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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 35, New Delhi, August 14, 2021

Jamshedpur ‘Underworld’ and Changing Nature of Crime | Sajjad & Ahmad

Friday 13 August 2021


by Mohammad Sajjad and Md. Zeeshan Ahmad *


This essay attempts at exploring the phenomenon of gangsterism and “entrepreneur criminal” in a small industrial town, Jamshedpur. In recent decades, phenomena of organised crime in rural areas and in small towns have mushroomed like menace. Yet, this remains largely neglected in academic explorations. Caste factor is looked into the composition of institutional politics. We often hear of crime-politics nexus, yet, it is hardly articulated as to why we don’t find as many gangsters from the lower castes as we do from the politically powerful and dominant castes. Also, compared to those from powerful castes, the ones from the lower castes have lesser longevity in the ‘profession’ of crime. It tentatively suggests that before a petty-criminal grows into a gangster and overpowers the criminal justice system, he can possibly be contained through the institution of local thana.

Key words: Jamshedpur, Entrepreneur Criminal, small town gangster, neo-liberal economy, crime-politics nexus

Now that the notorious gangster Vikas Dubey has been liquidated in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, have underworlds across the country got a message of no-tolerance to crime? Many would have us believe this is so, but as recent events show, that is not really the case.

For example, in Jharkhand’s steel city Jamshedpur ( Tatanagar), the underworld is still making news. The only surviving gangster in the city, Akhilesh Singh, is reportedly raising his head again. In 2017, the Jamshedpur police had nabbed him in Gurugram, Haryana, after a confrontation, in which he also received bullet injuries in his legs with some permanent impairment. He was locked up in Dumka jail, but is said to be “active” again. Just on 29 April, 2020, there was a gang-war in Jamshedpur, after which the state police have been on the hunt for Harish Singh, one of Akhilesh’s sharpshooters.

Akhilesh’s story is emblematic of the lives of Indian gangsters in the post-liberalisation era, which includes Vikas Dubey, who became active in the 1990s. The media may portray gang-crime as a sensational but aberrant phenomenon, but gangsters are produced by circumstances—the question is, how and when will they perish?

In this context, this essay attempts at exploring the phenomenon of gangsterism in small towns precisely because small-town gangsters and the serious nature of the organised crime networks that they are spawning in rural areas remain under-explored. Also, with the introduction of local body elections—and the rise of bootlegging as an industry across rural Bihar ever since it declared itself a dry state—there has been a rather visible strengthening of the police-criminal nexus. These criminals are either the politicians or they are patronised by the politicians/legislators. This has given an impetus to organised crime even in rural areas. Unfortunately this aspect remains under-reported. More recently, gangsters have begun to play a crucial role in creating communal polarisations [1] in everyday politics [2]. This might well be true about Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere. Hence, necessary to pay attention to this phenomenon!

Right now, the gangs of north India only seem to be shifting loyalties, rather than disappearing into oblivion. On 11 July 2020, Prabhat Khabar reported that the minions of Akhilesh’s gang are migrating to other gang-lords such as Sudhir Dubey and Krishna Rao (from Kadma, in Jamshedpur) and Saifuddin (from Adityapur near Jamshedpur). Incidentally, Sudhir Dubey himself was once an associate of Akhilesh, though they are now rivals. Most rivalries among gangs are over railway contracts and who has control over the rangdari or extortion “business”. This is also true of gangs in Gorakhpur and Mirzapur in eastern Uttar Pradesh and Muzaffarpur in North Bihar.

But it is not just these gangs. The Paramjit Singh ring, led by Kartik Munda and Manoj Sarkar, are also gearing up to challenge Akhilesh while he is locked up. Reports from Jharkhand say that these realignments are driven by the ambition for supremacy over railway contracts in the Kolhan Division of Jharkhand. [The Saraikela police claim to have obtained confessions and evidence from the associates of Kartik and Manoj that the gangs plan to extort businessmen. Saraikela is the region from where Arjun Munda, the former BJP chief minister of Jharkhand and incumbent Union minister for tribal affairs, represented in the Jharkhand Assembly and is also adjacent to the city of Jamshedpur]. This became evident with a shootout and bomb explosion at the JPT Infrastructure. Besides, a strong signal that gangs survive and thrive is the very recent death threat received by Chief Minister Hemant Soren. [3]
Rivalries are not new in the world of gangsters. The lockdown and the Covid-19 pandemic have shaken the economic base of these gangs, which has renewed their offensives to capture territories from each other.

Earlier, Akhilesh Singh had his rivalries with another gangster cum transporter Upendra Singh (affiliated with the JMM). The latter was killed in a shootout inside the district court of Jamshedpur on November 30, 2016.

Jamshedpur’s Political Economy and its ‘Underworld’

In the early twentieth century, not less than three new planned cities were coming up. Lutyen’s New Delhi, M J K Sahlin’s Jamshedpur (on the Howrah-Bombay line), and Patna, the capital of newly created province carved out of Bengal in 1912.

By late 19th century, Jamshedji Tata (1839-1904), in the Chhotanagpur plateau of the then southern Bihar, had discovered the richest mineral area of the subcontinent. By 1907, the Tatas established their steel mill, and production began from 1913. This is known as the Tata Iron and Steel Company (TISCO) [4]. It employs around 78000 people.

In 1945, they established another unit known as Tata Engineering and Locomotive Company (TELCO), rechristened as the Tata Motors Limited. It employs around 11000 people. It has an even more green and beautiful township at the south east end of the city.

Besides the two big industrial units, there are many smaller units not only of the Tatas, but also ancillary small scale industries in the contiguous small towns of Adityapur, Gamharia, besides few other neighbourhoods. These units employ a large number of people in various ways. [5]

The steel-scrap of the TISCO is now estimated to be offering a trade of Rs. 10 billion per annum [6]. Primarily for the contract of the steel-scrap, there emerged gang wars, at least since the 1980s.

In 1994, the General Manager of TISCO, J. J. Irani had appealed to the then chief minister Lalu Yadav to take on the Jamshedpur gangsters. Irani feared for his own life, and that the politically patronised mafia “dons” wanted to get hold of the Tata’s industrial empire. His fear was neither unfounded nor exaggerated. T here had been a series of high profile killings in Jamshedpur. They were: Thakurji Pathak of the then ruling party Janata Dal, Sona Singh (transporter) and T. P. Singh (President, Transporters’ Association).

The TISCO management discerned a pattern in these killings. All three victims were associated with the trading in the steel-scrap. Besides, criminals in the city were routinely graduating to contracting and thereafter joining politics. The politco-crime nexus was eliminating any roadblocks along their way, even high-ranking TISCO managers. TA Gobba, SN Sahay and Prabhat Kumar were three such victims. But it is the killing of V. G. Gopal (October 1993), president of the Tata Workers’ Union, that really the city and Tata workers. [7]

In terms of influence, Gopal was supposed to be as powerful as the chief of TISCO. In a newly-liberalised economy, he became the last impediment to the casualisation and retrenchment of labour. Gopal may have been eliminated by the Tata management. [8] There is a similar murky past. On September 20, 1931, the then labour leader Subhash Chandra Bose had also suffered violent attacks by the hooligans hired allegedly by the Tata management. [9]

Given this impression among the gangsters, it is said, there was an unprecedented madness to demonstrate their criminal power in order to curry favours from the Tatas. Possibly, this was the backdrop in which Jamshedpur suffered more assassinations and gang-wars after the brutal killing of Gopal. Secondly, growing casualization and retrenchment of labour force, expanded the scope of recruitment-base for the gangsters.

The Lalu administration made an administrative overhaul. The Superintendent of Police, Parvez Hayat was replaced by the SP of Patna, Dr. Ajoy Kumar, who served there during 1994-1996, (who later quit his police job and joined the Tata Motors, Pune Unit; he later joined politics and in a bye-election he was elected to represent Jamshedpur in the Lok Sabha, on the symbol of a regional outfit, Jharkhand Vikas Morcha. He then hopped to the Congress and was chief of the Jharkhand unit of the Congress, till 2019. Kumar was successful in bringing down crime rate in the city) [10]. He is said to have supervised around two dozens of ‘encounter’ killings [11]. Let it be added here that, Russi Mody (1918-2014), the then chief of the TISCO in Jamshedpur, had also tried his luck in the Lok Sabha elections 1998, after having fallen out with the Tatas. He lost it, and then announced to launch a workers’ union. [12]

Yet, even Ajoy Kumar’s posting, failed to get the sharp shooter who actually killed Gopal remains out of reach of the law. The one (Amrendra Singh) who was eventually punished in 2006, by the law court, is not the shooter, who actually sprayed bullets into Gopal’s body, before the eyes of Ashit Biswas, a news-reporter. [13]

The late 1970s as the beginning of Gangsters in small towns

Gangsterism rose in the 1970s in India’s non-mega cities and small towns, with the “underworld” phenomena prominent in Purvanchal region of Uttar Pradesh, mainly Gorakhpur and Mirzapur, and Muzaffarpur in north Bihar, and in Jamshedpur and Dhanbad in South Bihar (now Jharkhand). After the Green Revolution and despite the limited land reforms, newly-affluent rural elites, typically the better-off among the backward classes, thronged to urban India in that decade, seeking modern education and jobs. By the eighties they coveted political power as well [14].

One of the possible explanations for this could be the rise of newly affluent rural elites (upper backwards) thronging to the urban spaces, educational campuses included. The Green Revolution and even land reforms (howsoever tardy and limited) had brought this affluence and spread of modern education among the new rural elites. These social groups now wanted political power. This assertion, and resistance to that, was behind all kinds of ‘turbulence’ that was prevailing in the said decades. This was manifested also in political instability, frequent replacements of chief ministers of the hegemonic ruling party. Throughout the 1980s, the government in Bihar was running more through ordinances and least through legislations. [15] This was also the heydays of hoodlums and gangsters.

This was ‘revolution of rising expectations’. [16] As the social composition of the campus-students was changing by late 1960s (when parts of Bihar witnessed Naxalism), the 1970s and 1980s witnessed caste-based conflicts in the campuses, just as there were massacres of landless labourers in Magadh region of Bihar. After the implementation of Mungerilal Report in 1978 in Bihar, reserving seats for the backward classes and women in public employment and educational institutions, this composition was changed furthermore. [17]

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, campuses and hostels had caste war-fares manifesting mostly through ragging, to begin with [18]. However, the social composition of the gangsters remained almost completely confined to the upper castes, mainly to the Rajputs and Bhumihars, and some Muslims.

It was only in the 1990s, that not only the political elites came from upper backward, the gangsters or bahubalis too came from the similar social location. Rise of Brij Bihari in Muzaffarpur against the Bhumihar gangsters (mainly the Shukla brothers) was one such manifestation [19]. Rise of Pappu Yadav against the Rajput gangster-politician Anand Mohan Singh (as also against the Left), may also be seen like that. Just as in the Bihar’s Koilwar area, sand-mafia used to be the Rajputs. With the rise of Lalu in Bihar, this went to the Yadavas [20]. Though, Brij Bihari is said to have been patronised (during his student days in the Muzaffarpur Institute of Technology) by the then ‘lord’ of Muzaffarpur, Raghunath Pandey (1922-2001), a transporter cum cinema-entrepreneur, from Bhumihar caste. He was MLA 1980-1995; lost the Lok Sabha in 1991; was also minister (1989) in the cabinet of Satyendra Narayan Sinha (1917-2005). Brij Bihari was minister in the Lalu-Rabri cabinet. In 1998, he was killed. Reportedly younger Shukla avenged his elder brother’s killing in 1994.

This caste-prism was largely true even for the industrial town of Jamshedpur too. Though, high techno-managerial positions in the Tatas were occupied either by the Bengalis or by the South Indian elites. Sanchez (2016) elaborates and adds that the anti-Bihari stereotypes prevailing among the south Indian and Bengali techno-managerial employees of the Tatas. Thus, in Jamshedpur too, crime and contract were the two routes available for the Bihar’s new elites to rise up the economic and social scale.

Short Profiles of the mafia ‘dons’ of Jamshedpur since late 1970s

Even in the 1990s, only the steel-scrap auctioning had an annual turnover of Rs 200 crores. The contract to bid its auction was therefore a huge stake. With this, was, linked extortion. During the 1970s and 1980s, the bid to obtain contract of this scrap and to enter into the trade of this scrap, besides the bid to obtain contract of convoy (chassis delivery to the authorised dealers, of Telco, across the country) required muscle-flexing, and this is how it attracted the entry of gangsters.

1. The first such gangster was Sudha Pal. Another gang led by Girish took on Pal in conflict with the convoy contract. Girish killed a sharp shooter Bal Chand Yadav of the Sudha Pal gang. Pal avenged it by killing Girish, inside the TELCO premises. Pal was killed in a gang rivalry, in 1984. [21]

2. After him, three gangs emerged: Anand Rao, Birendra Singh (also called Garm Nala gang; Garm Nala is a neighbourhood in the city), and Hedayat Khan (who went on to be called, ‘Steel Don’). These three gangs fought with each other mainly for the contract of three: slag dumping, Suvarnarekha River Project, Railways.

3. On November 8, 1986, at the Sonari aerodrome (Jamshedpur), there was a murderous attack on Birendra Singh, a Rajput. He was supposed to be patronised by the then irrigation minister of Bihar, Ramashray Singh, also a Rajput. This is what was alleged by Suraj Mandal, the JMM leader. Birendra Singh named 6-7 people in that attack. On August 8, 1987, at 11.45 am, inside the Chamery Guest House of TISCO, the then President of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) party, Nirmal Mahto (40 years age), was killed. Birendra Singh and Nirmal Mahto were rivals for contract of the Suvarnrekha River Project, as alleged by Stephen Marandi, the then JMM MLA from Dumka. In the 1985 Assembly elections, Nirmal Mahto had lost from Chandil with a narrow margin. JMM was against the contract of the River Project awarded to any Diku (outsider, i.e. non tribal) [22].

4. Before we go over to other high profile killings of the 1980s, a spine-chilling assassination (March 2007) of the sitting parliamentarian from Jamshedpur Lok Sabha, Sunil Mahto, is worth recalling. Maoist hands were supposed to have been in that killing. It is said that Sunil Mahto was involved in helping police erect an anti-Maoist squad, called ‘Nagrik Suraksha Samiti’. This was akin to the Salwa Judum (led by Mahendra Karma of the Congress) of Chhatisgarh, which was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Sunil Mahto was also involved in bootlegging. In this crime, the district court of Jamshedpur awarded life imprisonment to Birendra Singh. While serving the sentence, he died in hospital in February 2003.

5. Saheb Singh’s was another gang, associated with Birendra Singh’s Garm Nala gang. He was however soon killed in a police encounter in Rohtas. This is how his gang came to an end. [23]

6. Then emerged the Paramjit gang. His den was in Maango. Surya Patel, a sharp shooter of the Garm Nala gang also joined him. It is said that Akhilesh Singh gang killed him in a jail on March 20, 2009, and the gang met its nemesis. [24]

7. Akhilesh Singh: A Rajput. His gang is still operating in Jamshedpur. Besides obtaining steel-scrap tender, and extortion, this gang is also involved in the real estate. Like Mumbai’s Dawood Ibrahim, Akhilesh also is a son of a policeman Chandragupt Singh, who was also General Secretary, Jharkhand Policemen’s Association. Chandragupt Singh retired from the services in 2012, and joined the All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU, an NDA ally, led by Sudesh Mahto), as its Central Secretary.

Alumnus of the Tube Baridih High School (Jamshedpur), Akhilesh entered into transport business in his early 20s, but could not continue with this for long, just to get into crime.

The notoriety of Akhilesh became known after the kidnapping of a lubricant dealer of the city, Om Prakash Kabra on July 21, 2001 (and was later killed in 2002). On August 6, 2001, he surrendered to the police, in this kidnapping case. On February 18, 2002, he escaped from the jail, and killed Uma Shankar Pandey, the jailor. It is said that it was a revenge for the tortures he was subjected to, in the jail.

In October 2004, Akhilesh was arrested from Varanasi, (where he owns real estate properties and a house in his wife’s name. His wife and kids live in Varanasi). His name in crimes such as kidnapping many businessmen of Tatanagar and in the tender for steel-scrap kept coming up. On November 2, 2007, Ashish De (leather footwear baron, the Shreeleathers, and owner of the Hotel Smita) was killed in Sakchi, a busy market of Jamshedpur.

The district judge R. P. Ravi, who sentenced Akhilesh for life imprisonment in the murder case of the jailor, was also fired upon in March 2008, after retirement from his services, while taking a morning walk in Jamshedpur. Akhilesh now lives on as the biggest mafia don of Jamshedpur today, almost unchallenged, since then. As said, he is in Dumka jail from where he continues to operate. Jai Ram Singh, the Security Officer of the Tata Steel was also killed on October 4, 2008. Ashok Sharma, a transporter, was killed in the same year at Bistupur. [25]

8. The ‘Steel Don’ Hedayat Khan: His father Enayat Khan was a big fruit merchant of Jamshedpur. Hedayat earned notoriety in late 1980s. It is said that his first victim was his own friend who had fallen in love with his sister. He disapproved of this, owing to inter-caste affair. It is also said that, he kept looking after the dependent members of the family of his victim. Soon, he entered into obtaining contract for the steel scrap. He took on the gangs of Sanjay Singh and Kaalu Singh, and having eliminated these rivals he earned the moniker of ‘Steel Don’. In June 1990, right at the time of bidding for the tender of steel-scrap, within the TISCO premises, his men resorted to openly firing gunshots, possibly to outbid Birendra Singh. Three people were killed, yet, not a single accused was arrested. Thereafter, he used to roam around the city in a Maruti Gypsy with his men brandishing guns. This is how he demonstrated his power. During 1990-1992, the police registered over two dozens of cases against him. In 1992, when the police reached his Jugsalai den to arrest him, in gun-fires from his rooftop, some police Homeguards were killed. In 1993, the police raided his house in city’s Azad Basti. There too, a policeman was killed. This was somewhat similar to what happened at Kanpur on July 2, 2020, when police reached Vikas Dube’s residence. Subsequently, Hedayat just disappeared from the city. Dr. Ajoy Kumar’s posting as SP Jamshedpur, who chastised him, is supposed to have been the reason he absconded. It is said that during this ‘hideout’, he was mostly in Calcutta. In 2000, when the new state of Jharkhand was to come into existence bifurcating from Bihar, he suddenly appeared to join JMM. In 2004, he joined Ramvilas Paswan’s LJP. In 2005, he contested Assembly election, only to lose. He however managed to win an election for Secretary, Muslim Library, Bistupur (Jamshedpur), founded in 1928. This may possibly hint at what plays out in managing even a small minority institution. The library component is hardly existent now, though, the building and the premise, by virtue of existing in the uptown market, Bistupur, fetches money through hosting sale-exhibitions. That could be the only attraction, besides providing a modicum of respectability to the Secretary of the library, within the Muslim community.

9. Bada Nizam: In his 30s, he was killed inside a flat in a police shootout at Kadma (Jamshedpur) in early December 2006. The operation was led by the then Superintendent of Police, Ashish Batra. The story had some resemblance with the Bollywood movie, Shootout at Lokhandwala (2007). Batra issued press statement that Nizam also belonged to Siwan and was aligned with Shahabuddin in illegal arms trade. In August 2006, he had run away from the Baripada Central Jail (Orissa), and came back to hide in Jamshedpur. He developed a nexus with a local trader, Lucky Saini, and extracted extortions from other businessmen of the city, on the information given by Lucky Saini. There is a story behind Lucky Saini coming in proximity with Nizam. One entrepreneur criminal from Maango, Manoj Singh was harassing Saini. He was alleged to be intending to grab the Saini’s house at Kadma and his shop at the city’s uptown market, Bistupur. As the police was of no help, the helpless Saini knocked at the doors of the outlaw, Nizam, the infamous contract killer [26]. Nizam had run away from judicial custody in 2001 and was nabbed from Durg, Chhattisgarh [27]; was also accused in the murder of one Amit Kumar of the Telco Colony, on May 30, 2002.

The Triple Murder Sensation of Jamshedpur (February 2, 1989)

At the Jugsalai Power House of the city, three people were gunned down. They were: Pradip Mishra (Congress leader), Janardan Chaubey (a criminal, aspiring to enter politics), and Anand Rao. It was said that Birendra Singh had hired the shooters Ramashankar Singh (Vaishali) and Shahabuddin (Siwan) to kill these three people. In 1990, Shahabuddin was elected MLA, and re-elected in 1995; later, in 1996, he became parliamentarian, and kept winning from there, for four consecutive times. Ramashankar Singh (a Rajput) joined the LJP and became MLA from a seat in Hajipur (Vaishali district) Lok Sabha. In 2014, he was elected from the Vaishali Lok Sabha (major part of which is in Muzaffarpur district) defeating Prof. Raghuvansh. Soon after being elected in 2014, Ramashankar Singh was sent to jail in a case of kidnapping in Raipur (Chhattisgarh). In the Jamshedpur’s triple murder case of 1989, owing to the want of evidence, Ramashankar Singh was exonerated in 2006, and Shahabuddin too was exonerated in 2017. The three murders in broad daylight at a busy place in the city could not get justice. As if nobody killed those three people!

This may be noted here that, Shahabuddin is said to have emerged to safeguard the interests of the Rajput landlords against the ultra-Left cadres. That said, one may see a Rajput link between Birendra Singh, who had allegedly hired the shooters, Ramakishor Singh and Shahabuddin (both of them later became legislators in Bihar Assembly as well as in the Lok Sabha).

Changing Nature of Crime in Jamshedpur in Recent Times

With the above story, mainly of profiling the major gangsters of Jamshedpur since the 1970s-1980s, another significant point emerges that extortion from the businessmen in Jamshedpur became more prevalent only after the Jharkhand was carved out of Bihar on November 15, 2000. Otherwise, during the 1980s-1990s, this particular aspect of crime was not as much prevalent in Jamshedpur, as it was elsewhere in Bihar-Jharkhand.

Andrew Sanchez suggestively offers us an insight into understanding this change in the nature of crime in Jharkhand. Casualization of labour force, with neo-liberal economic order (1991), and elimination of the labour leader Gopal (October 1993), went on to create huge youth-unemployment which provided youth to be recruited into crime. As we are passing through pandemic of Covid-19, relevant to this is David Arnold’s argument (1979) that recourse to crime was frequent and widespread especially in response to famine and high prices, and in the attempts of declining elites to maintain or regain their old pre-eminence [28]. Similar argument is made by Suranjan Das (1994), “at particular historical junctures, crime becomes politics - it can be a prologue to conscious and articulate resistance by the dispossessed”, and that, there is “a considerable heterogeneity in the social background of convicts, the factors, behind their criminalisation, their links with institutional politics and in the type of crime committed”. [29]

Further, the capitalists (Tatas) strengthened themselves to such an extent that the criminality is no longer able to outsmart the Tatas. The “entrepreneur criminals” therefore have taken recourse to extorting ransom from the businessmen.
The steel-scrap trading also underwent a big change after the 1990s. TISCO began to re-use the steel-scrap, rather than selling it off through auction-bidding. This is where the gangsters lost their stake, and shifted to extracting ransom from the traders of the city and through the real-estate. [30]

This is why, understandably, Akhilesh is possibly the first of the prominent gangsters of Jamshedpur to have entered into the real-estate business.

However, coming back to the reigning gangster Akhilesh, let us see how well, did he play the caste-card to endure himself as an “entrepreneur criminal”! Like the gangsters of small towns, he is possibly a test-case to provide, what Stephanie Cronin argues, “some historical context for the startling re-emergence in the ungoverned spaces created by state collapse of types of actors and activities associated with [crime]. These include mafia-type gangs, militias/warlords sometimes with quasi-political ambitions, smuggling, now of a wide variety of commodities, including people, weapons and drugs, on a massive scale across the Middle East and North-West Africa, [as well as] an explanatory framework for the profoundly ambiguous popular attitudes often displayed towards such figures and their behaviour”. [31]

It is said, by virtue of being a policeman’s son and belonging to Rajput caste, he got support from the Rajput policemen to rise and consolidate his position as gangster, and built his empire, “A- Company”—A for Akhilesh. His properties are spread across many provinces some of which have been seized by the police in 2016. In 2014, while in jail in a couple of murder cases, Akhilesh joined AJSU, led by Sudesh Mahto. This was celebrated with life-size cut-out hoardings across the busy crossroads of the city of Jamshedpur. This is when he was shifted to Dumka jail. Meanwhile, he had also got bail (just as Vikas Dubey of Kanpur had got bail), but, he was not allowed to enter Jamshedpur. He therefore moved to Ranchi, where he floated his caste-outfit, ‘Jharkhand Kshatriya Sangh’ and became its President. Extorting ransom from the businessmen of the steel city continues. Though, he was once again arrested in 2017 from Gurugram; continues to serve his time in jail, operating his crime syndicate from jail itself.

Is he the gang to have issued death threat to the chief minister Hemant Soren in July 2020? That is to be probed.

Moreover, in the last two decades of the existence of Jharkhand as a province, mostly, the Hindutva regime has been in power, and ever since the elimination of Bada (elder) Nizam in December 2006, this shift from high stake contract for steel-scrap, to extortion from businessmen, is also reflected in petty-crime in Muslim neighbourhoods of the city. Muslim-share in crime has now got confined to petty-crime of extortion in Muslim-neighbourhoods from the petty-shopkeepers. This manifested more clearly on July 21, 2015, in Maango (Jamshedpur). A petty dispute between two Muslim groups of anti-social elements descended into a communal clash. The two gangs led by Waris and Asif Akhtar Shibu clashed on July 19, 2015, for extorting ransom or ‘rent’ from the stalls of the Eid fair in the city’s Gandhi Maidan. The Hindu members (Chunnu Pandey and Munnu Pandey) of the Shibu gang were chastised up to the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple. This dispute gave rise to rumours of damage to the temple as well as of eve-teasing of a Hindu girl. Just 20 metres away from there, a Muslim hostel, Gulf Guest House, is also there. On July 21, 2015, the VHP and other saffron outfits gave a call of bundh and the Hindu procession imposing forced closure of Muslim owned shops degenerated into communal tension. The police investigation dismissed the rumours of eve-teasing. To some extent the dispute was also an outcome of an intra-BJP factional fight between the then chief minister Raghubar Das and his cabinet-colleague Saryu Rai who then represented the Assembly seat of West Jamshedpur in which falls Maango. On July 21 and 22, the violence spread to East Jamshedpur, represented by Raghubar Das. Charges were exchanged politically blaming the police whose inaction was more to blame [32]. It is interesting to note that this politics of confining Muslim hoodlums to Muslim neighbourhoods, and pegging them only in petty-crimes, is a phenomenon, by now, quite prevalent in Ahmedabad also. [33]

Is it then a case that politically empowered castes largely overlap with the caste-identity of gangsters? Muzaffarpur (Bihar) invariably has Bhumihar and Rajput gangsters. Muslim hoodlums will be there as their allies. Gangsters from backward castes emerged only in the 1990s. In the 1980s Bhangar Yadav (d. 2011), the ‘jungle king’ of Champaran or Mohan Bind from the Kaimur plateau of Rohtas (with his death, three gangs emerged, viz., Ramashish Koeri alias Dada, Ghamadi Kharwar, and Rambachan Yadav) were there when these castes had acquired political power in 1977 and subsequently proportion of backward caste legislatures increased in Bihar.

If that is the case then, why doesn’t Jamshedpur have a tribal gangster or hoodlum? In the 1990s, Gopal Krishna Patar (alias Raja Peter) was there. His decline coincided with the rise of BJP in Jharkhand. Peter is serving his time in jail (since October 2017), in a case of murdering (July 2008) an MLA, Ramesh Munda.

Once an apprentice with Tata Steel, Peter, in his late 40s, now proudly carries the ’giant-killer’ tag after humbling Jharkhand chief minister and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha supremo Shibu Soren in the by-election (2009) to the Tamar assembly constituency (ST). His ancestral village, Ulidih falls in this seat. In 2005, he was defeated by Ramesh Munda of JDU. Peter’s father and elder brother also worked with TISCO. Peter began his early education at Tisco High School and then studied at the R D Tata High School in the steel city. "He soon got embroiled in some criminal cases and even went to jail. He was involved in quite a few criminal activities”. In October 2017, the National Investigation Agency arrested Peter for his alleged role in the July 2008 murder of Ramesh Munda, then MLA of Tamar, the seat that would push Peter into political prominence — he won the by-poll following the murder. This defeat of Shibu Soren at the hands of Peter forced Soren to resign as chief minister, leading to President’s rule. The NIA has reportedly accused Peter of getting in touch with Maoists to kill Ramesh Munda.

In 2009, Peter won on a JD (U) ticket from Tamar, defeating Ramesh Munda’s son Vikas of the All Jharkhand Students’ Union (AJSU). Between 2010 and 2013, Peter was part of the Arjun Munda-led NDA coalition government, as excise minister. At one stage, Peter become the state JD(U) chief before Jaleshwar Mahato took over in 2014. He joined the BJP, but quit after the party denied him the Tamar ticket. In 2014, Peter contested as an independent from Tamar and lost to Vikas Munda [34].

 Another tribal ‘hoodlum’, Amulya Karmakar (of Birsanagar, Jamshedpur) is now emerging in the real-estate business, who is now accused in murder of a Jamshedpur advocate and JVM leader Vishal Yadav [35]. Local sources confide that earlier Karmakar was patronised by Babulal Marandi of JVM (former chief minister), by Arjun Munda (a former chief minister, and incumbent Union tribal affairs minister), and also by Raghubar Das (chief minister, Jharkhand 2014-2019). Subsequently, Karmakar switched his loyalty to Saryu Rai, a powerful BJP leader and minister till 2019. Rai is now supporting the incumbent Hemant Soren government, and represents West Jamshedpur Assembly seat (in which Birsanagar falls). Karmakar is also alleged to have been close to Anosh Ekka, a three terms MLA (2005-19), and a “king-maker” in Jharkhand government formation. He too is serving his time in jail in a murder case [36]. Ekka was an aide to Madhu Koda (a former chief minister) as well, who is convicted in coal-block scam [37]. In short, the wrong-doers from the weaker sections seem to get a relatively shorter span of professional lives [38].

‘Inconclusive’ Conclusion

Thus, what comes out that the spectacular ‘encounter’ killing of the Kanpur gangster, Vikas Dubey, did not ensure deterrence against the Jamshedpur gangster. Nor did the imprisonment of the gangster Akhilesh really ensure containment in crime. So, what is the way out? Where does the solution lie? What are the prescriptions for the four banal ‘C’s: Crime, Caste, Corruption, and at times Communalism too?

Furthermore, equally important is to probe and explore as to how do petty-criminals grow strong enough to overpower the police and criminal-justice system, and graduate to become legislators? For this, historians need to pay special attention to the ‘Village Crime Note-Books’ (VCNB), the way the cases of Gazole thana (Malda district, West Bengal), during 1920-1970, have been explored [39]. This will obviously make historical explorations much more relevant to the contemporary society contending with organised crimes sustained by institutional politics and by the failures of lower police, while a hoodlum is just making his way to become a powerful gangster and in turn legislator. A possible solution to it could possibly be to nip them in the bud, just at the thana level. This could possibly be one of the effective solutions.

*(Authors: Mohammad Sajjad, Professor of Modern and Contemporary Indian History, AMU, Aligarh ( sajjad.history[at] ); Md. Zeeshan Ahmad, Law graduate from AMU; hails from Jamshedpur ( zeeshan15ballb46[at] )

[1The Times of India, ’HC calls for Pratappur incident case diary’, TNN / Mar 7, 2006

[2Mohammad Sajjad, "Caste, Community and Crime: Explaining the Violence in Muzaffarpur", Vol. 50, Issue No. 5, 31 Jan, 2015

[4Maya Datta (1977), Jamshedpur: The Growth of the City and its Regions. Asiatic Society, Calcutta.

[5Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay, “Gateway to Development”, Frontline, July 27, 2007, and, “A Model Town”, Frontline, July 4, 2008

[6The Economic Times, February 12, 2018

[8Andrew Sanchez (2016), Criminal Capital

[9Dilip Simeon, 1995, The Politics of Labour under Late Colonialism, 1928-39

[10Farzand Ahmed, India Today, June 15, 1994

[11Manoj Singh, “Now an MP, forever a Supercop for Jamshedpur”, The Indian Express, July 19, 2011

[12Nikhil Mookerjee, “The Troublemaker: Obsessed with Hurting the Tatas, Russi Mody unveils a new plan”, Outlook, May 04, 1998

[13“Decade on, Gopal Murder Still a Mystery”, The Telegraph, October 14, 2003

[14For the Muzaffarpur (Bihar) gangsters, see Hindi blogs, Musafir, of a Chandigarh-based journalist of Muzaffarpur, Kunal Varma, September 25-30, 2018 (Six part series) :;;;;; .
For Dhanbad coal mafia, see, Sujit Kumar, “Understanding labour, livelihood and mafia politics in the coalfields of Dhanbad, Jharkhand”, in Change and Mobility in Contemporary India: Thinking MN Srinivas Today. edited by Sobin George et al, Routledge, 2019, pp. 192-207.

[15Francine R. Frankel (1989), in Frankel and Rao (eds.), Dominance and State Power in Modern India: Decline of a Social Order. OUP, Delhi. Vol. 1,

[16Atul Kohli (1990), Democracy and Discontent: India’s Growing Crisis of Governability. Cambridge University Press.

[17Soon, Jamshedpur got engulfed in a Hindu-Muslim communal strife in Aril 1979, followed by fall of the Karpoori Thakur-led Janata government of Bihar. Here, a point to note is: quite often, reservation for the backward castes in public employment and educational institutions transits from upper and lower caste tension to a Hindu-Muslim communal violence. This is what happened in Gujarat also, when the Congress government led by Madhav Singh Solanki, a backward caste chief minister, announced to enhance quota (from 10% to 28%) in 1985 (Howard Spodek, “From Gandhi to Violence: Ahmedabad’s 1985 Riots in Historical Perspective”, Modern Asian Studies, 2008). Subsequently, in 1990, with the implementation of the Mandal Commission by the V. P. Sigh-led Union government, a Hindu-Muslim communal polarization was created by its ally, BJP, through Rath Yatra for Ram Temple at Ayodhya. Also, in March 1964, a strong labour assertion was diverted to degenerate into a Hindu-Muslim strife, articulates a communist activist, Ali Amjad (1924-2005) in his fictionalized reportage, Kaali Maati (1999), as well as, in his Urdu memoir, Shaakh-e-Nihaal-e-Gham: Ek Afsana-e-Hayaat (2006)

[18P. N. Gour (1984), Student Unrest in the Universities of Bihar, 1967-1972. Patna.

[19Mohammad Sajjad, “Underscoring Criminal-Politician Nexus”, EPW, September 17, 2016

[20Jeffrey Witsoe, “Everyday Corruption and the Political Mediation of the Indian State”, EPW, February 11, 2012

[21Amar Pratap Singh, “Set a thief to catch a thief”, The Indian Express, September 2014.

[22S. R. Bakshi and Ritu Chaturvedi (2007), Bihar through the Ages, edited by

[23Subhash Mishra, India Today, January 28, 2008; “Brawn Power”, Times of India, September 24, 2011

[24Live Hindustan, February, 2, 2018

[25Manoj Choudhary, “Business to Politics, Gangster Akhilesh Tried Wearing Different Hats”, Hindustan Times, October 12, 2017

[26The Telegraph, December 6, 2006

[27The Telegraph, June 21, 2005

[28David Arnold (1979), “Dacoity and Rural Crime in Madras 1860-1940”, Journal of Peasant Studies, 6, 2, pp. 140-167.

[29Suranjan Das, “The Goondas-Towards a Reconstruction of the Calcutta Underworld through Police Records”, EPW, 29, 44, October 29, 1994,

[30The Economic Times, February 12, 2018

[31Stephanie Cronin (2016), “Avengers and Entrepreneurs: Eric Hobsbawm and Banditry in Iran, the Middle East and North Africa”, Middle Eastern Studies (Routledge), 52, 5, pp. 845-869.

[32Subrata Nagchowdhury, “A Deep Divide Vulnerable Even to Rumour”, The Indian Express, July 29, 2015; also his reports on 24 and 25 July 2015.

[33Ward Berenschot (2011), Riot Politics. Rupa. Delhi.

[34Prashant Pandey, The Indian Express, October 11, 2017; Rediff.Com, January 9, 2009

[35Prabhat Khabar, Jamshedpur, July 23, 2020

[36Vijay Deo Jha, The Telegraph, July, 1, 2018

[37Financial Express, December 13, 2017.

[38Ashish Nandy’s interview, The New York Times, January 30, 2013; Shekhar Gupta, “The Caste of Corruption”, The Indian Express, December 24, 2011

[39Suranjan Das and Basudeb Chattopadhyay, “Rural Crime in Police Perception-A Study of Village Crime Note Books”, EPW, 26, 3, January 19, 1991.

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