A gangster who was also a member of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) was shot dead inside a court in an audacious attack by three gunmen on Wednesday that has raised fears of a return of gang wars of the 1990s.
The shooters allegedly fired 14 rounds at Upendra Singh on the busy second floor of the Bar Association building in the court.
One of the three shooters has been identified as Vinod Kumar, a resident of Golmuri area of the city. Upendra, who was shot in the head and chest, was rushed to Tata Main Hospital (TMH) where doctors pronounced him brought dead.
Police have arrested two shooters including Vinod Kumar and seized three automatic 9 mm pistols and six live bullets. The lawyers present in the court managed to catch one of the shooters and handed him over to the police after beating him black and blue. His condition is said to be serious.
Chief minister Raghubar Das taking note of the murder, directed the state’s police chief D K Pandey to beef up security in and around courts across the state.
The Jharkhand high court also took cognizance of the murder and sought a comprehensive report from the director general of police following which additional DGP (CID) Ajay Kumar Singh rushed to Jamshedpur from Ranchi.
Inspector general (operations) and spokesman of Jharkhand police, MS Bhatia said that a general alert has been sounded in all districts after shooting incident. He described the incident as the fallout of rivalry between two groups of criminals.
“The police have been asked to be watchful in the court campuses,” he said.
Upendra Singh who owned a travel agency and real estate business was in the court in connection with the hearing on the sensational murder of railway contractor and his one-time partner Ram Sakal Yadav last year.
According to the chargesheet, Upendra and another person named Vicky Taparia had struck a deal with Patna-based gangster Manoj Singh for contract killing of Yadav for Rs7 5 lakh out of which Rs 25 lakh was paid to Manoj as advance before murder.
Yadav was shot dead by motorcycle borne unknown assailants near Jubilee Park here on August 1 when he was out for his morning walk. Wednesday’s murder is being viewed as retaliation for Yadav’s killing where Upendra was the main accused.
Upendra who was in jail for over six months following his arrest after Yadav’s murder, had come out on bail two months ago. He had fought the last state assembly election in 2014 as a JMM candidate from Jamshedpur (West) constituency but lost. According to his election affidavit, he had assets worth Rs 3.27 crore and liabilities of Rs 60 lakh at that time.
Rajesh Shukla, vice-Chairman of Jharkhand state bar council, demanded foolproof security arrangements in court premises across the state so that lawyers fearlessly dispense their duties.
“Frequent incidents of firing inside court premises have exposed security lapses which need to be strengthened,” he said
On Wednesday evening. East Singhbhum district bar association announced iyt would go on a pen-down strike from Thursday. “We’ve told SSP Anoopt T Matthew that if appropriate action and security measures are not taken at the court premises, the strike will continue,” said Shukla.
Wednesday’s shooting was the second major incident in Jharkhand in a just over a year. In June 2015, a gunman shot dead three undertrial gangsters - Sushil Srivastava and two others – in the Hazaribag court premises with an AK-47 rifle.
Upendra’s daylight murder has revived memories of the late 90s when two rival gangs led by Saheb Singh and Hedayat Khan clashed frequently on the city streets with automatic weapons. The gangland shootings left over a dozen members dead on either side. The rivalry was mainly over control on extortion money and commission worth crores of rupees extracted from iron dealers from various states participating in auction of scrap iron of Tata Steel.
The spate of bloody street fights came to an end with the death of Saheb Singh in an encounter with the police in Sasaram (Bihar). The then Jamshedpur SP Dr AjayKumar, who is now the Congress national spokesperson, also led a crackdown on the gangs in Jamsehdpur. Interestingly, Hedayat Khan is now a member of the JMM.