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Mumbai: Political Economy Of Crime And Space

Book Review By Anil Pundlik Gokhale

23 June, 2011

NO. OF PAGES:- 258
Author is Professor in Tata Institute of Social Studies, Mumbai.

“Weaker that gets punished and jailed ----- and when the law itself is biased according to class, racially and ethnicity, justice cannot be expected” (p. 187)-Abdul Shaban.

MUMBAI POLITICAL ECONOMY OF CRIME AND SPACE is an absorbing sociological storey of ruthless strides of political economy in Mumbai named neo liberalism which reconfigured and restructured socio geographical spaces on class, regional, religious and ethnic bases during the period 1975 to 2006. Abdul Shaban narrates the storey how capital accumulation, expansion and profiteering headed by corporate capitalism and real estate succeeded in demolishing the formidable city life of industrial working class and pushed it entirely into swarms of slumps. It ghettoized Muslim community disguised under ‘Architectural civil city planning’ and gave vocal expression to desires of corporate giants. . The aim was to secure, free and fortify the living spaces of ‘upper and upper middle classes’ from dangers of criminalization and to incarcerate the Muslims and SC – ST population by designating and turning them into paupers and criminals! Shaban has placed the fall of Textile Industry, flight of industrial capital from Mumbai and the lustful profiteering expansion of the ‘real estate’ at the casual centre of the social- political and communal- catastrophe. The virtual reality pushed the potentially criminal ‘labouring population’, the ‘root causes of crimes’ into hell of overcrowded and immensely populated slums.

Through this brilliant work Abdul Shaban has succeeded in portraying graphic picture of the process of ghettoized incarcerated life of the Muslim community and provided scientific expression to the throttled voice of the working class and repressed Muslim community. Alas, Muslim community in particular is left with only choice - takes recourse to criminality and gets warehoused into prisons if it dares to make non confirming noises.

Research analysis of crime statistics and data was daunting task for Abdul Shaban as the same are compiled by various agencies such as NSSO, CSO, NCRB reporting contradictory compilations. Secondly police agencies have micro spatial units for crime data collection which are police stations while demographic data collected by census are at the level of wards and sections. Shaban uses the most updated and modern techniques and novel tools used by criminologists, like GIS, ESDA and LISA and geostatistics for determining the spatial differences in crime mapping. While doing so has intelligently and extensively employed and adopted techniques such as ‘Moran Scatter Plot’ and ‘local Garry’s C’. This enabled him to assess ‘the structure of the spatial auto correlation’ to identify clusters of crime and ‘locations of higher incidence of crime’. The massive data and statistics summarized in 54 Tables, 55 Maps & 51 Figures covering statistics across social geography of Mumbai, brings about correlations between demographic / socioeconomic data, statistics on Living conditions, crime theories, police station wise statistics, crime types statistics and communal conflagrations and riots.

In chapter II, Author introduces us old and modern- contemporary crime theories ranging from functionalist, structuralist, biological theories (which he stamps out as racial) and their etiology and introduces Karl Marx’s radical theories as providing alternative. Shaban says, the new paradigm suggested in terms like ‘clash of civilization’ are nothing but ‘clash of interests’ and hints that he finds explanation provided by Karl Marx forms the foundations of radical geography. It established close organic links between the state and the proliferation of criminal laws, with the advent of capitalism, and forms the important mechanisms by which ruling class rules over the laboring masses and maintains order. It creates criminals and tries to contain them through application of criminal laws”. The legal system amounts to big fetish to contain the rebellion automatically or requires an extra legal arm- force to control the rebellion. Inspiration from Marx’s explanation forms pivot of his treaties.

Political Economy- Abdul Shaban treats the crime as ‘sociological phenomena’ generated and projected by ‘political economy of reproduction process of capitalism. The real driving force behind the political modeling of the crime is the political economy of growth and decay under thrust of expansion. “Capitalism is a system of production and social reproduction to extract surplus value” The system which creates those who rule and those who are ruled and creates compelling conditions to commit crimes! Structure of capitalism creates a reserve army which exerts pressure on the wages and wage structures – it produces desire for consumption and also inability to earn and consume what is produced or desired!

Third chapter ‘Social Geography of the city’ deals with socio- spatial features of the city with its history. Major factors “defining spatial organization of communities in the city are religion and the region’ and “The categories of caste, class and tribe are embedded in the spaces of religion and region”. The statements have been extensively explored by Abdul Shaban. Two major events which impacted the city economy and culture are closure of Textile Mills, flight of capital and extraordinary boom in real estate construction envisioned by smart city planners. This process has been catastrophic in nature and has reconfigured and subverted the city life. The two conflicting and diametrically opposed trends, declining of old social order and emergence of new social order, taking hold, are graphically presented by the Author in Tables 3.3 & 3.4 They reflect the sorrowful and painful crisis the entire working and unemployed population and Muslim community underwent in span of 25 years.

Contrasting trends in District Domestic Product (NDPP) for different economic sectors- Agriculture, Primary, Secondary and Tertiary during 1993 to 2007 crashed by 7 % while Real Estate ascended by 371%. This stark contrast reveals how manufacturing totally lost its ground to ‘whole sale’, retail trade, and finance and real estate segments. Also employment during 1980 to 1998 in manufacturing sector fell from 7.91 Lacks to 4.68 Lacks. This collapse pictures the crashing in /of strength of organized working class and additions to reserve army of un-employed labor. As opposed to it, the number of employees in ‘whole sale’ retail and real estate segments grew from 11.98 lacks to 21.17 Lacks! It shows immense swelling of the unorganized sector and drastic reduction of organized work force from 35.96 % to 17.83 %!

Large percentage of working population is constituted by in flux of sea of migrants from rural Maharashtra (37.7%) & from North India (24.3%), particularly from Uttar Pradesh has become the backbone of the unorganized sectors. These sectors devoid of trade unions and lacking legal protection and wage guarantee consist of contract labour, daily wage earners, self employed, partially employed and what not.

In last 100 years, Mumbai population has grown almost 15 times and 43.3 % of it is constituted by unorganized migrants. In mixing of migrations from polar opposite socio cultural and political geographies of India promoted potentially hazardous political situation. It reflects sheer force of laws of expansion, concentration and centralization brought about by Neo Liberalism in up-rooting of rural population from traditional occupations and agricultural sectors but also promoted potentially hazardous political situation. The unorganized working population of Mumbai has been subjected to lusts, whims and arrogance of corporate capitalism and real estate and has become the cannon fodder for rightwing political parties enrolling and hiring criminals. Policies of Neo Liberalism ‘entrench and deepen inequalities and promote crimes”. It has led to total crash in wage/ salary levels to throw away prices, forced the laboring and unemployed population to live in dire conditions of life and created divisions along ethnic- community interests. The mix of unemployed and partially employed, self employed, have multiplied the misery and led to criminalization of various types. This has been vividly presented by the Author.

Other than migration, Author has imaginatively considered variety of demographic factors in his basic theory of spatial distribution of criminality. For illustration, Mahim identified as Muslim ghetto (includes SC population also) is also marked by low literacy and low educational attainment, low male employment and extremely low female employment (probably due to conservative attitude) and is formed from migrating population from rural Maharashtra. In these wards negative growth in employment and dreadful conditions of human life, can be contrasted with high employment growth rate of 5.72% in Ward A which is a central business district (mostly high class Hindus). This is spatially mirrored in the higher level of criminality in Muslim ghettos. Lack of influence, social contacts and communication, decline in manufacturing industry, segmentation of employment on the basis of religion, and importantly mistrust and communal bias are other causes and factors determining criminality rate. Shaban has rightly grasped the plight of the Muslim and SC / ST communities on account of employment. The rest of the chapter deals with what stunning impact made by the economy on these factors.

Housing is one of the most important factors impacting the ethnic and political division of spaces in the ‘Commercial Capital’ of India. Table 3.6 provides us statistics on per capita income of the working class against Index of housing prices of flats in suburbs of Mumbai. Per capita income of factory workers rose merely by 3.32 times during 1975 to 2003 while built area of housing prices increased by 14 times! Average rate of flats increased by 35.17 % per annum.during the same period. The rise has not only prevented majority of working class and lower middle class families from owning flats but has been instrumental in pushing them for sale the existing houses to make the ends meet and pushing them into slums (Most of the working population lives below poverty lines). This explains why today 60 % of population in Mumbai is illegal residents! It is also shocking to note that 70 % of the deprived population lives on 10 % of the land and forms the ‘retched sub culture’ of Mumbai.

All modern advocacy of smart growth, anti- sprawl development- all economically smart, innovative and smart land use techniques- have led to generation of waste and reality developers have established nexus with politicians, bureaucrats, mafia , law governing forces in sharing the booty. The legal structure rationalizes injustice and inequitable distribution and rehabilitation strategy is aimed at pushing certain sections of population- which creates this wealth – into corners. Neo liberalism leaves the population without basic amenities, water supplies, transport, hospitals, snatches permanent job opportunities – privatizes power with exorbitant bills. It disorganizes community, class and social life and pushes youth to crimes of various varieties. Crimes like prostitution, gambling, drug distribution and usury rampantly flourish in lower classes are actually encouraged, promoted by law enforcement authorities and major political parties. The aim of the city planners is spatial and geographical reengineering rather than working for social & economic equality and reduction of crime. Thus is the impact of Political Economy of crime and space!

In chapters, Crime, space & urban Renewal, Crime against Life & Property crimes Author is at the peak of his research skills and lucidly shows the process of gentrification with the movement of the industry and working class into suburbs, meaning renewal and rebuilding of city accompanied by huge migrations and the influx of upper middle-class and affluent classes into deteriorating areas that completely displace the poverty stricken residents. But the entire process is part of the elemental process of world capitalist restructuring of city – metropolitan life and dehumanization- criminalization with advent of neo liberalism. What differentiates Mumbai from western and European Metropolis and cities is that the gentrification has progressed along religious, regional, caste and class lines and has become non-secular in character. These chapters extensively cover the analysis of ‘unclassified crimes’ ‘crimes against life’ culpable homicides, abductions, property crimes, Dacoity, robbery, pick pocketing and most importantly crime against women and their probabilities. Author demonstrates amazing skills in showing existence or non existence of spatial associations for each of the crimes or riots by means of Local Gary’s C and Moran’s ‘scatter plots’

Incarceration of the Muslim Population & warehousing of criminal- Abdul Shaban Book unfolds a visible structure, sociological treaties after treaties, chapter after chapter, tables after tables, Graphs after graphs on specific crime data and defines choice of the methodology adopted to picture the peculiar causes, social analysis and spatialization of crimes.While reading the book, the interpreter can discerns a sub-plot of the treaties aimed at revealing the - choked up and intolerable conditions and voices of the sections of the population, ‘second class’ citizens of India, deprived of everything –finally end up with crimes and imprisonment! Third part constitutes the psychological dehumanization and de-nationalization of communities by right wing parties and generation of communal phobias by media.

Chapter, Communal conflagration & Riots are of paramount importance in this book. Here author has laid the foundations for study of multiple dimensions in depth and of far reaching implications. This provides the readers leads for investigation into mechanisms through which capitalism succeeds dividing the masses into ethnic and religious groups and creates cleavages within the ranks of working masses. Shaban presentation of statistics on ‘Types of jail inmates in India by religion, caste and education’ (Table 10.2) & Percentage of Muslim jail inmates in major states in India (Table 10.3) throws light on irreparable, immeasurable social, economic political and psychological repression suffered by the community at the hands of state,. – Racially biased police agencies and the dehumanized public at large! The closer look of the statistics is extremely revealing, evokes shame and manifests bleak and frightening future for Muslims and mass of working population in India.and tells us how dangerously the cultural atmosphere has been vitiated! The statistics computed from authentic government sponsored documents such as census of India -2001, Prison statistics (1999- 2004) and NCRB 2001, 2006. The tables show that “people belonging to religious minorities, particularly Muslims and those from SCs & STs comprise most of the inmates in Indian jails”. Though Muslims form 13.4 % of the population in Maharashtra, percentage of Muslim criminals (?), is extra ordinarily large- Convicts (26.5 & 26.2 %), under trails (38.5 & 33.1%) and detunes (21.6 & 41.8 % in 1999 and 2004 respectively. Similar is the case with Gujarat and few other states as well. The storey of SC & ST population is not different. and have been warehoused in to prisons under certain draconian acts like TADA & MOCCA! The political impact of capitalist expansion & economic exploitation is clearly visible in this incarceration and warehousing of the Muslims and bottom most stratum of the social order! Author however is saddened to note that in times of crisis and under the unbearable- intolerable conditions, when communal atmosphere gets vitiated and the fear psychosis gripping the Muslim community provokes a backlash and “the harbored miscreants and criminal elements take on the role of vanguard or fore runners for protection of community in the name of religion”. At the same time Author is bold enough to bring to light plight & sufferings of Muslims as fall out of riots of 1984 Bhiwandi riots and carnage of 1992-93 sponsored and initiated by right wing BJP and Shiv Sena. It reflects the “apathy and communal bias of the Mumbai police and over zealous militarized approach of the administration” Shrikrishna Commission narrates the inability to get police protection and sheer economic inability to garner resources for ‘legal protection’ to migrant Muslim population of the remote corners of Mumbai.

Stigmatization and Pervasive identities author discusses the Hindu Muslim relationships in Mumbai city particularly after 1960 till date. The period is earmarked by the rise of Shiv Sena and VHP in Mumbai and elsewhere. Vicious derogatory and dehumanizing aggressive propaganda by the right wing communal organizations was aimed at intimidating Muslim community and sharply differentiating it from Hindu community. Abuses such as ‘Babur ki aulad’, Katela, landya, are all sexual abuses and symbolic expressions of ‘castration complex’. These repulsive filthy abuses and language during 1992-93 riots and carnage after Babri demolition enabled Fascist organizations to pitch the lumpen Hindu mobs against Muslims. In Mumbai and Maharashtra Shiv Sena played the role of a vanguard during 1984 riots and 1992-93 massacres. It resurrected phobias by projecting discourse of archaic identities and symbols through organized violence. Muslims were endlessly identified as outcast dirty ‘anti- national’ criminals. Two lacs Muslims, mainly from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and central Mumbai fled the city and when returned took shelters close to place of work in safer places like Mumbra! Same resulted in to communal based divisions at labor dominated slums like Dharavi, Mazgaon, Kurla, Bandra etc. The division of spaces and ghettoization was thus complete. Page 182 onwards rest of the book is devoted to the political economic analysis of crime, violence, riots, role of Media and extreme fall out in to genocide! The force of these sexual symbols makes secularism of Indian state vulnerable and totter and polarizes the two conflicting religious cultures into distinct identities. The right wing Fascist parties and Media- TV channels in particular work on the strategy of promoting organized violence- riots and butchery. “Even the small acts of goons belonging to minority communities are flashed on TV screens several times and often linked to Pakistan, Bangladesh or Afganistan”. Media has played major role in “manufacturing of phobias and demonizing certain communities” and in creating suspicion in the minds of the majority community. “Mass media serves as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace”. Media has become tool in the hands of the powerful and dominant class to serve their interests” It provides justification of ‘legal sanctions’ to violence against Muslims.

Shaban’s storey pulls out the conditions and crime statistics compiled by government’s agencies from yellow books and brings out its dangerous colors in socio political day light. Here the Author carries out the lonely struggle to give expression to the woes of the oppressed, ghettoized, incarcerated and warehoused Muslim community in most rational way and makes fervent appeals to ‘Social planners’, intellectuals and intelligentsia of all political shades to adopt alternative path bearable to the weaker sections irrespective of their class, race and ethnicity!

Anil Pundlik Gokhale is an Engineer by profession and have been a reader and student of Marxist and Freudian literature for last four decades. He is the author of ‘Condensation And Condescension In Dreams And History: Essay - From Sigmund Freud To E P Thompson’ by Author House London.



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