Sunday, May 27, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Chhota Shakeel gang recruits local youths
Engages criminals for ‘supari’ killings
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 26
Is the Chhota Shakeel gang on a recruitment spree in Punjab and Haryana, besides establishing links with both militants? Yes, feel the security agencies.

A couple of team of investigators from Punjab are already in the union Capital to interrogate suspected members of the gang who landed in the net of the Delhi police from outside a place of worship early this week.

Initial interrogation and investigations reveal that the Chhota Shakeel gang has made several recruitments from Punjab, especially the Majha belt, in the recent past. The areas chosen by the group included the Beas, Rayya, Tarn Taran, Ajnala and Jandiala.

Apprehending that the underworld is spreading its base to the northern states, the security forces, including intelligence agencies, got alarmed following disclosures made by the arrested “suspected gangsters”.

Sources reveal that though neither Gurvinder Singh Bhullar, alias Tinku, nor his brother, Gurinder, have ever participated in any criminal activity in Punjab, yet the chances of their involvement in “recruiting youngsters, especially those with suspicious background,” cannot be ruled out.

Both Gurvinder and Gurinder were brought up in Mumbai where they were allured by the underworld and joined the Chhota Shakeel gang.

Sources in the police reveal that attempts have repeatedly been made by the underworld dons, especially of Mumbai, to have their network in both Punjab and Haryana. The Haryana connections of the “underworld” have been under careful scrutiny of the security forces in general and the police in particular. The underworld activities, especially in towns in the periphery of the union Capital, including Faridabad and Gurgaon, definitely point a finger towards the involvement of the dons of Mumbai’s underworld.

Instances of “supari” killings, kidnappings and abductions for ransom, though negligible, are gradually on the rise.

The sources reveal that efforts of the underworld dons are to engage those with some criminal background as their hitmen in the region. Besides, they maintained close links with some of the militant groups of both Punjab and Haryana.

They maintain that Bilal Beg of the Jammu and Kashmir Islamic Front was known to have a good rapport with some of the militant organisations of Punjab. And the Mumbai-based underworld dons were in touch with him.

Sources in the intelligence and security agencies reveal that some of these gangs, especially the Chhota Shakeel gang, has lost heavily during the past few years. This gang alone is believed to have lost as many as 150 to 200 of its hitmen in Mumbai and elsewhere since 1997.

As such, they moved towards Punjab and Haryana not only to look for fresh recruits, but also to extend their area of operation. Some attempted cases of “supari” killings were foiled because of the timely intervention by the Punjab police in the Doaba belt last year.

The underworld dons also wanted to establish their cells inside various jails and prisons in both Punjab and Haryana. Their efforts, the sources reveal, met with some success as they were able to work out a working partnership with some of the known criminals languishing in jails undergoing imprisonments.

A look at crime in Punjab, especially the violent urban crime, reveals that those responsible for major heinous acts of crime in the state were mostly repeaters and not the “first timers” as was the feeling earlier. The “migrant component”, too, is now being attributed to the attempted spread of underworld activities.

On return from the interrogation of five members of the Chhota Shakeel gang now in the custody of the Delhi police, a comprehensive plan to thwart the entry of underworld dons to the region may need both the Punjab and Haryana police to put its men and skills together with support from the Chandigarh police. As a follow-up of these interrogations, a few conduits, which are believed to be active both in Punjab and Haryana and facilitating in recruitments may be hauled up.

Watch was also being maintained on some of the known hitmen of Punjab, who were either in jails or are out on bail. Some of them managed to escape the police net and are now being sent feelers by the Mumbai “dons” to work for them, the sources said.

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