Sunday Post

Fare of gangs

<p style="margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;background:white">On a busy April evening, a middle-aged surgical instruments’ dealer was passing through South Delhi’s Andrews Ganj area in his car. When he reached a jammed traffic signal, a youth – apparently in his 20s – started knocking at the window. The businessman initially refused to roll down but when the youth continued for quite a long time, he was forced to come out and check what the matter was. While the youth managed to engage the businessman in a hardly 30-seconds-long  conversation, his accomplice fished out the businessman’s wallet and mobile phone through the other window.

<p style="margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;background:white">Reported in March, a garment trader was stuck at a clogged signal near central Delhi’s Karol Bagh. Suddenly, a youth knocked at his car door and pointed towards another youth who was lying on the road after an apparent epilepsy attack. He asked for help and the trader agreed. By the time the trader approached the youth who apparently had a fit, he stood up, dusted his trousers and just walked away. When the confused trader returned to his car, his cell phone and briefcase, which contained cash, were found missing.

<p style="margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;background:white">
Reported in mid-February, a jeweller was stuck at a crowded traffic signal in old Delhi’s Daryaganj. Suddenly, a youth knocked at the car window (already rolled down) and pointed towards a bundle of  Rs 10 denomination notes. The youth reportedly told him that he had seen the bundle falling from the car. The jeweller fell for it and within seconds his briefcase that contained diamonds – whose estimated worth exceeded Rs 1 crore – was gone.

<p style="margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;background:white">It was the stolen diamond case which led to a massive drive against these gangs, which have a common modus operandi involving knocking on the car windows and fishing out articles by engaging the drivers in conversation. They are popularly known as Thak-Thak gangs. In two months, the police got hold of a dozen of them, including the ones involved in the Andrews Ganj and Karol Bagh cases.

<p style="margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;background:white">“Interestingly, almost all the <g data-gr-id="384">Thak Thak</g> gangs originate from other states. They get trained there and later land in Delhi, where they live in rented accommodations – most of them reported to be in east Delhi’s Laxmi Nagar area and other colonies around Mayur Vihar  Phase I. They mostly target cars with only one occupant (the driver) in it,” says a police official.

<p style="margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;background:white">In the three cases mentioned above, the modus operandi became different only after the initial knocking (Thak-Thak) part, which is a crucial point in
<g data-gr-id="382">investigation</g>. Pointing towards a bundle of notes lying on the road (targeting cars whose driver windows are already rolled down) and <g data-gr-id="390">faking</g> an epilepsy fit (usually for cars with driver windows shut) are  signature style of Thak Thak gangs who come from Tiruchirapally (or Trichy) in Tamil Nadu. “They are relatively new in the city”, said the police official.

<p style="margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;background:white">He further said, “there was a time around 2013 when cases against <g data-gr-id="388">Thak Thak</g>
gangs were reported almost every day, mostly in Central Delhi. During a massive drive taken up then, it emerged that most of them were from Meerut in Uttar Pradesh. Initially, they were known as the ‘Puncture gang’, as they would place nails on the road and then target cars whose tyres they could puncture”.

<p style="margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;background:white">“In fact, the gang involved in the Andrews Ganj case also was found to be from Meerut. They must have been desperately looking for a target, so they resorted to an aggressive method,  compelling the driver to come out,” said a police official.

<p style="margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;background:white">However, Thak-Thak gangs are not the only migrant gang operating in Delhi. Over years, the national capital has witnessed dozens of them – some staying here in rented accommodations, others (mostly ones from the neighbouring towns and villages) doing round-trips every day. There was a time when Delhi was frequently targeted by a particular migrant – or rather nomadic – gang, which later came to be known as the Irani Gang.

<p style="margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;background:white">The gang members had  typical features – strongly built, tall, very fair complexioned and spoke in an accented Hindi. Most of them hailed from either Maharashtra or Madhya Pradesh. “We never knew whether they actually had Irani ancestors. For us, the word Irani was more of an epithet,” recalled a senior police official.

<p style="margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;background:white">They dressed like police officials and stopped vehicles. Thereafter, once the target was set, they used to start telling them do’s and <g data-gr-id="398">dont’s</g>, about being more careful in Delhi roads and many a time they deceived people in the pretext of awareness drive conducted by Delhi Police. “And then they offered to help their  targets in further ensuring <g data-gr-id="402">safety</g> of their expensive belongings – like wallet, handbags, phones, watches, briefcases and other items. This is when the trickery started and all it needed was a sleight of hand for things to go missing,” said the officer.

<p style="margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;background:white">It later turned out, that when they arrived in Delhi, they put up at one particular guest house at Nizamuddin area, owned by <g data-gr-id="387">a elderly</g> woman. When a massive drive was taken up against them a few years ago, the guest house also shut down and the Irani Gang never re-emerged as a menace in Delhi again, the official added.

<p style="margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;background:white">However, in succeeding years, Irani Gangs emerged as a most-wanted element across ten states – including Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat and Goa – and used the same modus operandi. Usually after committing crimes, they used to go back to Mumbai, where they had based themselves. Then it emerged that they were people from the miniscule Irani-Tribal community in India. During Mughal period, they came to India as horse traders. Once the Mughal Dynasty collapsed, they turned into vagabonds.

<p style="margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;background:white">In February, Thane police arrested 10 members of an Irani Gang, allegedly involved in as many as 39 cases of robbery. The police recovered gold, cash and stolen two-wheelers worth around Rs 32 lakh.

<p style="margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;background:white">Not too many people in Delhi have probably heard about a gang which reportedly arrives in the city during the marriage seasons. They come like a family, with two or three children, and target marriage parties. They hire auto-rickshaws, which wait for them outside the
<g data-gr-id="391">banquets,</g> and take them alone when everything is over. The auto-rickshaw driver is usually permanent for the gang’s month-long stay and charges up to around Rs 1,000 for a day.

<p style="margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;background:white">Once they are inside the marriage hall, the children start doing gimmicks and attract the crowd. They are particularly trained in performing tricks with balloons. When the drama goes on, the other members target the box in which the envelopes containing cash, which the bride and groom often receive as marriage gift, are deposited, said a police official. He further said, this particular type of gang was once named the ‘Band-Baaja’ gang, but that did not last long. For years, they have been targeting marriage parties, mostly in south Delhi.

<p style="margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;background:white">These gangs have so far targeted marriage functions mostly in areas like Lodhi Colony, Kapashera, Badarpur Border, Kirti Nagar and the farm houses in south Delhi. Some of them were found to have rented accommodations in south-east Delhi’s Govindpuri and Sarai Kale Khan areas, the official added.

<p style="margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;background:white">In November last year, Delhi Police came across a Mumbai-based gang – including two alleged informers of Mumbai Police – who travelled across metro cities and committed thefts in a unique relay race style. The gang, targeted one jeweller at Dariba Kalan. While one of them pretended to collide with the target, another crouched behind him to make him trip and fall down. Another member, strategically positioned behind the ‘croucher’, was ready with a sack to put the targets briefcase inside. While the jeweller soon got hold of the gang member who collided with him, the bag containing cash and diamond worth lakhs was gone. The case was cracked with the help of CCTV cameras installed in the 17th century lanes of the oldest and largest jewellery market in Asia.

<p style="margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;background:white">Gangs which come from <g data-gr-id="408">Pasonda</g> in UP’s Ghaziabad and <g data-gr-id="409">Jhinjhana</g> in UP’s Shamli district have often been called the <g data-gr-id="410">morning-walker’s</g> nightmare in Delhi.

<p style="margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;background:white">“Pasonda is infamous for producing experts snatchers and muggers since decades. They work in a very organised manner. They usually start their days around four in the morning, kick-start their scooters and head for Delhi, usually in groups of 20-30. Once they are here, they disperse. And by 9 am, they are usually done and they head back home,” said a police official.

<p style="margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;background:white">They are known for targeting men who come out for morning walks. Once the target is set, they (usually a group of two) pull over their scooters and start walking/jogging with the target and keep closing in. Then they simply ask their targets to hand over all his belongings. If refused, they are threatened with knives or occasionally beaten up. For years, they have targeted morning walkers in south Delhi, south-east Delhi and east Delhi, where their presence is considered to be the highest, said the official. “From the past few years, the police have been slapping Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) whenever members of these gangs are held. This has apparently reduced their audacity to some extent,” the official added.

<p style="margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;background:white">On April 13, the special task force of the east district of Delhi Police has busted a Pasonda-based gang with the arrest of four members. The gang reportedly tried hard to emulate the gang of bike-borne thieves in the famous Bollywood movie Dhoom (2004). Earlier in February, the same team – along with the Anti Auto Theft Squad of Delhi Police – had busted another Pasonda gang, solving nearly 50 cases of snatching and robbery.

<p style="margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;background:white">Starting their day a little late, the gangs of Jhinjhana differ slightly in terms of targets and working hours. They start their day around 7 am, in groups of 15-20 in scooters (now some of them have promoted themselves to motorbikes), and their first targets are women who accompany their school-going children to bus stops. Later in the day, the keep doing snatchings here and there, and usually leave by early evening. Some of them also board the Delhi metro and resort to pick-pocketing, said a police official. “To save time, some of the Jhinjhana gangs were also found to have rented accommodations in areas like Mehrauli, Saket, Malviya Nagar and Fatehpur Beri areas of south Delhi,” the official added. In the past four months the police has arrested around 22 Jhinjhana gang members and recovered more than 71 gold chains.

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