Criminal 'Hero's
By Maxwell Pereira

Making heroes out of criminals is the prerogative of we Indians, one feels! Especially going by our record in dealing with the likes of Charles Sobhraj, Phoolan Devi and lately the elusive Veerappan. But then one observes such tendencies now surfacing to noticeable levels majorly too in the land of Robin Hood the benevolent bandit and Jack-the-Ripper; where in a "youth culture intelligence report" a London 'brand' consultancy has recently declared that the boundaries between right and wrong are constantly blurring, and that understanding the appeal of criminal culture can teach us a great deal about contemporary attitudes and desires - to be capitalised for commercial and other gains.

This is based on the observation that criminals have become cult figures, leading to a steady flow of films and books on gangsters and international drug barons. Criminal involvement or convictions are observed to do little to dent the popularity of pop stars, and even of sportsmen… whose brush with the law seemingly enhancing their celebrity status.

The report further elaborates: "…not only does a glamorised view of criminality represent excitement and notoriety, it also signifies a need for clear value systems in our ambiguous society. Murderers, pimps, hustlers and hit men have become the latest cult figures to be appropriated by leading-edge culture as it searches for new heros and role models."

Linked criminal references tend to effectively enhance brand edge, resulting in a growing trend for those in PR to hint at criminal activity to be a badge of pride rather than a negative factor or a slur. The appeal of the illicit and seeking of lifestyles that frequently involve breaking of the law - from wanton indulgence in minor traffic infringements to major and more daring crimes of violence, becoming influencing factors as 'in' things to raise one's level in the popularity charts.

Applying these findings to home scenario, may be we could tell these Consultancy people a thing or two from our own vast repertoire of 'criminal hero' experiences. Take the case of Sobhraj. He did succeed in his objective to prolong his jail term in India till such time as he ceased to be a wanted man for the beach murders in Thailand. But had he succeeded in his ultimate designs to continue in India even after serving full term in Tihar, well… I have no doubt whatsoever that we would have elected him to Parliament at the first opportunity. And who can forget Bablu Srivastava's widely televised statement on camera while being brought in by CBI extradited from Singapore through Interpol, that "…these very policemen holding me in handcuffs today will one day salute me when I become the Home Minister!" And nearer recent times, there was the confident statement by Phoolan Devi's killer unabashedly telling all, that did the act with the belief that this would land him in Parliament within three years!

Looking back though, it is unfortunate that something that was started as a tool to give impetus to our freedom struggle by Gandhiji in the form of civil disobedience and courting arrest by 'jail baro' movements, has grown today into a license to violate law with impunity… even to the extent of arrest and jail being a desired qualification for an aspiring politician! And today, as is commonly perceived, we have graduated to sending our criminals to Parliament as its members, to enact for us, the milieu, such laws as these very lawbreakers were adept at violating.

The reason, our own election laws have not been able to come to terms with ground realities, to keep those perceived to be criminals by the society at large from contesting - on grounds of the inability of the system to really convict them of the crimes they were/or are accused of. For purposes of the Representation of People's Act, only a conviction disqualifies a candidate, irrespective of the number of murder, dacoity, kidnappings for ransom or extortion cases he may have been involved in or been accused of.

On the contrary, the dictionaries of course clearly describe a criminal to be a person who has committed a crime or crimes - defining a crime as an "offence against the social order or a violation of the mores that is dealt with by community action rather than by an individual or kinship group"; …and more elaborately as an act of commission or omission that falls foul of a public law of a sovereign State to the injury of public welfare and makes the offender liable to punishment by that law in a proceeding brought against him by the State by indictment, by information, complaint or similar criminal proceeding.

Coupled with this, the penchant of the Indian people then to hero worship their criminals to the extent of considering them as more suitable and capable, and with more effective ability to represent or govern them, than the run of the mill academician or the dull clean imaged do-gooder or the social activist - is sure enough a perfect formula to encourage every don in the country to ultimately aspire for and graduate to the nation's Parliament.

Through fair means or foul, booth-capturing vote-capturing, or sheer reign of terror. And the system lumps it… He gets honourably sworn in with pomp and splendour - gaining for himself a new found respectability and acceptability in society and even by those others already in Parliament, who it is expected would never have otherwise stooped so low as to associate with criminals.

Isn't it strange then how many such accused of heinous crimes elevated so by their electorate to be worthies in Parliament can brush shoulders and share seats with the cleanest and the most elite of our leaders, with no signs of revulsion or ostracization from the latter.. !


850 words: dated 24.08.2004.
Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// and


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