Three high profile daylight murders — involving rivalries between local gangs from three different low income localities — that have occurred in Bengaluru over the last four months, have created an impression of gang crimes increasing in the city.
Police officials, however, point to statistics on crimes involving local gangs or rowdy sheeters in the last three months and also the last three years to argue that there has been no spurt in gang crimes.
On June 24, a 43-year-old woman, Rekha Kadiresh, a former city councillor of the BJP, was hacked to death outside her office in the Anjanappa Garden area of the Cottonpet police station limits in a gang attack allegedly orchestrated by the sister of her husband who himself was murdered in 2018.
On July 21, Joseph Babu alias Babli, 35, a resident of the Rajendra Nagar colony with a history of crime, was hacked to death in a bank in south-east Bengaluru by members of a rival gang. On September 12, an amateur footballer with a criminal record, Aravind alias Lee, 27, was hacked to death at the Bengaluru football stadium in a suspected fallout of a local rivalry in east Bengaluru.
According to the Bengaluru Police crime records, there have been 41 murders in the city between June and August, but only five of these have been linked to rowdies with criminal history in the city. The remaining have involved family and financial disputes, among other issues.
Overall, there have been 107 murders in Bengaluru from the start of 2021 to the end of August 2021, with the number of cases involving rowdies being nine (eight per cent of the murders) for the period.
In 2020, there were a total of 172 murders in the city, with 19 of these (11 per cent) linked to rowdies or gang rivalries. In 2019, there were 205 murders and 13 cases (six per cent) involved gang rivalries, according to data from the police.
According to the data, in the nine gang rivalry-linked murders that have occurred this year, four were carried out by persons with a criminal record and classified as rowdies, while five were murders of rowdies by others.
In 2020, the ratio for murders by rowdies and rowdies murdered was 13:6, and in 2019, it was 8:5, according to data from the Bengaluru police. The majority of murders have tended to occur in the west and east police divisions of the city, which have many local gangs.
“The perception that gang crimes have increased is wrong. It has been more or less the same every year and there has been a dip this year,” a senior police officer said.
During the Covid-19 crisis in 2020, rowdy linked murders did not receive much attention, but now there is more attention, the police said.
“There is a concerted effort to tackle rowdy elements, and a serious effort is being made. There has been a series of search and seizures carried out at the residences and premises of rowdy-listed persons, and this is reflected in the number of Arms Act cases registered in the city, and the unprecedented 25 executive orders issued for imprisonment of rowdies by DCPs,” a senior police officer said.
According to the data from the Bengaluru police, there have been 170 Arms Act cases registered in 2021 – essentially on account of weapons seized from alleged rowdy elements during operations – as against 24 cases in 2020, and 35 cases in 2019.
In the case of Aravind alias Lee, who was murdered in the football stadium, the accused was booked under the Goonda Act despite not being involved in any murders, police sources said. “He had 11 cases against him and though there were no murders and mostly assaults over football disputes, he was detained under the Goonda Act. We are serious about restricting the activities of rowdies, and that is why he was detained under the Goonda Act for two months,” a police official said.
Police officers blame the ability of persons accused in gang-linked crimes to obtain bail easily from local courts as one of the reasons for the perpetration of murders linked to rowdies in the city. “It is a socio- economic problem. The fight for survival in the localities they live in forces young men to drift towards gangs. They cannot break out of the cycle even if they want to,” said a police officer.
The services of the men who are in rowdy lists are often enlisted by local political leaders as musclemen for political activity, especially during elections. A few years ago, when a police team was on the verge of nabbing a notorious rowdy from east Bengaluru, a henchman of a local MLA, a call was made by the then CM himself not to make the arrest, police sources said.