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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Meerut gangster and a two-month-old cat-and-mouse chase

Named as prime accused in 43 cases, including seven of murder, Badan Singh Baddo lived it up until his arrest in 2017. One day, he gave police the slip.

Written by Anand Mohan J | New Delhi | Updated: June 16, 2019 7:08:38 am
Meerut gangster, Badan Singh Baddo, Meerut gangster arrest, Meerut Police, gangster Baddo, Meerut crime, Indian Express A Class 8 dropout, Badan Singh Baddo (above) wore Louis Vuitton shirts and traveled in luxury vehicles; (left) Hotel Mukut Mahal, from where the gangster managed to give policemen the slip. Praveen Khanna/Archives

On March 28, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed an election rally near the Sivaya toll plaza in Meerut, about 18 km away, Badan Singh Baddo, 51, one of Uttar Pradesh’s most wanted men, sat drinking in a hotel in the city. With him were six policemen, who were supposed to escort him from a court in Ghaziabad to the Fatehgarh jail, but Baddo had allegedly bribed them to divert their vehicle to the hotel. Later, as the policemen sat in drunken stupor, Baddo fled in a businessman friend’s car.

The 51-year-old’s dramatic escape, especially when the city was on high alert, has come as a major embarrassment for the Uttar Pradesh police. All the policemen who were with Baddo that day were immediately suspended and later arrested. Their involvement is currently being investigated.

Named as prime accused in 43 cases, including seven of murder, registered in Meerut, Ghaziabad and New Delhi, Baddo — who was handed a life sentence by a Sessions Court in Greater Noida on October 26, 2017, for the murder of advocate Rajender Pal in 1996 — continues to be on the run.

Since March 28, police in Meerut have been working overtime to track him. “Whether or not the Prime Minister was there, Baddo would have escaped. It was a well-planned conspiracy involving 17 people, top financiers and traders in the city,” says Additional Superintendent of Police (Meerut) Akhilesh Narayan Singh.

Despite being placed under technical surveillance, with a team of more than 30 policemen from the UP Police and the Delhi Crime Branch tracking him, a few days after his escape, Baddo, a resident of Meerut’s Beripura area, managed to make threat calls to advocate Rajender Pal’s brother Devender and an owner of a private firm, whose employee he had allegedly killed, asking the two to stop attending court hearings.

Local police describe Baddo as a “pistol-toting criminal”, who often turned up at his rivals’ homes with a large gang armed to the teeth. Officers investigating his cases describe him as a fan of Hollywood crime dramas, someone who has been influenced by Al Pacino’s portrayal of the mafia don Michael Corleone in The Godfather and Tony Montana in Scarface.

“He is a Class 8 dropout who prefers to wear Louis Vuitton shirts and two-piece business suits and travels in luxury vehicles. He attends social events and tries to attract people with his charm. This is how he gathers followers,” says an officer in the Transport Nagar police station in Meerut.

“Almost all the accused are people he met over the past 10 years at social events. While some claim to have acted out of fear, there are others who depend on Baddo to run their businesses,” says Additional SP Singh.

Among those held is Bhupender Singh, owner of Karan Public School, who is accused of allegedly helping Baddo flee from Hotel Mukut Mahal in Meerut on March 28. However, the owner of the hotel, Mukesh Gupta, who is alleged to have been in touch with Baddo’s entourage and played a role in planning the escape, has not been held because of a stay order on his arrest, issued by a city court.

Others who have been apprehended include Lalu Makkad, an influential trader who nurses political ambitions, Sonu Sehgal and Jawahar Lal, all residents of Meerut, and Anil Chhabra and Dipin Suri, owners of transport companies.

Baddo’s father, Charan Singh, who drove a truck for a living, moved from Jalandhar to Meerut’s Beripura in the late 1970s. The youngest of seven brothers, Baddo dropped out of school after Class 8. “His eldest brother died in a road accident and three of his other brothers passed away at an early age due to illness,” says the officer.

Baddo married in 1994 and divorced from his wife in 2015. Police say that after his arrest in 2017, Baddo entrusted his son, Sikander, 24, who allegedly hatched the escape plan, with his gang’s extortion, land-grabbing and liquor smuggling operations.

“Baddo supplied liquor to local bars and stole container trucks operating on highways,” says a police officer. He was arrested twice under the Excise Act and five times under the Arms Act, and faces two cases under the National Security Act, three under the UP Gangsters and Anti-social Activities (Prevention) Act and six under the UP Control of Goondas Act. In 2003, he was also arrested for allegedly forging government documents.

As per his history sheet, the first murder case against Baddo was registered in 1988, when he killed Rajkumar, a Beripura resident, over a property dispute. One of the cases against him is of opening fire at a few Meerut residents in an attempt to grab their land. He was arrested with a rifle and 15 live cartridges later that year. In 1994, he allegedly shot dead a youth, Prakash Singh alias Janni, in Meerut.

However, it was the murder of advocate Rajender Pal in 1996 that led to his incarceration.

Rajender’s younger brother, Devender, still remembers the night. “We were visiting a mutual friend, Pawan Soni, a gas agency owner. Baddo turned up outside his house with 30 men armed with rifles and pistols. Baddo killed my brother because he had slapped him a day earlier — Baddo had made some inappropriate remarks against Soni’s wife and this had infuriated Rajender,” Devender says.

Since his brother’s murder, Devender has been actively convincing witnesses to appear in court. “Baddo was never convicted of murder, except in my brother’s case. I had to fight for over two decades to get justice,” he says.

In Beripura, locals mostly refrain from speaking about Baddo. However, banquet-hall owner Mayank Jain remembers him as a “gentleman” who helped his family out when his son went missing around five years ago. “Not many people used social media then. Singh put posts on his Facebook page requesting help. When my son was found, he was the first to pose for photographs,” Jain says, adding that Baddo largely kept to himself.

Two months since he fled, Baddo has managed to evade law enforcement agencies. Raids have been conducted in Punjab, Haryana and Delhi, and police officials have contacted higher authorities in Nepal, to where the gangster is suspected to have fled, and Australia, where his divorced wife currently lives.

For now, the only clue that remains is an audio clip in which Baddo is heard threatening a man a few days after he fled on March 28: “If in 10 days my son’s name is not removed from the case, I will kill all your children. Ultimatum de raha hoon.”

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