The special task force (STF) of Bihar Police arrested fugitive criminal Mukesh Pathak from a running train at Ramgarh railway station in Jharkhand on Monday.
Pathak was wanted in connection with the sensational murder late last year of two engineers — Brajesh Kumar and Mukesh Kumar — who were engaged in road construction project in Darbhanga district of north Bihar.
The two engineers were working on a 120-km stretch of state highway 88 (Begusarai-Darbhanga), a project being executed by private vendors. They were gunned down at Gangdah village under Baheri police station in Darbhanga district on December 26.
They were killed allegedly for not paying extortion money. Earlier, a supervisor of a private company was also killed in Sheohar for a similar reason.
Pathak, one of the sharpshooters of the notorious Santosh Jha gang, was carrying Rs 1 lakh reward on his head. He had earlier escaped from judicial custody (Sheohar sadar hospital) on July 22, 2015.
DGP Pramod Kumar Thakur described Pathak’s arrest as a big catch for the police. “Pathak, who runs an extortion syndicate, was absconding for months. He will be brought here and interrogated by a team of police officials,” he said.
The DGP told HT that Pathak was facing over 17 criminal cases lodged in Gopalganj, Sheohar, Sitamarhi, Motihari and Darbhanga. He said the police would take Pathak on remand for interrogation and file a charge-sheet against him soon for his speedy trial.
The process of speedy trial of engineers’ double murder case has already started and deposition of witnesses is on.
Thakur said the police had so far arrested 14 criminals from several districts in connection with the twin murders. All the shooters of Jha were already behind bars, he said.
The DGP said the STF had sent teams to Odisha, Nepal, Uttar Pradesh, Varanasi, Meerut, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Delhi to arrest the gangster who was living in disguise and frequently changed his location to dodge the sleuths.
Police sources revealed that Pathak made extortion calls and left handwritten pamphlets at the crime scene to evoke terror. “The syndicate is tech-savvy. It generally targets senior officials working on a project to terrorise people and get attention,” said an officer.
Santosh Jha, the kingpin of the syndicate, is currently lodged in Gaya jail. He had broken away from the CPI (Maoist) in early 2000 and formed his gang, ‘People’s Liberation Army’, also known as ‘Parshuram Sena’ in Nepal.
The gang has been into demanding heavy cuts or levy from road projects. It has allegedly killed over a dozen engineers and supervisors in the last one decade.
An official of a construction company targeted by Pathak said he had been demanding 50% cut out of the project proceeds since August 2015. The official said Pathak had called several times between December 16 and 20, 2015.