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Delhi’s drug belly

Delhi’s drug belly
Once upon a time, they used to run bag-snatching gangs at the New Delhi Railway Station. With experience gained over time, they became drug peddlers. And in 10 years, they allegedly started heading heroin cartels in Delhi. They operate from the darkest corners of Hanuman Mandir, Shankar Market and in and around the railway tracks near Minto Bridge, right in the heart of the national Capital. In police records, their names appear as Baba and Sunil Behari.

They have been arch rivals from their bag-snatching days. Their rivalry continued when they stepped in to the drug business and at times they even resorted to guns – either to intimidate or to allegedly kill gang members whenever one of them intervened in the business of the other.

In October this year, an incident was reported from the outer circle of Connaught Place in which three men opened fire at police officials. They fired four rounds on the two constables patrolling the area in the busy evening hours but failed to hit their targets. When they ran out of bullets, one of them was held by the crowd while the other two managed to flee. He was handed over to the police and later identified as Rizwan – a known criminal from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh, with around 20 cases of murder, attempt to murder, robbery and illegal possession of arms registered against him.

‘After being interrogated for three days, it emerged that Rizwan and his associates were called to the national Capital by Baba for settling scores with Sunil Behari and intimidating an eye witness in an abduction case. The trio opened fire on the police officials when they felt that the officials had turned suspicious and were observing their movements,’ says a police official.

According to a source, few days prior to the arrest of Rizwan, he had allegedly shot an associate of Sunil Behari under Baba’s instructions and framed the latter in an attempt to murder case. After that, Rizwan was to stay in Delhi for a few more days for another assignment. Baba had also allegedly asked him to intimidate a few men who had come to Delhi from Bijnor in Uttar Pradesh, and were eye-witnesses in an abduction case. These men had come to testify in a court against the accused Ashu Pehlwan, who is a close associate of Baba. However, Rizwan himself could only provide sketchy information about these drug cartels he is allegedly involved with.

‘These cartels supply heroin to the drug addicts one can find near Hanuman Mandir, RK Ashram Marg and a few other areas around Connaught Place and the New Delhi Railway Station. Lately, they have also started supplying to tourists who book their stay in congested Paharganj hotels and look for drugs in nearby areas. They have their agents in the markets to guide these tourists to the right place for what they want,’ says a source. He further adds that the district police have not been able to check their activities for the past few years. After the Connaught Place incident, the Special Cell of Delhi Police had shot letters to the concerned districts to look into the matter immediately.

The addicts near Hanuman Mandir, RK Ashram Marg and railway stations are mostly rickshaw-pullers, cart-pullers, scrap dealers and scavengers. Most of them are poor homeless people. It is the tourists from Paharganj, they have targeted lately, who give them fat cash, a source adds.

Till November 15, 2014, the Special Cell and Crime Branch of Delhi Police have together recovered around 140 kg of heroin, worth several crores, from the national Capital. This is the highest ever recovery so far in a year, shows Delhi Police records.

‘However, hardly one-fourth of that belonged to cartels that operate from Delhi or other parts of India. The rest belongs to the international cartel which uses Delhi as a transit point. They are mostly sourced from Afghanistan and headed through Kuwait. For convenience in transit, they follow a particular pattern despite being caught several times,’ says an official from the Crime Branch.

He further says, the transit pattern is fixed. The packages start from Afghanistan; they pass through Pakistan and land at Baramulla in Jammu and Kashmir. From Baramulla, they are shifted to Jammu city and from there they are transported to Delhi. Till Delhi, the mode of transit adopted by the cartels is through roads. Here it is opened and repacked to be sent through train to Chennai. From Chennai, a small part is sent to Sri Lanka through waterways, while the remaining is sent to Kuwait by air. In three incidents reported so far in 2014, Afghan nationals were arrested with large consignments of heroin, worth several crores in the international market. Two of these consignments weighed around 30 kg and 36 kg respectively and contained over 70 percent morphine. Apart from that, Nigerians dealing in heroin have frequently landed in the police net in Delhi. ‘Most of them are parts of the international cartels and the drugs recovered from their possession arrived in Delhi through the aforementioned route,’ says the official.

It is during the opening up and repacking of the international heroin consignments in Delhi that a small part is always siphoned off into the local market and further off to Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. ‘This is one source of heroin for the cartels allegedly headed by people like Baba and Sunil Behari. They mix the heroine with other substances, which mostly contain urea and crushed form of a tablet named Power XXX in their lingo. In the end, the morphine content is hardly 10 percent,’ the official adds. The other source for the local cartels like those run by Baba and Behari is the heroin produced in drug labs mostly located in the Rajasthan – Uttar Pradesh border regions that include places like Mandsaur, Bhawani Mandi and Neemuch.

‘Heroin originates from poppy, which is a natural substance. A chemical called acetate anhydride – which is an essential component in sedatives and painkillers – when mixed with poppy under certain given conditions, converts poppy into heroin,’ says an official from the special cell. He further says, for the locally manufactured heroin, the poppy is siphoned off from the government authorised poppy cultivation zones in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and parts of Uttar Pradesh. At times, it is also channelled from unauthorised poppy cultivation lands at Murshidabad in West Bengal and some districts in eastern Uttar Pradesh. And the acetate anhydride is siphoned off from the pharmaceutical industry spread across the nation, in fact largely from Gujarat.

However, the production cannot take place in a city like Delhi. There is a pungent smell around heroin labs which makes it impossible to be run in cities, especially those as populated as Delhi. It was around 10 years ago, when the narcotics wing of Delhi Police was still operating as a separate department, a heroin lab was once busted in outer Delhi’s Vijay Vihar area, says the official. He adds, ‘But Delhi definitely acts as a good transit centre, where the finished product is dropped and then redistributed across India. Large quantities of heroin produced in India also go to other South Asian countries from Delhi.’

‘After two weeks of Rizwan’s arrest, two of his associates who were there with him during the Connaught Place shooting incident on October 10 were also arrested. It then emerged that one more person was there with them who was not witnessed earlier when the incident was reported. Now, the police are trying to hunt him down,’ says SBS Tyagi, Additional Commissioner of Police (New Delhi).

He further elaborates that they are yet to verify the entire story narrated by Rizwan about being summoned by Baba, the assignments, framing of Sunil Behari and the entire chain of activity. ‘The whole case is likely to open up when we nab the fourth associate, whose name emerged later during the investigation.’
Abhishek Dey

Abhishek Dey

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