This appeared in the Asian Age...
Young, restless, ambitious and murderous…
Aditya Rankha, aged 13, was assaulted with a kitchen knife, stabbed several times and finally burnt to death a little outside Mumbai , after a ransom plan didn’t pan out the way his assailants had planned it. The two men who kidnapped and killed Aditya this week were not strangers, but people he had grown up with, trusted and perhaps, loved. Especially , Himanshu, the 28 year-old-cousin Aditya called ‘Bhaiyya’. Himanshu’s accomplice Vijesh Sanghvi (26), lived in the locality and had hatched the clumsy conspiracy to pick up Aditya from his home and demand 30 lakhs from his father for the teen’s safe return. Nothing all that unusual about the story, right? Absolutely. We are getting so used to urban crimes of this kind that they don’t really register any longer. But here’s the sub- text : This Mumbai teenager was killed by two desperados who had lost 10 lakhs in illegal IPL bets. Obviously, the bookies involved in the 500 crores IPL betting racket had turned up the heat.The 10 lakhs debt had to be settled, and fast. That two married, middle class men living in Central Mumbai, who claimed they were management graduates running small businesses, could hatch such a bloody plot and kill an innocent relative in cold blood, provides its own chilling narrative of what is shredding our society - greed . Both killers have mentioned splurging wildly at nightclubs and ‘enjoying’ themselves. This idea of ‘enjoyment’ has become a social disease that recognizes no bounds. Faced with a staggering debt, these men thought nothing of kidnapping a kid, and subsequently butchering him when the kid’s father didn’t follow their script and meekly pay up. He went to the cops instead. Meanwhile, the terrified teenager was begging his ‘Bhaiyaa’ for forgiveness and calling out to his own mother in anguish, when the knife was plunged into him over and over again.
Did such grisly crimes take place ten years ago in our cities? A few… perhaps. But today, there is a virtual murder epidemic raging in our cities,with horrific reports emerging on a daily basis.These are lifestyle crimes. Committed by people who want to move up the social ladder, at whatever cost.Men like Himanshu and Vijesh can be spotted at any upmarket lounge bar, drinking like beasts, eyeing pretty girls, getting rowdier with each refill, speeding down Marine Drive, often in borrowed or stolen cars, shopping at fancy malls with credit cards that are dished out like free chana. Soon they start to believe they belong to a class that stubbornly refuses to accept them despite their throwing names and money around. Frustration follows, leading to further flashy acquisitions and higher borrowings. Scaling up socially replaces hard work and genuine success. The only markers are those the world recognizes - fancy cars, expensive watches, designer clothes, the latest gizmos, foreign holidays and upgraded homes in the city’s better areas. Some of these stories are worthy of epic novels and movies. From a slum in Central Mumbai to a penthouse on Pali Hill - it is no longer a distant dream or fantasy. It is happening. It is achievable. It is worth murdering a cousin for.
This is the point at which a hard luck story turns macabre. It is the casualness on display that is both baffling and sinister. Aditya’s life was taken to settle a 10 lakhs IPL bet. The additional 20 lakhs demanded from Jitendra, Aditya’s father, would have financed a few more hedonistic indulgences, had the ransom been paid. The two idiots had not thought beyond getting their hands on the much needed money. The murder itself was so foolishly executed, they’d left the dead teenager’s colourful sandals in the car, as they drove to the cop station with Jitendra. It was an alert Jitendra who spotted them and told the cops. The accused are neither hard core criminals, nor professional killers. They represent the aam aadmi on every level. So what is the malaise in our society that is leading such people to commit dastardly crimes? Do they really think they’ll get away with murder?Do they think at all? Or is the glitter and glamour of instant gratification far more compelling than the risk involved? What about the reactions of their young wives and children? Other family members? The shame and ignominy of it all? The scary truth is the lure of a luxurious lifestyle has completely blinded young urban India to consequences – moral or otherwise. There seems to be nothing at stake anymore. Everybody is chasing some impossible dream that promises paradise. Sometimes, one looks at tv commercials (especially the ones that are telecast during the ongoing IPL) and wonders. They are so clever, so subversive they startle and shock the unwary! Most tap into middle class frustrations, with wives and children demanding more and more and more from harried husbands and fathers (exotic summer vacations, bigger tv sets, pricy air conditioners). Banks offer attractive 0% interest on loans ( come on, guys! Who are you kidding?) urging the gullible to splurge on the latest smart phone or even a beach villa. Irresistible and heady as such offers are, there is always a catch. That’s where the Himanshus and Vijeshs get phasaoed. Unwilling to wait for goodies that require some effort to acquire, they start gambling , first with currency, then with life itself.
Young Aditya’s murder is emblematic of this rotten syndrome.As of now, one can only see a further escalation of similar crimes.The stakes may get higher. But lives will definitely get cheaper . Soon a time will come when a similar story will be reduced to a mere footnote in the dailies.We’ll read it wearily,get bored… and turn the page. Yes, we will passively accept it as another day in the life of a metro. Be warned.