Two recent tragic incidents — the latest in Tamil Nadu and the earlier one in Madhya Pradesh — have suddenly brought into focus the vulnerability of those who dare to fight the criminal leagues. Whether one is a law enforcing officer or just a concerned citizen, the reward for making an effort to stop the plundering of natural resources, or for that matter any criminal activity, could be death, the two incidents revealed.
While 21-year-old Sathish Kumar was crushed under the wheels of a truck carrying illegally mined sand from a river bed in Mittatharkulam village in Tirunelveli district on Sunday when he and other villagers tried to stop the vehicle getting away with the booty, 30-year-old IPS officer Narendra Kumar was mowed down by a tractor that was laden with illegally mined stones in the Chambal district of Morena in Madhya Pradesh three days prior to that.
Though the drivers of both killer vehicles have been arrested and the police in both states are cracking down on those who have various roles in the crimes, it is the operation of what has come to be called the ‘mining mafia’ in various parts of the country that is a matter of concern.
Whether one can describe these illegal miners and their gang members as mafia is a debatable point. For the traditional mafia, run by families mainly from Sicily and other parts of Italy, had a code of conduct though they formed an underworld that broke the laws.
But today’s mining mafia in India is formed by an abominable nexus between ruling politicians, ruthless criminals and conniving officials, including the police. The mining mafia has assumed contours that are more feral and lethal than the original mafia.
Cocking a snook at the law and treating all those who stand up against them with contempt, they are a law unto themselves.
By mining minerals and other natural resources illegally, they deprive the nation’s exchequer of its dues and pocket all the profit. Perhaps they pay off the politicians, officials and the police who look the other way when they go about their business, keeping the people in thrall. It is in this context that the two incidents gain significance. Both exemplify that there are people willing and able to stand up against organised crime. Those men were not just bold and committed but also sacrificed their lives for the common good. Be it the police officer or the youth, they wanted to put a stop to the crime taking place before their eyes.
They did not abide by the unwritten code of the mafia, known in those days as omerta, which means ‘silence’. Under omerta, no one should squeak, no one should stand in the way of a criminal’s operation.
So when many people fear to stand up against criminals or expose criminal activity, these two men stood out of the crowd.
Their lives should inspire others to fight against evil in all forms — social, economic, political and cultural.
While saluting the courage of the two young men, let us vow not to be silent when we need to speak.