With the killing of dacoit Bharosi Mallah, police have come across a new way of extortion in Chambal region where criminals and local gangs force money out of ‘khirkai’ or nomadic livestock settlements.
Cattle-rearers take their livestock to dense jungles in search of fodder and water. The animals are kept together in an area fenced by temporary boulders, and cows, buffaloes and goats are milked at the site.
At least 67 khirkais have been reported operational in Sheopur, Morena and Shivpuri, with certain khirkais having as many as 1,000 animals, police said.
Criminals and local gangs target these settlements, charging anything between Rs15,000-50,000 per week, a police officer said.
Extortion from khirkais has been a low-profile affair as the cattle-rearers, due to their nomadic nature, usually do not file complaints with the police.
However, this modus operandi has been brought into focus with the killing of Mallah in an encounter. He is said to have stashed more that Rs 60 lakh at his relatives’ places, police sources said.
Although police and khirkais are relieved with the death of Mallah, the threat is far from over as criminals roam around freely.
Police have mapped areas where khirkai are located in far-flung places where there is no phone connectivity.
A database of khirkai operators, with their mobile phone numbers, has also been formed.
Besides, joint patrolling along with officials of forest, panchayat and revenue departments was carried out to ensure safety and security of khirkai operators.
Police stations of respective areas have been directed to remain in contact with khirkai operators, IG (Chambal) Umesh Joga said.
Sources also said that Mallah’s kin was relieved with his death as they will not be harassed anymore by the police for his crimes, and his money is stashed with them.