“The Delhi Police have a week to find my brother’s killers. If they don’t, I will bring all of Najafgarh to a standstill,” vows Krishan Pehalwan, a former gangster who is still a feared figure.
Three days after his younger brother and ex-MLA Bharat Singh was gunned down, alleged-ly by members of rival gangs, this semi-rural locality in the city’s south-western outskirts remains on edge — the presence of 10 police investigation teams of no solace.
Playing on residents’ minds is the fact that Pehalwan’s deadline ends this weekend, after which he and thousands of his supporters will block all arterial roads in Najafgarh for an indefinite period. Most of these supporters are musclemen, most of them carry weapons — though their 44-year-old leader claims he is a changed man no longer prone to violence.
“I was a gangster 10 years ago but am a changed man now who doesn’t believe in blood for blood. All I expect from the police is the arrest of the men who assassinated my brother. I know who the killers are and so do the police,” says Pehalwan, sitting down to an exclusive interview with HT in a room on the ground floor of his two-storey house.
Clad in a white kurta pajama and surrounded by his men, he tries to present a calm front that is given away by hands shaking with suppressed rage. His advisers tell him to be diplomatic.
“The district DCP and other senior officers have assured me they will solve the case by April 5. If they fail to keep their promise, we will block Najafgarh from April 6. And then I will myself name the killers before the media,” he says.
Pehalwan — with 22 criminal cases against his name, and convictions in some of them — has approached the Centre seeking a CBI probe and requested police protection for him and his family. More than 100 supporters, some of them armed, stand guard outside his house.
A safe distance away, 10 men in khaki with outdated SLR rifles keep a wary watch. The police consider his deadline an ultimatum. “Pehalwan has a reputation of retaliation and revenge and if he returns to his old self, the spectre of a bloody gang war that raged like wild fire between 1995 and 2003-04 will engulf Najafgarh again,” says a senior officer.
But Pehalwan insists he will not take recourse to violence. “We will choose the legal way. My wife and I are local councillors and our actions will be aimed at the betterment of our people. The development of Najafgarh constituency was my brother’s dream. The objective of my life is to see his dreams come true.”