Bangladeshi dacoits have kept the police on tenterhooks in many states. Initially, they targeted bordering West Bengal for over two decades. They drew national attention when they were first caught operating in and around Delhi in the early 90s. They have now spread their net to various cities in Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and even Jammu and Kashmir. It will not be surprising if they are caught operating in some other states in the near future, says Punya Priya Mitra
Within a span of one year Bangladeshi gangs have committed no less than 21 dacoities in four cities of Madhya Pradesh — Indore, Bhopal, Ujjain and Dewas – and looted cash and goods worth over Rs 2 crore. This is a conservative estimate as in many cases complainants reported less amount for fear of taxmen.
Bangadeshi dacoits struck in Indore a few moths ago and sent jitters down the people’s spines and left the police baffled and clueless.
“Those were very tense days for us. Even as we intensified our night patrolling, we waited with bated breath for the next strike. At first we could not figure out who were behind these dacoities. We suspected Bangladeshi gangs when we contacted the Delhi police,” says DIG (Gwalior range) Adarsh Katiyar, who was the SP of Indore when Bangladeshi dacoits first struck in the city.
It was natural for the police to be confused in the beginning for this was for the first time Bangladeshi gangs had descended on Madhya Pradesh. But for the police in Delhi, western UP and Rajasthan, where many of these gang members had operated earlier, it was an old story, only the places had changed and there had been some changes in the modus operandi as well.
Bases in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh
The Bangladeshi dacoits, most of whom are illegal migrants, first set up their base at Shahidnagar in the Seemapuri area on the outskirts of Delhi in the early 90s. Says Rajendra Singh, a Delhi police inspector: “Over the years, they spread to other places in eastern Delhi. Now there are pockets of Bangladeshis living in slums in Gaziabad, villages in Noida, Panipat in Haryana, Ajmer and Jaipur in Rajasthan.”
According to police sources, anywhere between 8000 and 10,000 illegal migrants are involved in criminal activities. Besides dacoit gangs, some Bangladeshis are involved in petty thefts, some as informers to thoses thieves and some as fences who double as scrap dealers
In the 1990s they operated on a large scale in and around Delhi, and hundreds of cases were registered against Bangladeshi criminals by Delhi and Uttar Pradesh police. Such was their terror that the Delhi police created a special cell for them and over a period the Delhi police managed to curb their activities. Some allege that the police, in order to create terror in the minds of dacoits, killed a few Bangladeshi criminals in secret encounters by developing a network of informers and playing one gang against the other.
For example, Jalal, son of Mansoor Ali involved in the dacoity at Kavindra Dawre’s house at Scheme No. 78 in Indore, told the police during questioning that he had earlier been caught in Jaipur because another Bangladeshi gang betrayed him.
Despite encounter killings and terror tactics of the police, Bangladeshi dacoits are still active. Says inspector Rajendra Singh: “Many Bangladeshi gangs are still active in Delhi and this year alone we have busted 11 of them.
It seems because of the increased police pressure their leaders searched new areas and slowly spread their operations to Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir and Madhya Pradesh.”
Looks can be deceptive
Though the sheer range of gangs’ activities takes one’s breath away, when it comes to appearance, the adage –‘Looks can be deceptive’ – holds true for Bangladeshi dacoits. While the word dacoit conjures up visions of a tall, strong, sturdy mustachioed man with perhaps a thundering voice and beard to boot, looking at Bangladeshi dacoits such notions melt away. None of the Bangladeshi dacoits is more than five foot five inch.
They are slight in built, most innocuous looking, and as one police official puts it, “they look like idiots”. No one would suspect that they were dacoits, at best they look like daily wage labourers. No one would believe that they had the intelligence to execute such dare-devil dacoities and manage to evade the police dragnet even though after the first couple of dacoities, night patrolling had been stepped up in Bhopal and also in Ujjain. The same was the case in Indore after the first couple of dacoties in January-March 2006.
Madhya Pradesh operations
In Madhya Pradesh, Bangladeshi gangs came in two waves. In the first wave, they stayed in Indore and struck only in Indore. Between January and March 2006 they committed eight dacoities (fewer cases have been registered as they are not accepting all of them and police have been unable to recover the goods looted in those dacoities). The Indore police with help from the Delhi Crime Branch managed to nab a few of the gang members, though the main accused are still absconding. There was a lull after that, and then the Bangladeshi gangs once again struck between September and October. This time they operated from Bhopal where they committed eight dacoities followed by three in Ujjain, one in Dewas and again one in Indore. The dacoity in Indore, which they committed at Scheme No 74, was their last in the series and they were caught by the Dewas police while trying to escape in a bus to Bhopal.
Says DIG (Bhopal range) Anuradha Shankar Singh: “During questioning these gang members said that they had committed thefts and loots on earlier occasions in Bhopal, but they were unreported.” Some police officers in Indore and Bhopal believe that they committed dacoities in Bilaspur and Raipur, as the modus operandi of the dacoities there was similar to those adopted by these gangs.
After reaching Indore they rented houses in slums and lived like poor labourers, and told neighbours that they were experts in ‘zari’ work. The gang would have at least one female member, which helps it escape suspicion of the people. But like any professional gang, they first surveyed the layout of the land adjacent to the targeted house where the residents appeared to be rich.
They usually preferred houses adjoining vacant plots of land or under-construction buildings, where they used to hide before striking, usually well after midnight but before sunrise. They never struck during the day. Two to three persons used to enter the premises and unscrew any of the window grills. (Interestingly the Pardis also use the same tactic to enter houses) Then others who were waiting in the nearby field were called, and just before entering the house they were given arms, which was usually kept by the gang leader. Once they entered the house, they put handkerchief on their faces, wore caps to make identification difficult and first went to the room where the eldest member of the family lived. After taking him or her into captivity they used to make others open their rooms.
They never used force unnecessarily (there is a debate among officials whether it is a deliberate ploy) if there was no resistance; rather they were extra-polite to the aged and the children – in the Scheme No 74 dacoity they gave water to the old lady and did not tie her, and similar stories of compassion were narrated by other victims. Only the gang leader spoke, while others remained silent.
They only took cash, jewellery, electronic items and mobiles along with the papers, and expensive shoes as they are easy to dispose. Before leaving they used to tie the victims and lock them in one room. Of late, they were in the habit of making gateway in one of the vehicles of the victims.
But, before leaving they told the victims that they would be taking their four-wheeler with the rider that if they did not inform the police they would abandon their vehicle intact, otherwise they would damage it. In all the cases they did not damage the vehicles. Says Vijaynagar CSP Jitendra Singh, who was closely involved in the investigation: “It was a psychological ploy to gain sympathy of the victims so that they got benefit during the trial.”
After abandoning the vehicle they used to walk to their homes on foot, often carrying tiffin – giving impression of a labourer going to work or returning home from a late-night shift. Immediately after the dacoity, one of the gang members would leave with the jewellery and other electronic goods and dispose them of in Bangladesh.
How they learnt from past operations
They stopped using the mobile phones they had stolen as on earlier occasion they were caught in Delhi after their mobile calls were traced. However, one of the gang members could not resist the temptation of activating an expensive mobile they had stolen from Dr Sharad Naik’s house in Ujjain, and that led the police to their location in Bhopal. Most of the jewellery and electronic items were taken to Bangladesh where they were sold. In fact, some of the cellphones stolen during the dacoities in Indore were being used in Bangladesh.
Use of violence
Some officers feel that the Bangladeshi gangs have learnt from their experience and are not using violence during dacoity as a deliberate ploy. Others point out that they would use violence if there was any resistance. But there could be another reason — violence during dacoity would raise a hue and cry and this would put pressure on the police to nab them. Earlier, when the gangs committed dacoities in Delhi and western UP, there are reports of them beating up the victims and even raping them, but save one instance during a dacoity in Bhopal when a boy was stabbed, the dacoits have behaved well. They also learnt that if they used violence, they would go for a longer period in jail.
Most of the gangs committed dacoities for money, as most of them came from very poor families. During questioning they said they wanted to buy plots of land in Bangladesh, though the hardcore among them have made it their profession. They form their own gangs by recruiting new members from Bangladesh.
How do they enter the country
The India-Bangladesh border is very porous. They entered India with the help of middle men who charged anywhere between Rs 500 to Rs 1500 per person to help them cross the border. They crossed over from Khulna, often by crossing the Padma river. Once in the country, they travelled by train and buses to reach their destinations.
DIG Anuradha Shankar Singh says that from what came out during interrogation, at present there are 14 Bangaldeshi gangs operating in various parts of the country. Among those who had committed dacoities in Indore in Januray-March 2006, the kingpins – Lal Mohammad, Dolu alias Rayees, Kamal alias Iqbal, Ruman alias Raju – are all absconding and each one of them is capable of forming his own gang.
In the recent cases of dacoities, however, the core members – Jalal (he was involved in earlier dacoities in Indore also), Farooq and Abul — have been arrested. But their arrest does not mean that it will put an end to it. “The possibility of new gangs coming to Madhya Pradesh, or the same gangs going to newer areas cannot be ruled out,” cautions DIG Anuradha Shankar.
One of the main stumbling blocks is the non-cooperation by Bangladeshi authorites to trace the dacoits in their country.
The authorities do not even acknowledge that they are Bangladeshi nationals, say senior police officials and “therefore we are helpless once they cross the border”. The only solution appears to be to ensure that those who are arrested get long prison terms. “Police from other states are also following this strategy, and we are also framing charges and invoking Section 75 of IPC to ensure that they get long sentences.”