When dreaded gangster Mahesh “Attack” was gunned down in Gurgaon on Wednesday night, it brought back memories of frequent shootouts between rival gangs that used to dominate public life in what is now known as the Millennium City even a decade ago.
Experts say Mahesh’s murder, allegedly by a rival group, is the fallout of a frantic race for supremacy in Gurgaon’s crime world, which used to be dominated by Sandeep Gadoli, who died in an encounter in February.
Police say the 34-year-old Mahesh was shot dead by unidentified men outside his office near Jharsa Chowk on the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway and was a victim of inter-gang rivalry. He was an accused in 21 cases of attempts to murder, extortion and snatching. His name was also mentioned in diaries recovered by the police from Gadoli.
Mahesh, a father of two, was considered the right-hand man of another jailed gangster, Binder Gujjar, Gadoli’s rival. Some say Mahesh, in connivance with Gujjar, wanted to eliminate Gadoli who was eventually killed in an alleged encounter with Gurgaon police in Mumbai in February.
“With the two most wanted gangsters—Sandeep Gadoli (dead) and Binder Gujjar (in jail) out of the picture, a number of comparatively lesser-known gangsters are trying hard to establish supremacy in the close-knit world of criminals,” said a police officer.
Police records suggest that as many as six major gangs are active in Gurgaon currently.
But none of this is new for Gurgaon’s older residents, who remember living under the shadow of gunfights and gang rivalries that raged on the streets till as recently as 2006, when an economic boom and stricter police patrol pushed many of the criminals underground.
When developers and corporate firms started moving into Gurgaon a decade ago, the powerful gangs in the region started losing clout and disintegrated into splinter groups. Many gangsters were killed, others were put behind bars and eventually their public presence lessened.
“The whole fight to gain supremacy is to take control over illegal business of property deals, extortion, and gambling rackets,” said a senior police official who was posted in Gurgaon in 1990s and early 2000s.
Today, most of the gangs have 25 to 30 members, and their main job is to safeguard their fiefs while trying to extend it. Extortion and dabbling in real estate deals, settlement of disputes is primary source of income of these gangs, say observers.
With the arrival of mobile phones, computers, and hi-tech equipment, the gangsters have become more tech savvy. A majority of them use CCTV cameras, hire private security guards, and even ex-servicemen as security officers.
“We are checking the records of organised crime, if any, who are active in the region. Criminals on the run are also being watched,” said Sandeep Khirwar, commissioner of police, Gurgaon.
The first gang war in Gurgaon was reported in 1996 when a shootout in Jharsa village between a gang led by Bunty ‘Fauji’, an advocate, and another gangster Rajje, from Jharsa, was reported.
Rajje was killed in the exchange of fire. For a decade till 2006, villages such as Ghata, Badshapur and other adjoining villages on the city outskirts saw frequent shootouts between criminal gangs.
On July 15, 2015, unidentified men shot at gangster Rakesh Yadav ‘Hayatpur’ on MG Road. Police suspected the involvement of Mahesh’s gang but no one was arrested in the case.
A few months later on October 4, 2015, gangster Virendar Singh Dayma alias Bindar Gujjar’s driver Ashok Kumar was shot dead allegedly by Gadoli’s gang on Basai road.
Within hours, Gadoli’s aide Manish Khurana was fired at outside his home in Arjun Nagar. Many attributed it to a rivalry between Gadoli and Gujjar.
Apart from Gadoli and Gujjar, other gangs active in Gurgaon include those led by Surjeet Singh -- in jail -- and Harinder alias heavy, who is out on bail, police say.
Those led by Ashok Rathi, in jail, and Kaushal Pal, who jumped parole from Faridabad Jail, are also active. Some other gangs are led by Rakesh Banjara, Rakesh Hatyapur and Kushal, all three out on bail. Mostly these gangs are involved in territorial supremacy, collection of hafta (extortion money) from traders, control over parking spots, cable network, newspaper circulation, and many other activities.
They and their men use top of the line SUVs, and Toyota Fortuner is a favourite vehicle for the ring leaders, who also own a bevy of BMWs, and Audis. Some have even graduated top become real estate builders, contractors and liquor dealers.