'Keep us in jail or we will be killed in encounters'
We are safer in jail than being out on bail - these are the words of some of the most dreaded gangsters of Uttar Pradesh's Kairana city.
Following a massive crackdown by Shamli district police, more than a dozen alleged criminals have given written submissions to the police that they would never indulge in any lawbreaking activities.
Officials say about 80 gangsters have been arrested while six others were gunned down by local police in less than 10 months.
Such is the terror that several criminals have got their bails cancelled to go back to jail. Even the most-dreaded gangster Mukim Kala has pleaded before the court to keep him chained in prison so that he is not taken out.
Mail Today spoke to about a dozen alleged mobsters in Kairana who are out on bail but they have promised to the police that they would never indulge in any criminal activities.
Some of these men are named in cases of murder, attempt to murder, ransom, extortion, dacoity and supply of illegal weapons.
They said a majority of criminals earlier enjoyed political patronage but in the Yogi Adityanath government, there is no mercy.
"Police is hunting for criminals. Recent encounters in Kairana have terrified us. I have told SP saheb (city SSP) that I will never commit any crime. We won't be spared if we are caught again," Inaam Dhuri, an alleged notorious gangster in Kairana, told Mail Today. Cops say Inaam is involved in over 20 cases of murder, loot and extortion.
Activists have criticised the spate of encounters, but the chief minister said recently that criminals in the state should be answered in a language they understand.
Furqan, who was arrested and later released on bail in a case of illegal weapons, has surrendered. He was captured after police recovered over 200 manufactured pistols and raw material for making another 500 such handguns in the city last year.
Gayyur, who spent over two months in jail in connection with six cases registered against him, has offered to become a police informer.
"Most of the cases against me are false; I have no role in these cases. My brothers were killed by Mukim Kala and I got into the crime world to avenge my brothers' murder. But now, I have promised to quit. Jinda rehna hai to crime chhodna padega (There is no option but to quit crime if you want to be alive)," he said.
Gayyur said he would use his network to tip off the police in future. Some other alleged criminals also vowed to return to their villages and start working there. The city police chief attributes the change to the crackdown launched over the past year. He said with support of the locals, they managed to instill fear in the minds of gangsters.
"Earlier no policeman would dare to enter the villages of these hoodlums. But we gunned them down in their own villages, in their neighbourhood. We killed six criminals in encounters while over 40 sustained bullet injuries. As many as 80 criminals have been arrested in less than a year," said Ajay Pal Sharma, SSP, Shamli.
The crackdown on the organised extortion syndicate started in April last year with an encounter and subsequent arrest of Furqan - whom Sharma described as the first gangster to threaten traders after a change in state government. Furqan apart from Mukim Kala and Vipul Khooni was the most dreaded mobster in Kairana, he said.
Sharma said no gangster was roaming on the streets now.
"Many of them have either surrendered or promised to stay away from crime. A number of criminals, who were released on bail, have got bail cancelled to go back to jail, fearing police encounter. Even the most notorious Mukim Kala has pleaded before court to keep him chained," he said.
Kala, currently lodged in Yamunagar jail in Haryana, has also pleaded that he not be produced in UP courts and if needed, his production in court be made via videoconferencing.
"If I go out of the jail, I will be killed by police," he told the court.