The district of South-West Delhi (SWD) in the national capital is infamous for its gang rivalries. While questions have been raised about the efficiency or otherwise of the police in tackling the menace of shootouts that occur in public places, R.A. Sanjeev, DCP, south-west Delhi, has claimed that these have not led to any law and order problems.
Sanjeev, who has been working on the history of gang wars in the region over the past 20-25 years, said, “This is a societal problem that has emerged out of lack of educational and economic infrastructure and has crippled rural development on the outskirts of the capital for so long.”
Sanjeev said, “First the development of the region was neglected. Mehrauli and Bawana still witnessed emergence of farmhouses that became a source of income from land. Here, over 100 oil mills have opened over the past two decades, but none survived because of extortion of land. Thus, the industrial development aimed at this region failed and now people here only harvest cauliflower and mustard. This lack of stable economic options along with government’s prolonged negligence led to hoarding of land that eventually led to the rise of these ‘gangs’.”
Sanjeev said that the youth of the region has also suffered on the education front, adding: “Apart from Bhagini Nivedita College for Women, there is no other college in the region. These are rural youths who lack educational and financial opportunities and end up getting involved in gang activities. The new breed entering gangs has also brought change in the kind of ‘gangs’ that used to exist earlier. They no more exercise the stronghold or the ethics of their predecessors. Right now, these are individual criminals who are just leftovers trying to assume power over each other by way of clubbing as gangs.”
There are seven gangs active in the south-west district, most of which belong to Dichaun Kalan and Mitraun villages. All of them have around 7-10 recognised gang members and their activities range from land extortion, carjacking, betting to MCD toll-tax “theka” etc. The seven gangs are: Kishan Pehelwan, Udaiveer Kala, Ravinder Bholu, Naveen Khati, Shakti alias Sharda gang (Najafgarh), Vikas alias Vicky gang (Jharoda village) and Lagan Sharma gang (Jharoda village).
“The way policing is done in the urban districts of the city is different from the rural policing that is needed here. South-west is the largest district of Delhi and yet it has the lowest sanction strength. Since1986, the sanction strength of the district has not been revised while other districts have undergone revisions for their sanction strengths over the years. This has directly affected the region’s gang uprisings that have never been systematically checked.”
“We now register complaints even on a single threat call received by the victim for extortion. Earlier, no cases were registered against the gang right after extortion calls. This way, we have been successful in keeping a track on their activities. Over the last year, we have registered over 10-12 extortion cases. During investigation, it has also been revealed that some victims received calls from gang members who are currently in jail. We are trying to take best possible measures and have been successful in keeping the nine accused for MLA Bharat Singh’s murder behind bars for over a year now,” Sanjeev said.
But no criminal has ever been convicted for gang wars in Delhi because nobody wants to be a witness.
“The general public knows very well that they are not the target and so they have no intention of becoming one by unnecessarily becoming a witness and inviting violence to their doorsteps. In fact, the person living next door to a gangster’s house doesn’t feel threatened. For safety measures, though, the neighbours do install CCTV cameras. So, it’s not a crisis but yes, family members, too, have become a target now and that has led to new questions.”