Maharashtra police closes in on gangs looking to gain foothold in Mumbai by targeting Bollywood


OFFICIALS OF the Mumbai Police on Monday visited the residence of actor Salman Khan to discuss security issues. This comes a day after Punjab’s Director General of Police (DGP) Gaurav Yadav said in a press conference that one of the three accused arrested in singer-politician Sidhu Moosewala murder case had conducted reconnaissance of Khan’s residence in Mumbai at the behest of jailed gangster Lawrence Bishnoi.

Over the past few months, the Maharashtra police has taken action against gangs allegedly trying to get a foothold in the state, especially Mumbai, by targeting Bollywood stars and using it to extort money from others.

Two gangs, one bearing allegiance to Bishnoi, currently behind bars for allegedly ordering the hit on Moosewala, and the other linked to Harvinder Singh Rinda, associated with pro-Khalistan outfit Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) and suspected to be based out of Pakistan, have been on the radar of the state police over the past few months.

For decades, Bollywood has been an easy target of gangsters seeking extortion as well as publicity which they used to further terrorise others. However, over the past few years, underworld gangsters notorious for making extortion calls in Mumbai such as Ravi Pujari, Ejaz Lakdawala and Chhota Rajan have been neutralised by the Mumbai Police, majority of them being extradited. Barring a few phone calls from henchmen linked to Dawood Ibrahim, the menace of extortion calls has been considerably reduced which the two gangs presently in question may seek to exploit, sources said.

“These gangsters who are based outside Maharashtra tie up with local musclemen to run their extortion racket here. In order to ensure that they do not get local support in the state, we have started taking action against their local henchmen,” a senior officer from Maharashtra police said.

The officer added that in cases where the police cannot arrest them for any current crime, they have been taking preventive action against the suspects like booking them under Maharashtra Prevention of Dangerous Activities (MPDA) Act or other such acts.

On June 6, nearly a week after Moosewala was shot dead in Punjab’s Mansa district on May 29, a threat letter was found on a bench in Mumbai’s Bandstand Promenade, where Salim Khan, scriptwriter and father of Salman Khan, usually sits after his morning walk. It said: “Salim Khan, Salman Khan Bahot Jald Aapka Mooselwala Hoga GB LB (Salim Khan, Salman Khan, very soon you will meet Moosewala’s fate).”

The two initials – LB and GB — were suspected to refer to Bishnoi and his Canada-based associate, Goldy Brar, who claimed responsibility for Moosewala’s murder on behalf of the Bishnoi gang. While earlier too Bishnoi was alleged to have planned an attack on Khan, the timing of the letter is being viewed by some in the security establishment as an act of exploiting the publicity generated through Moosewala murder to extort from Bollywood personalities.

Sourabh Mahakal, a suspect in the Moosewala case arrested from Pune, had claimed that a prominent filmmaker too was on the radar of Bishnoi’s gang. Maharashtra police then began work on neutralising Pune-based Santosh Jadhav who they saw as a conduit for Bishnoi gang to spread its tentacles in Maharashtra.

An IPS officer said they have arrested around 14 persons in connection with two FIRs registered against Jadhav, alleged to be the local operator of the Bishnoi gang in Maharashtra. Jadhav’s name too first cropped up in the connection with the Moosewala murder case. The Maharashtra police, which had already been looking for Jadhav in connection with a 2021 murder case, arrested him in June.

Following his arrest, the rural police came to know of Jadhav illegally possessing local firearms after an extortion victim lodged an FIR in the regard with Narayangaon police station. Around six months ago, Jadhav had allegedly made an extortion call to the complainant and demanded Rs 50,000 as protection money and had even threatened to gun him down if he failed to pay. Later, in July, the police also invoked MCOCA against Jadhav.

“Jadhav had given us names of around 100 people he was in touch with. We wanted to neutralise the presence of Jadhav’s gang and thus indirectly ensure that Bishnoi gang does not try to establish a presence in Maharashtra. We arrested a few persons and took preventive action against others,” the IPS officer said.

In the second case, the Maharashtra police have taken action henchmen of Rinda who is suspected of carrying out a terror attack at the Nawanshahr Crime Investigating Agency (CIA) building in Punjab on November 8. The police have found the involvement of Rinda in two major cases in the past three years and have taken action against a total of 21 persons linked to him.

An officer said that a total of 15 men linked to Rinda, based out of Nanded and involved in the killing of builder Sanjay Biyani (53) on April 5, have been arrested and charged under stringent sections. Another major case against Rinda dates back to 2019 where his alleged henchmen fired at businessman-cum-politician Govind Kokulwar.

“In his case too, he enjoys a lot of local support in Nanded that we are in the process of neutralising. We have been taking strict action against those he uses to maintain his clout,” an officer from Maharashtra police said.





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