Of Blood and Party-tickets: 'Mirzapur' Syndrome
It has been a little over a couple of weeks since the curse-spitting, nail-biting sequel of the Amazon series - Mirzapur came online, and into our lives. But what lies beneath all the violence, crime, and profanity is the fact that politics and crime cannot be separated in the cinematic world (or in real).
(Courtesy: Excel Entertainment)
Mirzapur is a town in Uttar Pradesh, and one of the most feared gangsters of Mirzapur was Prem Prakash Singh a.k.a. Munna Bajrangi (does that ring any bells?). Munna Tripathi’s character played by Divyendu Sharma was loosely based on Munna Bajrangi. However, the writers or the producers of the series never said anything about the character’s adaptation.
Prem Prakash Singh alias Munna Bajrangi (Courtesy: ANI)
Bajrangi dropped out of school when he was ten. At 17, he bought a Rs. 250 gun and shot down a man who insulted his uncle. That's how he entered the world of crime. He worked as a carpet weaver, but behind those doors he also sold country-made guns for a gangster named Gajraj Singh. Back then, gangsters turning to politics was a prominent fashion. Bajrangi was also rooting for that. In the early 90s, Bajrangi got into Mukhtar Ansari’s gang.
Mukhtar Ansari is also a criminal turned politician (who is now in jail, fortunately). Standing six feet, six inches tall amongst rival gang members, Ansari was well known for his marksmanship. Ashok Yadav, one of Ansari’s gang members recollects, “he [Ansari] would toss a coin and shoot it while it was still in the air”. Apart from this, Ansari was also famous for his criminal activities, especially in the districts of Mau, Ghazipur, Varanasi and Jaunpur. Ansari later entered politics in circa 1995 through the student union in Banaras Hindu University, became an MLA from Bahujan Samaj Party in 1996, and started challenging Brijesh Singh's dominance. Brijesh Singh was another notorious gangster with political backing from BJP MLA Krishanand Rai.
Mukhtar Ansari (Courtesy ANI)
When Ansari had enough from Brijesh Singh and gang, he planned to assassinate Brijesh’s political backing - Krishnanand Rai. By this time, Bajrangi was Ansari’s top hitman, and was credited to have introduced AKs in the UP gang-war, therefore he set up the plan and carried out the killing. The crime scene was no less than the Sonny Corleone shoot-out scene from The Godfather. Over 400 rounds of bullets were fired from six AK-47s. Forensics revealed that over 67 bullets were recovered from seven bodies. Obviously, Rai was killed, and Ansari became the undisputed gang leader. A slice of Sicily, an article by the Outlook compared eastern UP to Sicily.
Having said that, let's go back to the crux of the show, which will always remind us that it is not only difficult, but rather impossible to separate crime and politics. There is a systemic map that gangsters seem to follow. Providing safety to politicians, and in return politicians muzzle the police, so that they don't bite the gangsters. The extorted money that comes out of gangsters pockets goes directly into the political party fund. Milan Vaishnav in his book - When Crime Pays: Money and Muscles in Indian Politics, argues that there is a requirement of a marketplace of criminals in Indian politics. These notorious gangsters look for the right time to enter politics, and with their muscle in the region they even win the elections and become the lawmakers. According to a study done by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a non-government organization working in electoral reforms, the report said that out of 539 MPs, 233 (43%) MPs have declared criminal cases against themselves, and not all these criminal cases are for miniscule transgression, for some the cases are for non-bailable offences like attempts to murder (307 of the IPC), and rape (376 of the IPC)
The Bharatiya Janata Party, which is apparently leading a national crusade against corruption and goonda-raj, tops the tally. Other parties like Janta Dal United (JDU), Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD) and Indian National Congress (INC) have equally glorious counts.
(Courtesy: ADR and India Today Group)
Currently, Bihar elections are underway. Looking at it, we can see clearly that the majority of political parties are betting on candidates with criminal backgrounds. With this, a killing of one of the candidates was also witnessed. Shree Narayan Singh of Janta Dal Rashtravadi Party, along with one of his supporters, was killed during an election rally in Sheohar. The officer concerned with the case told The Times of India that Singh was linked with a notorious gangster Santosh Jha, who was killed two years back in a trial production. The officer also said that there were around 30 criminal cases lodged against Singh in Sheohar and Neighboring districts.
How ironic, right?
(Courtesy: India Today Group)
Researchers have found that candidates with criminal records seem to do well despite their infamous personas, mostly due to their ability to fund their own elections and bring substantive resources to their respective parties. Some voters tend to see such candidates through a myopic lens: of being able to represent their interests by any means possible. Others do not seek to punish these candidates in instances where they are in contest with other candidates with similar records. Anyhow, these unhealthy tendencies in the “democratic” system reflect a dilapidated image of India's state institutions and the quality of its elected representatives.
All in all, Mirzapur-2 just reminded us of the reality which we live in. It is definitely not a hundred percent true, but the love story of crime and politics shown in the series is nuanced and spot on. The police third wheeling the couple and living off the leftovers of both sides, were some characteristics identical in Sacred Games, too. So, next time you see a crime based show, do not forget to grab the political shades, because reading between the lines always helps.