Ghaziabad shootout latest twist in mounting extortion trade

By S.P. Singh, IANS,

Ghaziabad : The shootout at a marriage in Ghaziabad last week, where four people were killed in an attack on a gang leader, was the latest episode in the war for controlling the lucrative racket of extortion from transporters carrying construction material in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh, police sources say.

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With the Nov 18 attack, the war, which now sees younger men trying to muscle into the racket, has claimed the lives of over a dozen people from both sides in less than a decade.

The gang war began in 2002 when Sundar Bhati — who was the actual target of the attack — split from his one-time close associate and district panchayat chairman, Naresh Bhati, over share of the money they extorted from transporters, said the sources.

Sundar Bhati then orchestrated an ambush attack on Naresh Bhati in Meerut district’s Kharkhauda town which was unsuccessful but made them stern enemies. Eventually, Sundar Bhati succeeded in eliminating his rival, Naresh Bhati being shot dead in Ghanghola – the former’s native village – in 2003.

Accused of the murder but freed on bail, Sundar Bhati, who faces over two dozen criminal cases of heinous crimes in different police stations of Greater Noida, Noida, Bulandshahr, Ghaziabad and Faridabad, was operating his independent extortion business in Greater Noida, police say.

According to the sources, lifting of cement bags and iron bars from transporters’ trucks is a flourishing business in the Greater Noida area and one in which Sundar Bhati maintains a monopoly.

Attracted by the profitable “business” allegedly being run under the patronage of some state agencies, realtors and politicians, other criminal elements were also trying to get into it.

One of these was Anil Dujana, who had started posing a serious threat to Sundar Bhati in the area. Intending to take revenge for his maternal uncle’s murder, Naresh Bhati’s nephew Amit Kasana joined hands with Dujana to jointly take on Sundar Bhati.

The Nov 18 attack was the first move of the newly-formed alignment between Dujana and Kasana, said police.

“Amit Kasana is also an active criminal in Greater Noida where he had aligned with a Dujana-based criminal Anil Dujana who maintained a strong enmity with Sundar Bhati,” said Ghaziabad’s Additional Superintendent of Police Amit Verma.

Sundar Bhati was attending the marriage function of his niece Neelam Singh at a guest house in Sahibabad, Ghaziabad, when suddenly a group of men barged in and started firing at him.

Sundar Bhati and his men retaliated, taking the cover of furniture at the venue.

Four people were killed and three injured in the attack.

The Ghaziabad police recovered 30 used cartridges of 9 mm and other prohibited bores from the site and are probing the use of an AK-47 assault rifle.

Police have recovered an arms licence of Sundar Bhati which was found to be fake during the verification process with the issuing authority at Gautam Budh Nagar. A case against 13 people has been registered at Sahibabad police station that includes the name of Sundar Bhati, Amit Kasana and others.

Six people were detained after the attack but police are yet to find any leads.

(S.P. Singh can be contacted at [email protected])