At least 220 bullets have been fired on Delhi’s streets in 43 incidents of shooting reported in the Capital over the last 30 days, according to HT’s analysis of all such incidents at a time when senior police officers are expressing concern about how many of the shootings are being reported from central, south and west Delhi rather than the city’s outer reaches.
The shooting incidents — between May 17 and June 15 — that HT analysed resulted in 16 deaths and left at least 22 people injured. These do not include cases where victims were held at gunpoint but no shots were fired, or where knives or other weapons were used.
The crimes occurred across the city — from Barapullah flyover in the south to central Delhi’s Karol Bagh, and from west Delhi’s Dwarka to Kalyanpuri in east Delhi. Those who were killed or shot at include gangsters, a social media star on TikTok, property dealers, jewellers, hoteliers, journalists, and businessmen. In each case, illegal pistols were used. In nine cases, police shot at the criminals and fired at least 32 bullets in all.
Many of the shootings were the result of turf wars, old gang rivalries, personal enmity, attempted robbery or snatching, extortion, and police shoot-outs with criminals. Barring three cases, they took place in public places — streets, offices, restaurants, and shops.
There is no ready comparative data from the previous years because the police do not keep a citywide record of shootings, and the crimes are lodged in individual police stations. But several senior offices, who asked not to be named, said Delhi criminals showing no fear in settling disputes through the barrel of a gun in public places, and often in broad daylight, is a new and worrying phenomenon.
“Criminals are getting bolder. Some of the criminals we arrested in the past few months are not even hardcore gangsters but they were not afraid to come to the street and fire at their rivals. There must be more than 10-15 police encounters in the last two months. In all these cases, it was the criminals who fired first,” said an officer aware of the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The videos of two such firings incidents — a May 19 shoot-out in which a group of gangsters stopped traffic outside the Dwarka Mor Metro station and fired at their rivals inside a car, and another on date when gunmen shot indiscriminately at their rivals at Mahendra Park colony in Jahangirpuri — went viral on social media.
Delhi Police spokesperson Madhur Verma said heinous crimes have dipped in the city, and the police are acting firm against criminals. “These shootings are not gang wars. There are no major underground gangs in Delhi anymore. The police commissioner has tasked the crime branch and special cell to break the supply chain of weapons.”
But two former Delhi Police commissioners HT spoke to said that the trend of criminals settling their disputes in the interiors of Delhi — and not constricted to the bordering areas unlike the previous years — does not reflect well on the law-and-order situation.
Ajai Raj Sharma, who was commissioner between 1999 and 2002, said gang wars have often been a problem in Delhi but they were constricted to the outer and bordering areas. “I have been out of Delhi Police for 17 years now but if criminals are firing in south or central Delhi areas, there is cause for worry. Police have to form teams and give each team a specific task to deal with a particular gang,” he said.
Ved Marwah, who was the city’s top cop between 1985 and 1988, said: “Delhi Police have to act tough. They must check the record of every criminal who is out of prison. There are not too many gangs — it can be done. Secondly, they must intensify patrolling in vulnerable areas. The bravado with which the criminals are acting on the act needs to be seriously taken note of. The incidents show the crime situation in a bad light.”
A second serving police officer, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said another worrying trend is that many juveniles and first-time criminals are not thinking twice before coming on the road with guns.
Apart from gangsters arrested in the 43 cases, there were two 16-year-olds. One of them was involved in a property dealer’s murder in Vikaspuri, where the teenager and four friends allegedly fired seven rounds; another 16-year-old, out on bail in a murder case, recorded a cell phone video in which he fired multiple rounds outside the house of a man for not heeding to an extortion demand. The teenager circulated the video on social media to announce he had “returned”.
In the much-reported murder of Mohit Mor, popular on social media platform TikTok until he was murdered on May 21, one of the apprehended gunmen was a 17-year-old who was hired to “prove his mettle” for his initiation by a gang. The teenager and his three accomplices fired at least 13 bullets.
Following the rise in the shooting incidents, Delhi’s lieutenant governor (LG) Anil Baijal held a meeting on June 11 and directed all senior police officers to come on the roads and start patrolling day and night.
After five murders over a 15-hour period on June 13-14, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal urged Baijal and the Centre to look into law-and-order in the national capital. On June 15, Delhi’s top cop Amulya Patnaik held a meeting with his senior officers of the crime branch and special cell in which they discussed ways to bring down the crime rate.
Jun 17, 2019 07:36 IST