On a sultry day of July 2004, seven men, five of them barely in their 20s, sat on their haunches in a Ludhiana police station as photojournalists clicked them for the next day’s newspapers. Arrested for the sensational kidnapping of seven-year-old Chirag, son of a cinema-hall owner in Ludhiana, among them was Jaipal Singh, a Ferozepur boy, whose father was an assistant sub-inspector (ASI) in Punjab Police. Even at the time — arrested for what was his first front-page crime — Jaipal knew better than facing the camera. He kept his face down.
Now in his mid-30s, Jaipal is one of the most dreaded and sharpest gangsters of the region. He is wanted in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan; and now in Himachal Pradesh too, after he was named as prime accused in the May 1 murder of gangster-politician Jaswinder Singh ‘Rocky’ near Parwanoo on the Shimla-Chandigarh highway.
In all, there are over 40 cases of murder, extortion, kidnapping, robbery and smuggling, against this elusive criminal, who has mastered the art of surreptitious movement, not using mobile phones at all, forming trigger-happy gangs across states.
His family, say cops, has nothing to do with him anymore. Father Bhupinder Singh, now retired, and mother live in Ferozepur; while his younger brother is settled abroad for many years.
His other ‘family’, of loyal gang members, is proud of him, evidently on Facebook, where they rejoiced in his shooting of Rocky. Some made FB posts from inside jails to celebrate it as “revenge” for the 2012 police encounter of Jaipal’s friend and gang-mate Gurshahid Singh, alias Shera Khubban.
Began at sports academy
But that’s only the latest in a story that began in 2003, at Speed Fund Academy, a Punjab government sports training centre in Ludhiana. Here, childhood friends Jaipal and Amandeep Singh alias Happy of Deora village in Ferozepur, had met again. Jaipal, a hammer-thrower, and Happy, a bodybuilder, had lived close by in Ferozepur, both sons of cops.
Happy’s father, sub-inspector Desh Raj, was already retired then and he, along with Happy, planned the kidnapping of Chirag, son of their close relative. Happy got Jaipal — who was into petty crime in Ferozepur before coming to Ludhiana — and other friends involved in the get-rich-quick plan. All of them landed in the Ludhiana jail instead. It was far from the end.
In the Ludhiana central jail, Jaipal met Rajiv alias Raja, when the latter landed there in 2006 for loot and murder of three Ludhiana jewellers. Jaipal and Raja ganged up. Once out on bail, Jaipal met Shera of Khubban village, Fazilka district (then part of Ferozepur), at a hammer-throw event in Patiala that both were participating in.
Shera was a national-level player, studying in BA-2 at Sri Guru Gobind Singh College, Sector 26, Chandigarh, and son of a food and supplies department inspector. He was planning to go to New Zealand at the time. Jaipal, whose father had met with an accident, got Shera to “help” him as his family was facing a financial crunch. The task: Get Raja freed from jail.
That happened in January 2009, when the duo helped Raja flee from police custody at the Barnala bus stand. In the sensational escape, Jaipal fired in the air and assaulted the cops who were transferring Raja from the Ludhiana to the Bathinda jail.
Gang gets going
Jaipal and Raja put together a dreaded gang of highway robbers. Shera was a part of it, while others were Chandu alias Chand Miyaan, Harjot Singh, a kabaddi player; and Harinder Singh Tinu, a former shot-putter who was pursuing a law course at Panjab University in Chandigarh and was the son of a Chandigarh police inspector. Sports, and fathers being in the police, were common threads here too.
In the first half of 2009, they had already robbed a gun house in Hoshiarpur, looted money from banks in Panchkula and Mohali; robbed a Chandigarh businessman and a BJP leader in Panchkula; and jacked several flashy cars on the highways. Raja was leading the gang in Haryana; Jaipal, in Punjab.
In June 2009, Raja and some of the gang members were arrested by the Panchkula police. A month later, Jaipal and his team were arrested by the Chandigarh police. They were taken on production warrants to 27 police stations in Punjab, Haryana and Delhi. But, in most cases, they were acquitted with witnesses reluctant to speak up. In other cases, they got bail.
Rocky in Burail jail
During their time in Chandigarh’s Burail jail, Jaipal and his gang came in touch with Fazilka’s Rocky, who was lodged there — along with Jaipal’s old buddy Happy Deora — since July 2008 for the murder of Prabhjinder Singh Dimpy, a Chandigarh-based gangster and his associate-turned-enemy.
While seemingly having grouped together under Rocky there, differences emerged after Jaipal and his men were acquitted by a Chandigarh court in July 2010 and the gang resumed operations in Punjab. Shera came to the forefront of running Jaipal’s gang with the help of a new recruit, Gurpreet Singh Sekhon; Jaipal shifted operations to Rajasthan and got into smuggling of drugs.
Gang realignment, and war
Rocky, meanwhile, started taking Happy under his wings; at which Shera killed Happy in July 2012 in Ferozepur. In turn, Shera’s run ended two months later, in September 2012, when he was killed by the Punjab police in an encounter in Bathinda. The tip-off was reportedly provided by Sukhdeep Singh Sekhon Karmiti of Rocky’s gang. Karmiti was then killed allegedly by Jaipal’s gang at a dog show in Ferozepur around a year later.
Jaipal’s gang was allegedly behind the murder of gangster Sukha Kahlon (Kahlwan), too, in January 2015 for which his accomplices Harjinder Singh alias Vicky Gounder, Chandu and Kulpreet Deol alias Neeta were arrested last year.
On January 5 this year, the Mohali police arrested Jaipal’s three close associates from Ludhiana on charges of smuggling heroin and other drugs from Pakistan. It seemed Jaipal had been weakened. But apparently he hit back, striking right at the top of the rival gang with Rocky’s murder; for which his old associate Tirath Dhilwan and he are now wanted.