Dismantling Gangster Network PUNJAB GOVERNMENT | ACHIEVEMENTS
TABLE OF CONTENTS
There are around 70 organised gangs that operate in Punjab with over 500 known members active in the state with 300 of them lodged in different jails. These gangsters indulge in extortion, kidnapping and murders, not only in Punjab but also in other parts of North India.
These gangs are also associated with militancy, drug smuggling and even terrorism. Gangsters are now equipped with sophisticated weapons.
Making Punjab safe for its people has been one of the top-most priorities of the AAP government since taking charge in March 2022.
With its full-fledged efforts to dismantle gangster networks and terror modules, by end-2022, the Punjab Police had busted 111 Gangster Modules, arrested 428 gangsters and neutralised 2.
(Source: Tweet thread by Punjab Police – Link)
Anti-Gangster Task Force (AGTF)
On 5th Apr 2022, in a bid to wipe out gangsters’ networks operating across the state, to eliminate notorious criminals, and to create a sense of security among citizens, CM Bhagwant Mann directed DGP VK Bhawra to establish a full-fledged anti-gangster task force (AGTF) headed by an ADGP (Additional Director General of Police) rank officer.
(Source: Tweet by Government of Punjab – Link)
He emphasised the need to eradicate organised crime, using intelligence-based inputs and coordinating with field units of Punjab Police, adding that ensuring law and order in the state is the foremost priority in order to restore people’s confidence in the police machinery. Mann also assured the department of all requisite manpower, latest equipment and information technology besides adequate funds to “break this unholy nexus which has already spread its wings in drug trade and kabaddi world”.
Within one month of operations, the AGTF had successfully nabbed or neutralised 90 gangsters.
“Gangsters and drug mafia flourished during the previous regimes, but the AAP government has vowed to make Punjab a gangster-free land.” – Aman Arora, Punjab Cabinet Minister (link)
By 24th Jul 2022,
- The AGTF was on its way to getting 250 additional people.
- AGTF units (which would be operational units) were being set up at each range level. (The state is divided into eight ranges-Patiala range, Bathinda range, Ferozepur range, Ludhiana range, Jalandhar range, Border range, Rupnagar range and Faridkot range. These ranges are headed by the Inspector General rank officers.)
- The services of 361 police stations across the state as well as the State Special Operational Cells (SSOCs) set up in Amritsar, Fazilka and Mohali were made available to the AGTF.
By Sep 2022, the AGTF and Punjab Police, after successfully nabbing several dreaded gangsters and anti-social elements from within the state, decided to adopt a proactive approach to bust the illicit weapons and drug supply networks from point-of-origin to make the Punjab state free of crime and drugs.
The proactive and committed approach of the AGTF enabled the neutralization of 2 dreaded gangsters, the arrest of 12, and the recovery of 24 weapons, 1.05 kg heroin and Rs 79.27 lakh drug money, 11 vehicles and a police uniform by end-Oct 2022.
In recognition of its outstanding services, the AGTF was awarded the Union Home Minister’s Special Operation Medal for the year 2022 in Nov 2022.
“This recognition will boost the morale of the Punjab Police force and encourage them to work with more dedication and devotion.” – Punjab Director General of Police (DGP), Gaurav Yadav (Link)
The awardees include the AGTF chief ADGP Promod Ban and his team members — DIG Gurpreet Singh Bhullar, AIG Gurmeet Singh Chauhan, AIG Sandeep Goel, DSP Bikramjit Singh Brar, SI Sukhpreet Singh, SI Sumit Goyal, SI Nitin Kumar, SI Shaganjeet Singh, SI Kulwinder Singh, SO Rahul Kumar Chechi, SI Moninder Singh, SI Rahul Sharma, SI Gurpreet Singh, SI Avtar Singh, and ASI Sukhjinder Singh.
Sidhu Moose Wala murder case
Renowned Punjabi songwriter and singer Shubhdeep Singh aka Sidhu Moose Wala was tragically shot dead in Mansa district on 29th May 2022.
(Source: Indian Express – Link)
Initial arrests of accused:
The first suspect was detained by the Punjab Police within two days of the murder. Manpreet Singh was nabbed in Uttarakhand on 31st May 2022. Although he was not involved in the actual shooting, he had provided the car for logistical support to the assailants.
Over the coming days, several other key suspects in this murder were arrested. The second arrest came from Bhirdana (Pavan and Naseeb) and the intelligence gathered from the interrogation led to the third arrest (Devendra alias Kala) by the Punjab police for the case.
Two more suspects, Keshav Kumar and Chetan, were arrested shortly after. Keshav is believed to have provided weapons and logistical support to the assailants. Keshav was spotted in the CCTV footage of 29th May.
8 people had been arrested by 7th Jun 2022, i.e. within 8 days of the murder. By then, the Punjab Police had identified the four shooters who were involved in the crime – Priyawarat, Ankit, Mannu and Roopa.
Arrest/detention/red corner notice against masterminds:
A few hours after the murder, Canada-based gangster Satinderjeet Singh alias Goldy Brar took responsibility for the murder, writing on social media – that “he and Lawrence Bishnoi group was behind the murder”. The Punjab Police had sought an Interpol Red Corner Notice against Brar on 30th May in connection with two old cases. Within 8 days of CBI forwarding the request after the murder, Interpol issued the Red Corner Notice against Goldy Brar.
On 14th Jun 2022, the Punjab Police arrested gangster Lawrence Bishnoi and also received a transit remand to take him to Punjab from Delhi, where he was in the custody of the Delhi Police in the national capital in an arms smuggling case. After being questioned by Punjab police, on June 23, gangster Lawrence Bishnoi confessed to planning the murder of Sidhu Moose Wala along with his brother, Anmol Bishnoi, and close associate Sachin Thapan.
Sachin Thapan was taken into custody in Azerbaijan around 31st Aug 2022 after fleeing from India on a fake passport and Anmol Bishnoi was detained in Kenya around the same time. MEA (Ministry of External Affairs) is working on bringing the culprits to India.
“Six shooters were identified. Two modules of shooters who were in touch with Goldy Brar were involved in this incident. Manpreet Manu fired at Sidhu Moose Wala. All 6 shooters fired multiple rounds of bullets.” – Senior official of the Special Cell, 20th Jun 2022 (Link)
On 20th Jun 2022, the Punjab Police announced that two modules of shooters in contact with Canada-based gangster Goldy Brar were involved in the killing of the Punjabi singer.
Arrest of the shooters:
The 2 main shooters were arrested shortly thereafter by the Delhi Police – Priyarawat alias Fauji on 20th Jun 2022 and Ankit Sirsa on 3rd Jul 2022 by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police. 2 other shooters in the Sidhu Moose Wala murder case, Mannu Kusa and Jagrup Roopa, were killed in an encounter with the Punjab police that lasted for about 5 hours on 20th July 2022. In an operation carried out jointly by the Punjab Police’s Anti-Gangster Task Force (AGTF) along with Delhi Police and Central agencies, Deepak Mundi, the sixth and last shooter in the case, was arrested on 11th Sep 2022, along with 2 aides (Kapil Pandit and Rajinder alias Joker), while escaping to Nepal, bringing the total number of arrests to 23.
Kashish, a designated shooter identified from the CCTV footage of petrol pump Fatehgarh, and Keshav Kumar who facilitated the Sidhu Moose Wala murder by receiving the shooters in a four-wheeler just after the shootout and accompanying them till Mansa on the day of the incident, were also arrested by 20th Jun 2022.
Sachin Bhiwani, who provided shelter to the module of four shooters immediately after the murder and helped them escape, was arrested by 3rd Jul 2022.
By 4th Jul 2022, from the interrogation of criminals arrested by Special Cell and from secret sources, it came to knowledge that a sinister criminal alliance comprising of notorious Lawrence Bishnoi Gang- Goldy Brar Gang- Kala Jatheri Gang- Gogi Gang had been formed and is involved in heinous offences in different states including Delhi.
“As the Punjab Police arrested the sixth and last shooter in the case, the entire conspiracy, and modus operandi as also the link-ups of these gangsters was revealed.” – Punjab Police (11th Sep 2022)
Involvement of those arrested in other crimes:
- Priyavarat aka Fauji, who was the head of the ‘Bolero Module’ of the gang, has been previously involved in two murder cases – he was arrested in 2015 in a murder case of Sonipat and wanted in another murder case of Sonipat in 2021.
- Kashish is a wanted accused in the 2021 Jhajjhar case, Haryana.
- Keshav Kumar was arrested in a murder case at Bathinda, Punjab in 2020 and was also suspected to be involved in various cases of extortion in Punjab.
- Ankit Sirsa is also involved in two cases of attempts to murder in Rajasthan.
- Kapil Pandit jumped parole in 2021 and was absconding since then for the murder of a person from his native village Bewad in District Churu, Rajasthan.
Punjab DGP Gaurav Yadav
(Source: The Print – Link)
By 11th Sep 2022, less than three and a half months after the murder, of the total of 35 people accused in the Moosewala murder case,
- 23 had been arrested
- two had been neutralized
- four were out of the country
- six were still absconding.
Inter-state gang backed by gangsters Lawrence Bishnoi and Harwinder Rinda
- The AGTF achieved a major breakthrough in June 2022 when it managed to bust an inter-state gang backed by gangsters Lawrence Bishnoi and Harwinder Rinda with the arrest of 11 of its operatives. This group was active in several neighbouring states and had been involved in crimes including murder, attempt to murder, armed dacoity, organised extortion, dacoity, robbery, and drug smuggling.
These arrests are believed to have prevented at least 7 murders from happening. Early investigations revealed the gang to be run by an associate of Goldy Brar who lives abroad and is wanted by the police of 6 states.
“With their arrest, Punjab Police has thwarted at least seven murders, two police custody escapes, and four armed robberies. ” – Punjab ADGP (AGTF), Promod Ban (Link)
- On 1st Aug 2022, 5 more members of the Lawrence Bishnoi gang were arrested and 8 weapons (five 0.32 bore country-made pistols and three 0.315 bore country-made pistols) along with 30 cartridges were recovered through this operation. Sandeep Sandhu, a resident of Patiala, is the kingpin of this gang and is an associate of gangster Gurpreet Singh alias Guri, who is lodged in Patiala jail.
Bhupi Rana gang
Another major breakthrough came around mid-July 2022 with the arrest of 3 members of the Bhupi Rana gang which resulted in the elimination of an extortion racket running in Baltana, Punjab. Two pistols were recovered.
Gangster Bhupi Rana was the main conspirator in Vicky Middukhera murder case and was operating the extortion racket through Ankit Rana.
(Source: Babushahi – Link)
A major win came towards the end of the first week of August with the arrest of 10 dangerous gangsters of the Pindri gang. The arrest also led to the recovery of seven illegal weapons and the weakening of the Bishnoi gang as the kingpin Parminder Singh (alias Pindri) is believed to be aiding operations of the Lawrence Bishnoi gang in the Nangal-Rupnagar-Nurpur Bedi belt. In addition to other crimes, Parminder Singh is also involved in drug smuggling in the area.
(Source: PunjabNewsExpress – Link)
- On 8th Aug 2022, Punjab Police was successful in nabbing gangster Happy Bhullar of the Bambiha Gang. Seven gold bangles, 25 gold coins, four gold chains, seven gold rings, a silver chain, three cars, three motorcycles and 15 smartphones were seized from Bhullar.
- On 28th Oct 2022, the AGTF and the Counter Intelligence unit of the Punjab Police had a major breakthrough when they arrested 4 shooters of the Bambiha Gang who were involved in the sensational murder of a 70-year-old man in Kashipur, Uttarakhand.
(Source: Tweet by DGP Punjab Police – Link)
By mid-Oct 2022, Punjab Police arrested two members of the Bambiha gang who were involved in extortion, thus busting a module active in the state and being operated by criminal Gurpreet Singh alias Gopi who belongs to Ropar district and is based in Spain.
Towards the end of the month, four shooters of the Bambiha gang were arrested in a joint operation of Punjab police, Uttarakhand police, and Delhi police. Police also recovered three foreign-made pistols, including a Turkey-made 9 mm automatic machine-pistol along with ammunition. Investigations revealed that the two of these people had been involved in the murder of Uttarakhand mining trader Mehal Singh on the directions of gangsters-turned-terrorists Arshdeep Singh, alias Arsh Dalla, and Sukhdool Singh, alias Sukha Duneke.
The Bambiha gang was also responsible for the firing in the Nalagarh court in Himachal Pradesh.
Sukh Bhikhariwal and Harry Chatha gang
On 9th Aug 2022, in a special operation launched by the Tarn Taran police, two members of the Sukh Bhikhariwal and Harry Chatha gang were arrested. The suspects had been involved in cross-border smuggling of drugs like heroin, opium and dreaded weapons, and had been taking arms and drugs with the help of drones from across the border.
One of them, Gurwinder Singh alias Baba Raja, was the key accused in the murder of Shaurya Chakra awardee, Comrade Balwinder Singh Bhikhiwind, who was shot dead in his house on 16th Oct 2020.
Lakhbir Landa gang
Terror-Gangster nexus damaged
On 16th Aug 2022, two men had planted Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) under Sub-Inspector Dilbag Singh’s SUV parked outside his residence. The first break in the case came the very next day with the arrests of Harpal and Fathedeep from Delhi international airport. Interrogation of these two people led to the arrest of Rajinder Bau from Shirdi on August 20. Further investigations revealed the involvement of Canada-based gangster Lakhbir Landa.
Landa is also believed to be the man behind the Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) attacks at Punjab Police Intelligence Headquarters in 2017.
(More details under “Dealing with Terrorism”)
Lakhbir Landa (Source: Hindustan Times – Link)
Seven more people were arrested who were a part of the conspiracy to plant IEDs leading to further crackdown on the Terror-Gangster nexus. One person from this group – Deepak – is believed to be responsible for planting the IED under the car whereas the rest of the accused seem to have provided logistical and tactical support for the same.
Inter-state weapon manufacturing and smuggling ring
- By 2nd Sep 2022, the Punjab Police had busted an inter-state weapon manufacturing and smuggling ring operating out of MP with the arrest of two arms suppliers and recovery of 55 pistols. This operation was a result of the Punjab police’s proactive efforts to make Punjab drug and crime free by going after the source of drugs and illicit weapons.
- On 7th Sep 2022, the Amritsar Counter Intelligence unit of the Punjab Police arrested an arms manufacturer from MP who belonged to the same module and recovered 25 weapons from him, taking the total recovery of weapons from this module to 80. 2 others involved in large-scale illegal manufacture and sale of weapons had been arrested earlier. They used to sell illicit weapons at nominal prices ranging from Rs 20 thousand to Rs 30 thousand and were using social media platforms to find buyers.
Lakhbir Landa-Rinda terror module
- On 8th Sep 2022, three aides of Rinda and Canada-based terrorist Lakhbir Landa were arrested, including Nachhatar Singh who is a prime accused for planting an IED in Kurukshetra, Haryana.
- This was followed by the arrest of Anmoldeep Soni – an operative of a gang from Kharar – on 13th Sep 2022 by the Punjab Police’s State Special Operation Cell (SSOC). Soni was a member of the module which was instrumental in the delivery of militant hardware and narcotics, besides, providing hideouts to the module members.This arrest is believed to be instrumental in helping to bust an ISI-backed terror operation.
- Further crackdowns on the terror outfits backed by Landa-Rinda led to the arrest of 3 operatives and the recovery of an AK-47 and 3 pistols on 21st Oct 2022. Interrogations of the arrested gang members revealed that Landa has been using impoverished youth with no criminal background to unleash terror activities in Punjab.
(Source: Times of India – Link)
Yuvraj Sabharwal gang
In a joint operation of AGTF with central agencies and the Bihar Police, gangster Karan Malik of Amritsar was arrested on 28th Sep 2022 for his alleged involvement in a number of crimes including murder, attempted murder, assault, and robbery. He is the main offender in the Amritsar Improvised Explosive Device (IED) case. He was a close aide of Yuvraj Sabharwal and was an associate of Canada-based gangster Landa.
(Source: FirstPost – Link)