With the arrest of three youths — a leader of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and two sons of policemen — the Chandigarh police claim to have blown the lid off a racket that extorted “protection money” and favours from about 150 students of four elite private schools in the city.
The operations cell of the police says the three accused — Rattan Lubana, 22, ABVP chairman at DAV College, Sector 10, and son of a BJP leader; Amitoz Singh, 26, whose late father was a sub-inspector in the Punjab police; and Rajveer Singh, 24, son of a UT police constable — flaunted their ‘connections’ and even guns to cultivate ‘clients’ among teenagers who paid them thousands of rupees besides funding their boozing and partying.
The children, most of them in Classes 9 or 10 and from well-to-do families, are from Strawberry Fields High School and St John’s High School in Sector 26, Vivek High School in Sector 38, and Delhi Public School, Sector 40.
Interrogation has allegedly revealed that, as the school students started using their “services” against other “rich brats”, the trio gradually began taking money from them and favours such as using luxury cars belonging to their parents. They reportedly threatened and harassed at least 29 school-goers in the past four months alone.
There was also an incident wherein gunshots were fired by Lubana at a city discotheque last year, though the matter ended in a compromise.
The arrests came after principal of St John’s received a complaint from some parents and informed the cops. Police say this is the first time that such a racket has come to light in Chandigarh, and it falls in the category of organised crime.
‘Connections’: Parties, gym and the Net
While Lubana, resident of Kishangarh village, is a BA-1 student at DAV College, the other two are unemployed. Lubana’s father, Bhajan Singh, is a former chairman of the zila parishad, UT, and is currently director of the Sector-26 market committee.
Deputy superintendent of police (DSP), operations, Satbir Singh said they befriended the students in popular markets or at birthday parties at hotels. They also used social networking websites such as Facebook to expand their ambit, it is alleged. Amitoz, a resident of Sector 20, flaunted his well-built body and developed the friendships at gyms, said the DSP.
Soon, Amitoz, Lubana and Rajveer, a resident of Janetpur in SAS Nagar, started frequenting students’ parties where they got it touch with other school students.
Brawls and firing
He said the gang members had recently gone to attend a birthday party thrown by a youngster at the PCA stadium club in SAS Nagar, where they entered into a brawl with another group of students, in a bid to underline their dominance to the group that had taken them to the party. It wasn’t reported to the police then.
Lubana also opened fire at Buzz Lounge in Sector 17 at a birthday party last year under similar circumstances, leaving two persons injured. That had ended in a compromise.
The students took the trio to a series of parties to stamp their dominance among peers, but then fell into a vicious circle. “Had the police not acted, these men would have kidnapped someone to make an easy buck,” the DSP added.
The case was registered last week and, a day after the arrests, the police on Tuesday got two days’ remand for further probe. The youths have been charged under section 392/34 (robbery by a group) of the IPC and the IT Act.
Schools cagey: ‘Personal thing’
While Kavita Das, the St John’s principal who had approached the police, said she won’t comment as the probe was still on, others remained cagey.
DPS principal Reema Dewan said, “I was out of station for two days but I never received such a complaint. It seems to be a personal thing, and the police would bring out a clear picture.”
However, HS Mamik, chairman of Vivek High, said he had learnt of matter two weeks ago from the principal, “and then we started guiding the students that they should take their parents into confidence”.
He said he also suggested students that Facebook accounts should be held only by those above 18, so they should not become “victims of such things”.
Atul Khanna, director of Strawberry Fields, said, “I have learnt that the students of Classes 9 and 10 got such calls; I think parents should pursue such cases.”
Living it up, going down
The three youths targeted rich teenagers in Classes 9 and 10, befriending them at public places and parties, or via social media websites, with the promise of “dominance” and “protection”, police say. At the start, they asked them for `500 to `1,000 at a time, and then for liquor or joyrides in their swanky cars. They had even asked students to bear legal expenses if the gang faced cases for brawls. The show-off, which was initially a mutual deal, then turned into extortion as the youths started threatening their ‘clients’ and others too, it is alleged.
How it went bust
The case came to light when some parents approached the principal of St John’s-26, saying that some miscreants had been forcing their wards to give “protection money” and threatened them with “dire consequences”. She informed the cops. The three men were traced as the police got their numbers and other details from the students. None of the students, however, knew of their addresses as such.
The Facebook link
While photos of the accused trio flaunting guns are on Facebook, police used the website to trace their modus operandi and connections too. Photos of some parties on their and the students’ FB accounts could help determine the extent of the racket, cops believe.