Gangs of Delhi battle for power


The killing of former Najafgarh MLA Bharat Singh has once again highlighted how gangs are active in the lawless outskirts of the capital. Despite Delhi Police forming special units to tackle the menace, many notorious names have managed to evolve in the past 20 years.

These gangs fight for area supremacy and do not hesitate to eliminate anyone who comes in the way.

Some of the new gangsters who have earned notoriety include Naveen Khati, Ravinder Bholu, Neeraj Bawana, Manoj Morkheri, Manjeet Mahal, Sandeep Mental and Vikas Langarpuria.
They threaten businessmen for extortion, kidnap for ransom, deal in drugs, illegal arms and illicit liquor, and work under the garb of real estate business.

“Over the last two decades, property prices in Delhi have skyrocketed. These gangs have taken full advantage of the boom and acquired disputed properties. Now the situation is such that no property in most parts of outer Delhi can change hands without their blessings,” says Rajiv Ranjan, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Special Cell).

The gang members thus appear to be property dealers, but the majority of their fortune is through extortion and other illegal activities.

In some cases, they also provide protection to the landowners for a fee and a share in the development pie. However, when differences come up between such gangs, the end result is often deadly.

The villages of Najafgarh in southwest Delhi have been the most infamous for such gang wars. There, fight for land and supremacy has mainly been between two groups in the villages of Mitraon and Dichaon Kalan, about six kilometres apart.

Dichaon Kalan is the stronghold of Kishan Pehelwan, the elder brother of Bharat Singh. Mitraon is home to Pehelwan's rivals, members from the Anoop-Balraj gang.

Police have a dismal presence in these villages. Anoop and Balraj were brothers and their father Surat Kane was a known gangster during the early 1990s. Kane wanted a piece of land from Balwan Fauji, a landlord of the area.

Fauji had then hired Kishan Pehalwan to deal with the matter.
Since then, the two gangs have been involved in bloody gun battles on the streets of outer Delhi, killing dozens of men from both sides.

Police say the gangs also get hired on contract for settling land disputes.
While Kishan Pehalwan had an upper hand initially, his rivals gained ground gradually.

After Balraj was killed by Kishan Pehalwan’s accomplices in 1998, Anoop took over the gang and tried to reach a compromise with the rivals. But it did not materialise. In September 1999, Anoop’s gang shot dead Kishan Pehalwan’s 22-year-old brother Kuldeep in central Delhi.

On the same day, Anoop's 19-year-old nephew Yash Pal was also killed outside his shop in Mitraon. In 2004, Anoop himself was  shot dead in Haryana’s Rohtak.

After most of the members of the Anoop-Balraj gang were killed, Kishan Pehelwan entered politics and became a councillor. Bharat Singh became an MLA in 2008.

Around this time, a number of other gangs formed in the outskirts of Delhi, including Bawana, Narela, Rohini, Alipur and Khanjawala.
Over the years, they have been trying to challenge Kishan Pehelwan’s gang.
Charred bodies

Four men, whose charred bodies were found in a burnt car in Haryana on January 1, were also victims of revenge killing in gang war between Naveen Khati and Ravinder Bholu in Najafgarh. Manish, Sandeep, Sudhir and Deepak, residents of Mitraon village, were shot dead when they were returning home after New Year celebrations.

The bodies were then kept in a Toyota Etios car, which was taken to Haryana’s Jhajjar district and set on fire to destroy evidence. It was later revealed that they were members of Naveen Khati’s gang and were brutally killed by Ravinder Bholu’s gang in indiscriminate firing.

“Ravinder’s gang had planned the killing to avenge the murder of Ravinder’s brother and the humiliation that Ravinder faced from Naveen while lodged at Tihar Jail. The gang planned to kill the youths when they passed near their office after a New Year party in Mitraon village,” Ranjan adds.

Gang wars tend to escalate after the death of a gang leader. A day after Neetu Dabodia was shot dead in south Delhi’s Vasant Kunj last year, a war for supremacy began between Dabodia's rivals Neeraj Bawana and Manoj Morkheri. A shootout betweem them took place in Narela.

Although both Bawana and Morkheri are in Tihar Jail, they still operate through their aides. Bawana, known as the extortion king, is a resident of Bawana village in outer Delhi. He was arrested in June 2012 following an extortion call to Najafgarh MLA Jaswant Rana. Bawana was earlier associated with Naveen Bali before forming his own gang. Morkheri, who is from Rohtak, was behind several kidnapping cases in the capital.

Tihar tales
Over the years, it has also become common practice for gang leaders to continue to run their business from inside the jail.

Recently, three members of the Neeraj Bawana gang were arrested after police intercepted several mobile phones on a tip-off tip-off that regular contact was made with jailed leaders of the gang . Recently, the gang had demanded Rs 50 lakh from a Rohini-based businessman and threatened another businessman.

Police intercepted mobile phones linked with Naveen Bali, who is currently lodged in Tihar Jail. Naveen had contacted Lalit Mathur, a resident of Rohini Sector-18, in February to demand the money.

The phone calls also revealed that the gang was making threatening calls to Prahladpur-resident Anup Sahi to vacate a plot in outer Delhi's Shahbad Dairy area. Anup was being told to hand over the land documents to the gang.

In another expose of the weak security apparatus in Tihar Jail,  gangster Amit Shukla was found making extortion calls to businessmen and builders in Delhi and Mumbai from inside the jail last month. Shukla is an accused in the murder cases of television news producer Soumya Vishwanathan and BPO employee Jigisha Ghosh.

The intercepted calls were made by a SIM card bought with fake documents. In 2013, police had intercepted several hours of calls made by Shukla from inside the jail.

“Following the reports, Tihar Jail authorities have ordered a study to check the effectiveness of the mobile jammers,” adds Deputy Commissioner of Police (Special Cell) Sanjeev Kumar Yadav.

As many as 13 SIM cards were also used by Sharafat Sheikh from his high security cell in Tihar Jail. Sheikh has been booked under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, MCOCA and the NSA Act. He used to run an organised drug racket in Delhi between 1998 and 2005.

Though such revelations have been shocking, they have also helped police to crack down on the gangs. Last year, one of the most wanted gangsters in the capital was killed in a police encounter.

Rajesh Bawana was wanted in cases of carjacking, abduction and extortion cases. An interesting oddity about him was that he used to identify himself, and even tell his victims to go to the police. “I am Rajesh Bawana from Kanjhawala. My father's name is Anoop Singh. Do inform police,” Rajesh used to tell them. His hideouts were busted following the interrogation of a jailed accomplice.

Special Commissioner of Police (Special Cell) S N Shrivastava says Rajesh had spread terror among the capital's businessmen and aimed to take slain gangster Neetu Dabodia's place. “In view of his rise in the crime world and his crime graph, several police teams from Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh were hot on his trail,” Shrivastava says.

But, as police have failed to nab the killers of Bharat Singh, they are expecting further bloodshed in Najafgarh. It is suspected that Kishan Pehalwan's aides might try to eliminate men behind the killing. Police assured Kishan Pehalwan that they will solve the case by Sunday.

 If they fail to keep their promise, Pehalwan has threatened to block traffic in Najafgarh from Monday.

He has also claimed that he will name the killers. Kishan Pehalwan has also demanded a CBI probe and  police protection for him and his family.

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