Dhanbad’s former deputy mayor Neeraj Singh was struck by as many as 67 bullets after motorcycle-borne assailants intercepted his SUV barely 100 metres from his home and opened fire from an AK-47 rifle and pistols around 7.30pm on Tuesday, said police.
Neeraj Singh, 37, a Congress leader, died along with three others who were with him inside the vehicle, adding yet another chapter to gang wars that erupt intermittently in the country’s coal capital.
Neeraj Singh is the nephew of Suraj Deo Singh, who is purported to be the inspiration for the iconic movie character Ramadhir Singh played by Tigmanshu Dhulia in Gangs of Wasseypur. Incidentally, Neeraj Singh also has an uncle named Ramadhir Singh, who was convicted in a murder case and is in jail.
Neeraj Singh too was accused in several criminal cases, including murder.
Gang wars have played out in Dhanbad for decades over coal trade and railway contracts. Muslim-dominated Wasseypur in the district is not unaffected by the fight for dominance and has its own set of warring sides.
One person inside the vehicle survived Tuesday’s shooting. He is injured and police are guarding his identity, waiting for his statement.
Neeraj Singh, a mechanical engineer, had a bitter political rivalry with his cousin Sanjeev Singh, Jharia’s BJP legislator. Neeraj Singh had unsuccessfully contested the 2014 Jharkhand assembly election from Jharia constituency on a Congress ticket against Sanjeev Singh.
Two months ago, Sanjeev Singh’s driver, Ranjay Singh, was killed in a shootout in the heart of the city.
Neeraj Singh’s mother Sarojini Singh said she had no doubt that Sanjeev Singh was behind her son’s murder. “We will take revenge. It was the conspiracy of Sanjeev Singh to kill my son,” she alleged.
Police stepped up Sanjeev Singh’s security after Neeraj Singh’s killing. The Jharia MLA declined to comment over the allegations of his involvement in the murder levelled by Neeraj Singh’s family. He said, “Let the police investigate the matter. Truth will automatically surface.”
Police remained tight-lipped about the investigation, but said the family feud was being looked into, among other aspects. “We are investigating the case from all angles including the family feud, business and political rivalry. We have detained some people for questioning,” said Dhanbad superintendent of police Manoj Ratan Chothe.
Parts of Dhanbad wore a deserted look on Wednesday and some schools were shut amid the unease following the killings. Additional police forces were deployed in the city ahead of the funeral of the four killed.
Senior Congress leaders and Neeraj Singh’s family members demanded a CBI probe into his murder. The BJP government ordered a special investigation team probe into the shooting, but state Congress leaders described it as eyewash.
The district Congress committee also called for a bandh on Thursday to protest the killings.
Besides Neeraj Singh, the others killed were his driver Laltu Mahto, and his associates Ashok Yadav and Munna Tiwari.