Dawood Ibrahim was his idol and Tihar Jail the first classroom where he learnt the tricks of the trade he wanted to rule.
For Neeraj Bawana — one of Delhi’s most feared and wanted gangsters — it all started with a petty robbery attempt at Haryana’s Bhiwani when he was 18 years old.
It was the first step in his desperate attempt to gain the number one position in the Capital’s underworld. Having modelled himself on the lines of his idol, India’s most wanted fugitive Dawood Ibrahim, Bawana — an opium addict — aimed to achieve a similar cult status.
His ambition took off when he met Fazal-ur-Rahman, a close associate of Dawood who operated from Malaysia, Dubai, Nepal and India, in Tihar jail and spent a few months with him around six years ago, a senior police officer said.
Fazal-ur-Rahman was accused of running his extortion racket from inside Tihar jail on Dawood’s instructions.
Sources in the special cell said Bawana was inspired by Rahman who persuaded him to enter the extortion business by sharing stories of Dawood and his association.
“After his release from the jail, Bawana developed a formidable syndicate with its tentacles spread across various states. His gang included desperate criminals and gangsters like Naveen alias Bali, Amit Bhura, Sunil Rathi and many others. Over the years, as he rose in the hierarchy of the crime world, he befriended, way laid and killed many gangsters and local criminals in Delhi, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh,” said SN Shrivastava, special commissioner (special cell).
Lady luck smiled on him when Neetu Dabodia, the then reigning don of Delhi, was killed in an encounter by Delhi Police on October 26, 2013.
“Bawana proved to be a better criminal mind than Dabodia. Instead of taking on the police directly like Dabodia, Bawana realised that a little political clout would serve his plans better. To this end, he joined hands with his uncle, Rambir Shokeen, the former Mundka MLA. Bawana helped Shokeen by providing both money and muscle power,” said a senior police officer.
Expanding his operations in the extortion and contract killings, Bawana led his gang to new heights. Rivals from the two other dreaded gangs — Dabodia/Paras alias Goldy (currently in jail) and Rajesh alias Karambeer gang— were either arrested by the police or killed.
Apart from political backing, Bawana got support from people of his village. He smartly played the caste card to get help from some police officers too. All business, legitimate or illegal, paid him extortion/protection money.
For police in three districts -- west, northwest and outer -Bawana had become the biggest headache.
“What made our job more dif ficult was the fact that even victims would not dare to speak against him. He targeted industrialists and gamblers alike. Bawana was ear ning an average Rs 1 crore a month from his extortion business,” the officer said.
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