GURCHARAN SINGH, an owner of paying guest accommodation in Sector 20, found himself in serious trouble on November 15, when a team of Chandigarh Police’s Crime Branch raided his accommodation. Police had raided his premises to nab two men — Naman Sehgal and his brother Shubham Sehgal.
A nervous Gurcharan, who had been running the PG in a rented accommodation for the last eight months, was quick to understand that he had provided accommodation to someone who was working against the law. And his fear came true. Naman and Shubham were taken into custody by the Crime Branch team. They told Gurcharan that both the men were wanted by the police for committing as many as 11 snatchings and thefts of vehicles in Chandigarh. The police told Gurcharan that both were also wanted by Jalandhar police in several cases.
There are many like Naman and Shubham, who commit crimes in Punjab or Haryana and then choose Chandigarh to take refuge. Reason: the cosmopolitan culture of the city, a large number of young migrant people who come to the city for work or studies, and easy availability of flats/PG accommodations provide a safe cover to such criminals.
“When they [Naman and Shubham] came to me seeking a room in the PG accommodation, I asked them for their identity cards, which they gave without any resentment. They told me that they were working in a call centre at IT Park, Manimajra. I allowed them to stay in my PG at Rs 4,500 per month per person. I even submitted their IDs with the Sector 19 police station as part of tenant verification process. I was shocked when police told me that both were notorious criminals,” Gurcharan Singh told Chandigarh Newsline.
Days before Naman and Shubham were arrested, a team of Jind police from Haryana accompanying Chandigarh Police Operations Cell commandos stormed a single-storey house located at Economic Weaker Section (EWS) colony in Sector 40 and nabbed Neeraj Kumar, 22, a gangster wanted by the Haryana Police in several cases of heinous crimes.
Neeraj had been staying with two of his accomplices Randeep and Raja — also wanted by the Haryana Police — for the last several months. The Jind police got to know about Neeraj’s hideout after they arrested Randeep and Raja. “If Randeep and Raja were not arrested, Neeraj might have remained out of our reach for longer. We got to know about his hideout after interrogating Randeep and Raja,” a Jind district police officer told Chandigarh Newsline.
A woman, who resides on the first floor of the building from where Neeraj was nabbed, said, “Owner of this house resides in Patiala. The two- room set was given to some youngsters. On November 11, a number of armed policemen raided the premises and took away a young man. They told us that he was a criminal,” the woman told Chandigarh Newsline, not willing to be named.
Inspector Narinder Patial, Chandigarh Police Operations Cell, who headed the joint team that arrested Neeraj, said, “There were three more men present in the rented house and their questioning reveals that two of them were preparing for IELTS and one for civil services. None of them had any association with Neeraj, except that they were sharing the two-room house with him. We let them go.” “But this is the reason that these persons commit crimes elsewhere, come to Chandigarh, and disappear into the young population of this city,” Inspector Patial added.
Naman, Shubham or Neeraj’s cases are not the only cases where criminals wanted by other state police forces were nabbed from Chandigarh. In fact, the trend appears to be witnessing an increasing trend lately. Bharat Bhushan, alias Bhola shooter, and Inderjeet Singh Perry, wanted by the Punjab Police for killing gangster Lovi Deora at Kotakpura in Fardikot on July 13, were too arrested from a flat at Housing Board Society in Sector 63, Chandigarh, on July 28.
Police officers were left stunned when Bhola and Perry told them that another notorious gangster, Sampat Nehra, and Deepak aka Tinu, both wanted by the Haryana Police, had also stayed with them in the same accommodation after Tinu escaped from the Haryana Police custody in June 2017.
Deputy Superintendent of Police (Crime) Pawan Kumar said, “There are several reasons for which criminals are finding Chandigarh as a safe haven. One of the prime reasons is easy availability of accommodation. A large number of PGs that accommodate youngsters are made hideouts by such criminals. A few sectors, including Sector 20, Sector 21, Sector 35, Sector 15, Sector 19, Sector 40, Sector 38 (West) located in East and South division of Chandigarh, are the main sectors. There are several occasions when we receive inputs about one or the other criminal taking refuge in one of these areas. Three months ago, a team of Rajasthan Police too had nabbed three gangsters from a rented house located in one of the southern sectors.”
DSP Kumar said, “In most of such cases, we have also found that criminals of other states who take refuge in Chandigarh, stay silent here. They don’t commit any crime in Chandigarh and thus don’t come under our radar.” DSP Kumar added that the newly constructed high-rise residential societies and buildings on the periphery of Chandigarh are also providing a safe shelter to such criminals.
Baljinder Singh Bittu, president of FOSWAC (Federation of Sectors Welfare Association Chandigarh), a body to look after residential affairs with Chandigarh Administration, said, “It is a well known fact that Chandigarh has been becoming a hideout for criminals. Absence of a strict policy to regulate PG accommodations in Chandigarh, easy availability of rented accommodations are a few reasons behind this menace. Moreover, public and local residents of Chandigarh are also responsible for this. People deliberately do not inform the authorities, including Estate Office and local police, about the tenants and PG persons residing in their houses only to avoid the formalities.”
Bittu, who had been raising this issue with UT Estate Office and Chandigarh Police, added, “Going by the records of Chandigarh Estate Office, there are merely 22 registered paying guest houses in Chandigarh. On the ground, however, there are hundreds of houses that are converted into PGs and no authority is checking this menace.”
Assistant Estate Officer (AEO), UT, Manoj Khatri said, “We do conduct surprise checking from time to time and take action against the unregistered PG accommodations. Recently, we lodged an FIR against a man, who rented his house to someone for running a PG without informing the authorities, in Sector 36.”
‘Most of them linked to city since school or college days’
ACP Mukesh Malhotra of Panchkula police said, “If you check the profile of recently arrested gangsters, who were wanted in Haryana and Punjab, you will find most of them to be connected with Chandigarh since their school and college times. The gangsters like Lawrence Bishnoi, Sampat Nehra, Perry had been students in Chandigarh and aware of the city geography. The second reason is the mushrooming societies, which are almost empty and the owners of flats residing somewhere else. Outsiders get flats on rent easily in these societies.”
Assistant Professor Ajay Ranga with PU law department feels the emerging multicultural society of Chandigarh absorbs the outsiders easily. That is the reason even a criminal can easily become part of the city. Ranga said, “Chandigarh has so many attractions. Late night culture, PG trend, being located near three states — Punjab, Haryana and Himachal — and providing job opportunities to people. These are some of the facts, which attract criminals to come and stay in Chandigarh.” Ranga blames the local authorities for their failure to keep tabs on the criminals staying in Chandigarh.
Asked why the gangsters prefer the peripheral areas for their stay after committing the crime, Mohali SSP Kuldeep Singh Chahal said that Mohali is connected to Chandigarh, Panchkula and some parts of Himachal Pradesh. It servs as a transit point for the criminals to move from one state to other to evade arrest. “They can easily enter Chandigarh and sneak into Haryana via Panchkula and to Himachal via Baddi. It is one of the main reasons that they stay in Mohali or the periphery of Chandigarh,” he added.