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Gangs Of Goa

A committed police action plan alone can eliminate them and make life safe

With Goans shuddering in fear in the wake of two gory incidents of inter-gang violence recently in and around Panaji the state police are contemplating to take extraordinary measures including using the National Security Act (NSA) to deter such crimes.

There was a brutal attack with sharp-edged weapons by a gang on members of another gang in which two were seriously injured. The wrist of one of them was chopped off; he succumbed to his injuries. NSA will empower the police to detain a gangster for a year without trial to prevent him from committing any crime. The act has been used in several states against organised gangs and anti-social elements. The state police are contemplating use of other legal measures too such as externment of habitual criminals from the areas that they operate in.

There is often a tendency in governments to play down the number of crimes recorded in order to claim that law and order is under control. It is also often the case that politicians do favour criminal gangs with a view to using them to do their jobs during elections or to keep the criminal gangs of political opponents at bay. The zeal and seriousness with which the state police pursue a case depends on how big is the political patronage to the accused.

Several cases are compromised as a result, others are deliberately delayed. However, not all criminals get active patronage of ministers. The police can deal with most crimes independently. The two factors that can stymie independent police action are corruption and inefficiency.

If police fail owing to these two factors gangsters are emboldened to carry out attacks using deadly weapons. Had the state police invoked NSA when a city businessman was attacked at Tambdi Mati in Panaji with a sword, the life of the inter-gang skirmish victim could perhaps have been saved. Now that the police have decided to seek the government’s nod to invoke NSA, the politicians in power should approve of it to prove that they are not patrons of criminals and would do anything to make people feel safe in the state.

The police have informers and records to know which criminals are operating in which area. The police might not know the man or woman who commits a crime the first time or on an impulse of anger or fear, but they are expected to know about the criminal gangs. They might as well put in extra efforts to gather more inputs on the gangs and their conflicts and their plots and their activities in order to prevent crimes by them.

The police should also seek the cooperation of   members of the community in the areas where criminal gangs are operating. The police could get information from them as well on the assurance of protecting their identity. That way the police can make the local people feel engaged in crime prevention. That may also bridge the trust deficit between the public and the police to some length, for many in society entertain the stereotype of police as being soft toward or in nexus with criminals. If the police engage citizens in crime prevention that would make them change their opinion and also make them feel safer. The state police could make the communities feel more safe by installing CCTV cameras to keep an eye on anti-socials and prevent crimes.

Though Goa does not have mafia groups or an underworld like big cities, criminal gangs do exist and operate in many parts. The gangs are formed by young men with violent and criminal mindsets who often are habitual offenders. They use their gang power and their deadly arms such as swords and other sharp-edged weapons for intimidation, extortion and illicit trade such as drugs and prostitution. The gangs of Goa might not have graduated to firearms, but there is a very real danger of it happening if politicians continue to use and protect them and the police do not eliminate them by using legal means. 

Using  NSA to curb gang attacks might work temporarily, but the criminal gangs can be dismantled only by a consistent police action plan.

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