over 400 seats nationwide are from Punjab.

And the magnitude of support that this had among the people can only be measured by the fact that the BJP, usually happy to accuse AAP of supporting terrorists did not so much as whisper about the support of United Sikh Movement to AAP. They simply cannot afford to go against the legend when BJP supporters claiming Sikhs to be Hindu in a recent Twitter spat were asked by a Sikh to ask Akali Dal to repeat it in Punjab if they dare.

And I am left wondering about how history gets written. What becomes about religion, when religion becomes a tool for harvesting power, what transcends that purpose to become about survival of identity, when religion serves as an umbrella for deeper rifts in trust and how we, as a remarkably diverse country can hope to bridge differences if we don't learn from our past.

Is it possible to divorce politics from religion in a country where religion is not only interwoven with people's lives, but the traditions have roots in governing people? What is an acceptable line? What cannot be compromised for religion? Are the lines the same for all religions, or different? How can the parts that must not bend to religion be enacted without alienating people? Is it really such a big problem, or is it a problem created by a style of politics long used to exploiting religion as an easy means of harvesting support of people?

Strangely, it reminds me of Kashmir's anger over Afzal Guru, who at best was a flunky in the attack on the Indian Parliament. He had evidently quit the separatist movement as well and by no means was any hotshot hero for Kashmiris before his arrest - quite different from the already iconic SANT Bhindranwale, but managed to become the symbol of irreconcilable differences for the identity at large, way beyond the issue that put him on the wrong side of the state.

It keeps coming back to fault lines of razor wire that those in power nurture and each time, the reason appears to be political opportunism.

It is strange that our history of diversity and numerous experiences with communal fault lines has not yet led us to attempt responses that are measured and in the interests of people. Cater to exploit, crush to conquer. How long can we go on like this? When do we start healing?

In a speech at the Kanadi Sahitya Academy on the occasion of his works being translated to Kannada, Marathi playwright, author and polymath Pu La Deshpande had said that Maharashtra and Karnataka share a border, but Maharashtrians and Kannadigas share a confluence. Decades later, India is desperately in need of minds that see more confluences than borders.

Here is an update from Facebook.

Shiv-Sainiks were ransacking a small hotel in Versova and my maid's kid, along with 5 friends, heard about it and went over to the hotel to see what had happened.

By the time they got there, the Shiv-Sainiks were gone and police had arrived. With no-one to catch, the police went after these kids and caught 2 out of 6 of them.

They have been beating those 2 kids for about 2 weeks, demanding to know about 'their leader'. The 2 kids have finally broken and since they have nobody to name, they have named their remaining 4 friends.

As I type this, the 4 kids are scared shitless and hiding from the police while the police has issued arrest warrants and is harassing the families for their whereabouts. They all know that all the kids will be beaten to a pulp if they are taken in.

To me, this looks like the police needing to and blaming innocents for damage caused by the Shiv-Sena, since they obviously can't go after the real culprits.

I need to help these kids. I'm looking for this to get any media attention it can, or any legal advice on the matter, or any intervention by anyone who is in a position to make one.

PLEASE share this and help me help these innocent kids. The families are at the police station NOW - other members of the families are being taken in. there's no saying what methods they will employ to find these kids, only to blame them and punish them for the SHIV-SENA's actions.

Trying to find out details, but this clearly shows how entrenched the thuggery is among both Shiv Sena and the police. Here is an urgent need for the state to claim its streets back.

Update: Mumbai Mirror reports a robbery of a pub in Versova by people "pretending to be Shiv Sena"

The Versova police on Wednesday arrested a man who allegedly led 10 other men and ransacked and looted money from a pub claiming to be Shiv Sena members.

The accused, identified as Sopan Karande, was part of the group that had attacked the staff of a pub named Soda at Versova on November 14. After assaulting the owner and staff, they allegedly fled with cash kept at the cash counter.

On Wednesday evening, a staffer of the pub, Sandeep Patil, 23, saw the accused who was leading the group that evening, sitting in a shoe shop at Seven Bungalows in Andheri, and alerted his employer.

The owner, Vikram Ramakrishnan, 33, reached the spot with a few police officers and identified the accused as one of the group that had ransacked the pub. “On November 14, some men started forcing people to shut their shops and restaurants claiming that Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray had died. Everyone shut down their shops, we also did, and a few customers who had ordered food were finishing it, when the group barged inside,” said Vikram in his statement to Versova police.

He added, “The group led by Karande and another person, started abusing everyone and then started assaulting the staff. When I tried to stop them they assaulted me also, and then ransacked the place. We later realized that Rs 20,000 in the cash counter had been stolen.” A case on charges of dacoity and rioting was registered with the Versova police on November 15 against 10 to 15 unidentified persons.

“We have arrested the accused and are questioning him to find out if he belongs to any political party,” said Senior Police Inspector Prakash Borse from the Versova police station.

Vikram had suffered a head injury as the accused hit him with a stone, while five staffers also suffered injuries. “The accused was accompanied by his brother and 10 other people. Two were nabbed but the attacker escaped” said Vikram’s wife Manvi.

Points to note:

  • News story is from the 29th. The story of the police harassing the "kids" seems to be from an hour back (11am ish) today (30th).
  • The description of the timings of the events seems to match in both stories.
  • Is the person harassed the same as the "kid" from the Facebook story?
  • Why, if someone has already been arrested are "kids" being harassed today?
  • Is the person arrested to let of the Shiv Sena guys? Or is the arrested criminal claiming innocence and being targeted to protect the Shiv Sena? Hope our newspapers are able to snoop more on this.
  • For someone to falsely accuse Shiv Sena has gotta be suicidal, particularly considering the form they are in since Bal Thackeray's death. So seems highly unlikely that a random thief would accuse Shiv Sena to save himself. Accusing Bhaiyas getting Sena on their side made more sense in Mumbai. Just saying.

Wonder what's happening here.