Deadly weekend as four shootings ring out in Capital
Close to 20 rounds of bullets were fired in the Capital in less than 18 hours between Saturday and Sunday, leading to the deaths of four people, and reigniting fears of gun violence returning to Delhi after months of relative calm.
Three of the four shootings appeared to be motivated by what police say was likely “personal enmity”, and the gunmen in all four crimes followed a similar modus operandi: they arrived in pairs on motorcycles and intercepted their victims before opening fire. The latest shooting took place on Sunday when the victim stopped at a traffic signal on a busy road in Patparganj.
The first two crimes took place within minutes of each other. At 8:30pm in Outer Delhi’s Swaroop Nagar, 36-year-old Sonu Rana was stopped by three men on a motorcycle while he and a friend had halted at the Palla traffic signal on their own two-wheeler. The men chased away Rana’s friend before firing four rounds into their target, who died at the spot.
Meanwhile in north-east Delhi’s Dayalpur, four men on two motorcycles reached a factory where they sought out 45-year-old vegetable vendor Farookh Pehwalwan. Pehalwan was shot dead inside the factory, police said, estimating that 4-5 rounds were fired.
Approximately 15 minutes later and roughly 600 metres away in Nehru Vihar, the same men are believed to have shot dead 47-year-old property dealer Abdul Hamid in his office. Police said Hamid knew Pehalwan and are investigating the shootings as connected.
The fourth crime took place on Sunday at 2pm in the heart of East Delhi, when three men on a motorcycle surrounded a white hatchback that had stopped at the traffic signal near Hasanpur bus depot in Patparganj. The shooters blocked both front doors before pumping at least seven bullets through front windows, killing the lone occupant who was identified as Yogesh.
None of the suspects have been detained yet, senior police officials associated with the cases said.
Police data till June 30 shows that firearms were used in 292 serious cases: 48 of these were murders, 117 attempted murders, 125 robberies and two were dacoities. This number was, however, nearly 30% less than 2019, when 415 cases of murder, attempt to murder, dacoity and robbery were reported during the corresponding period last year.
According to an analysis of data from last year’s crimes till mid-October, there were at least 1,017 shots fired across the city in 310 incidents. The bullets killed at least 102 people and left another 164 injured, a trend that some former and current police officers described as “disturbing” and “scary”.
Delhi Police officials defended the force’s actions in curbing firearm crimes. “Delhi Police makes continuous endeavour to end the gun culture in the city and for that all-round efforts, which include identifying the illegal manufacturers, unearthing their factories, and neutralising their entire chain of suppliers and receivers, are being made,” said Delhi Police spokesperson, Eish Singhal.
“Apart from catching members of criminal gangs with illegal firearms as well as dreaded criminals, we are now following the back trail and reaching up to the prime source from where the weapon was supplied,” the spokesperson added.
But, experts reiterated the current trends were worrying. “What kind of policing is being done if four people were murdered in as many shooting incidents in 18 hours and that too in the national capital? The use of firearms in all the cases shows how gun culture has been increasing among criminals. At the same, it also reflects poorly on the police that have failed to keep a check on illegal firearms manufacturers, suppliers as well as users. These four shootings are certainly a wake-up call for the police,” said former Uttar Pradesh director general of police (DGP) Vikram Singh.
The shooting on Sunday took place at a busy traffic signal, triggering panic among the people. According to deputy commissioner of police (east) Jasmeet Singh, Yogesh had a criminal background and was involved in at least two crimes, including a murder that he committed in 2011 in Ambedkar Nagar area.
A second official, who asked not to be named, added that the gunmen were reported to have fled the area while brandishing their weapons, leaving stunned onlookers who later began taking photos and videos of the crime scene.
In the cases the night before, police said all incidents were due to personal enmity. Pehalwan, who was killed in the factory, had a criminal background and is likely to have been murdered by a man he tried to have killed recently.
“We have learnt that on Pehalwan’s instructions, his associate executed an attack on the criminal (the prime suspect in the shooting) but he survived. Prime facie, it appears that the criminal took revenge of the attack by killing Pehalwan and Hamid. Our teams are looking for the suspects,” said joint commissioner of police (eastern range) Alok Kumar.
In the case of Rana, who was shot dead near the Palla traffic signal, police suspect the role of people known to him, including the man who was accompanying him.
“We registered a case and during the probe learnt that Rana’s murder conspiracy was hatched by a person known to him. The friend who was with him on the bike also knew about the conspiracy. We are questioning some persons in the case. Prime facie, it appears to be a case of murder over personal enmity,” said deputy commissioner of police (outer north) Gaurav Sharma.