Sex, shoot-outs and supari killings. These seem to belong to the lexicon of the then Bombay’s gangland or the wild west or east of UP and parts of adjoining Bihar. The entre script with its characters, have not just moved to Goa but are doing business, which is flourishing. Many of their rackets are conducted in the garb of massage parlours and hotel businesses but at the core lies drugs, prostitution and real estate businesses, conducted almost entirely by people from North India and the Hindi heartland.
The enormity of this came home to people in Goa on Friday when two sharp shooters were arrested, in a well planned swoop by the Goa Crime Branch, to kill an Anjuna based businessman. The sharp shooters were allegedly hired by the duo of Vipin Singh and Ravikant Yadav, who knew the target, Gajendra Singh, aka Chotu. In the last week of July, Chotu had lodged a complaint that he was being threatened constantly by Yadav and his accomplices to pay Rs 1 crore or he would be killed. Yadav and Singh were apparently former business partners of Gajendra ‘Chotu” Singh. And then they wear other hats too, of running massage parlours which have been raided to expose prostitution rackets.
In July, the Crime Branch had raided the Muska Spa in Porvorim operated by Yadav, Singh and one Alam Shah. Spa manager Ritesh Naik was arrested while the trio, who are the alleged kingpins, were on the run. Their anticipatory bail applications have also been rejected. It is now apparent that going by the early findings of the Crime Branch, after interrogating the sharp shooters who are found with six guns and 26 live rounds of ammunition, and subject to further investigation, that Singh and Yadav planned to kill Chotu and hired the contract killers while they were on the run from the police.
At the same time full disclosure also puts the onus of stating that Gajendra Singh Chotu, the owner of the Mehfil bar and restaurant in Calangute, himself was arrested in a shooting incident that saw former Anjuna panch Surendra Govekar escaping being shot by a bullet in April 2016. Govekar, whose wife was the then panch of Anjuna panchayat, was travelling in his car when around two to three bullets were fired by unidentified bike-borne assailants near St Michael School at Vagator.
Investigations so far revealed that Singh and Govekar were involved in some property dispute that resulted in the attack. Mehfil bar and restaurant has been in the news in the past and the place has been raided by the police a couple of times. Chotu Singh has, however, cried foul saying he was framed in the case. But the shootout did happen.
The recalling of these incidents is mainly an attempt to map the criminal landscape of Goa and look at both the connected, unconnected and interconnected dots, which somehow have come to define the reality of, at the very least, some parts of coastal North Goa.
The reasons are not far to seek. Traditional occupations have given way to massive real estate projects in which non Goans have made investments, mainly as holiday lets. Land and its increasing value has always led to criminalisation in all parts of India, be in Gorakhpur, Meerut, parts of Haryana and Maharashtra. Goa is no different. Moreover the proceeds of the mining loot by fly by night contractors who exported ore of other companies or simply stolen ore, were invested in real estate and high end assets. This saw the entry and rise of builders and fixers who managed to convert and regularise land, by manipulating and bribing the system.
At the same time to cater to the new wave of tourists coming into Goa, the sleaze industry complimented the already existing flourishing drug industry where Goa continues to be the transit point for high end drugs coming from Latin America and Africa for further transport to party capitals in the country. At the same time, Goa is the inward receiving point for drugs from drug producing states like Himachal Pradesh, for export out of the country.
In this scenario can crime, crime syndicates, gang rivalries be out of the picture. It goes with the territory and this is exactly what is happening in Goa.
To tackle this, we don’t only need more personnel and weapons and intelligence gathering. We need a completely different mindset of crime investigation, the likes of which Goa has never seen before. We fortunately have young IPS officers of the calibre to adapt, further train and execute. But let this be said and understood, that Goa needs help from outside the state to understand and meet the challenges of crimes and criminals who have worked in the metropolitan criminal space and are parading their deadly skills in Goa.
The trend of hiring unknown sharp shooters with no criminal record from small towns to arrive, get the target and disappear into their hideouts in remote villages in North India, will be the order of the day in gangland rivalry in Goa too. It is not a day too late to expedite the process to meet these challenges and train and hire personnel across multiple disciplines of intelligence gathering, advanced cyber tracking and monitoring, the key to modern day investigations and prevention, and then actual operations.
This can’t be handled by the existing police force in our police stations. The Anjuna arrests happened because of great tip-offs and good intelligence work of the Crime Branch. But this is not the natural process ingrained into the entire force. And that needs to change. Or else, sharp shooters will indeed complete the jobs they are hired for.