New Delhi, Dec. 14: The fear of the Chambal, right here in Delhi.
The regions dreaded robbers have swapped their guns for cellphones for extortion and kidnappings in the capital, Delhi police probing a series of such cases have said. The targets: city businessmen from the part of Rajasthan that lies in the Chambal valley.
Two recent cases have led the police to believe the gangs are running an extortion-cum-kidnapping racket worth several crores.
The police suspect that businessmen from the Chambal region who live in Mumbai and Surat are also facing demands for protection money from the gangs.
Only 15 days back, Delhi police arrested Shiv Dutt and three of his accomplices after they allegedly made extortion calls to a businessman in the city with roots in Rajasthans Dholpur.
Electronics contractor Shafiq Ahmed told the cops he had received calls, from several numbers, between August and November this year from Dutt who demanded Rs 10 lakh.
When Ahmed refused, Dutt, a rape convict who jumped parole in June, allegedly burnt down his ancestral house in Dholpur, the police said.
Interrogating Dutt, the police allegedly found that Ahmed wasnt the only businessman in the capital he had targeted. The names of at least a dozen were found on a list recovered from Dutt, who faces murder, robbery, rape and kidnapping cases in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. He had a reward of Rs 10,000 on his head in Uttar Pradesh and Rs 4,000 in Rajasthan.
Police sources said other Chambal gangs too were using cellphones to stalk people. In March, 10-year-old Tarun, son of a factory owner, was kidnapped from the heart of the capital. A man who claimed to be Chandan Singh, a dacoit from the Chambal forests in Rajasthans Sikandarpur, demanded Rs 3 crore as ransom.
Eight arrests and three months later, a police team sent to Sikandarpur rescued Tarun after a gunfight during which the gang fled, leaving the boy behind. But Chandan was never arrested. Later, it emerged the kidnapping was the fallout of refusals by Taruns father to meet extortion demands.
A senior officer suggested the cases were the tip of the iceberg. Many businessmen who have received extortion calls keep it a secret. They do not want trouble. The business (extortion) operates silently till the victim is paying up. We get to know only when deals collapse. Our informants tell us there could be a large network, and that hundreds of crores are changing hands. We are keeping tabs on suspicious deals in business areas, the officer said.
Sources said the Chambal extortion racket ran like a well-oiled machine with the help of middlemen and local contacts. Most of the go- betweens are Chambal people who had moved to Delhi looking for work. Now they spot targets and figure out the amounts that can be extorted.
Some businessmen, police sources suspect, have even entered into long-term deals, paying between Rs 30,000 and Rs 50,000 a month to secure their business and to protect families back home.