Your lost phone could be a Naxal's device by now

The next time you lose your cell, don't be surprised if cops come knocking at your door to ask if you are a Naxal sympathiser because it could very easily have made its way to the red corridors in West Bengal and Jharkhand.

Lately, the energies of the Mumbai police have been diverted to a group of 12 villages in Sahebgunj constituency in northern Jharkhand, from where a lot of migrants make their way to the city. They don't seek jobs, at least not regular ones. Instead, they have been honing their skills at housebreaking, picking pockets, stealing and so on, so they can secure goods to serve Naxals in their state and the neighbouring West Bengal, cops said.

Burrowing holes: The mobile store at Girgaum was looted after the
accused dug a hole (below) through a wall behind the shop

Investigations have revealed that these migrants moonlight as rag pickers and urchins, but come night, they turn into criminals that crawl through the gutters to drill their way into your homes and shops, and steal.
"Since many work as stonecutters in Jharkhand, they have the muscle and the know-how to make holes in walls without making noise," said an official requesting anonymity.

They return to their villages with the hot goods, where almost every villager acts as a fence for Naxals to buy goods.

"Each village has an area of expertise in crime: while some specialise in breaking and entering, others in picking pockets and other offences. Further, whenever a team of Mumbai police visits these villages to nab a suspect, arrests are impossible as the entire village shelters the accused," the official added. 

"Even the sarpanch (village head) gets a cut from the booty. Once, when we reached Raj Mahal village in Sahebganj to arrest an accused, Mustaffa Shaikh, who was involved in housebreaking at Pappilon Digitek located at Girgaum, the sarpanch passed on the information to the accused. And before we could get to him, he fled from his hideout," said Milind Kate, sub-inspector of VP Road police station.

The revelations came after a detailed probe into a series of robberies in south Mumbai, which laid bare a group of housebreakers that has been stealing cell phones, gold jewellery and other electronic goods to sell to Naxalites. It was in tracing them that cops came upon this criminal nexus spanning three states and the anti-state actors, who have together given rise to a thriving underground economy, out of the purview of the law.

Till date, cops have arrested at least 25 contract labourers who have been involved in dozens of cases registered in south Mumbai. Investigations have revealed the accused from these villages are involved in several thefts in cities like Patna, Kolkata, Gandhinagar, Surat, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi and Hyderabad as

Modus operandi
The thugs, who disguise themselves as rag pickers in the day,  first prepare a blueprint of the break-in. They identify and scrutinise targets in areas like LT Marg, VP Road, Pydhonie, MRA Marg, where there are narrow by-lanes. On the pretext of picking up dumped plastic and other junk, they see where the gutters and sewage lines are and from where they can break an entry into the shop or the house.

After dark is when they execute their plan, entering where nobody can � in the filth of the drains � and drill holes and run off with the booty.

It comes easy to them because they have had some practice in the area. Senior Inspector Padmakar Juikar of MRA Marg police station said, "These groups are employed as stonecutters in Jharkhand, so drilling hole in shops is a cakewalk for them. They have specialised in entering shops through sewage lines. Sometimes, they cut grills to make an entry."

Cops have already begun picking up rag pickers to check for criminal backgrounds.

Based on the numerous cases, the police from south Mumbai have compiled a report to be submitted to Maharashtra DGP K Subramanyam, and to be forwarded to the DGP of Jharkhand and the SP of the area.

'All are in on it'
Cops further said that the entire village seems to be in tandem with the accused, as each villager is given a cut from the booty, making arrests impossible.

"In some cases, the accused had even fled Sahebgunj in a boat. They crossed the Ganga to reach Naxal corridors in Madhuban in West Bengal. In such a situation, it becomes difficult to arrest them," said another officer from MRA Marg police station.

The police also learnt that it is difficult to recover the booty from the accused as they sell it to Naxals in Malda in West Bengal.

"Malda is popular as a stolen goods market. The accused sell the stolen goods there and Naxals buy them at relatively higher prices, so it becomes difficult to recover them," Kate added.

12 villages
Mumbai police have zeroed in on at least 12 villages from Sahebganj in Jharkhand, which shelter Mumbai's wanted criminals. With their frequent visits, cops have managed to list these villages under different categories of crime. 

>> Teen Pahad, Lakhempur, Mastangad and Lehmaitola are known for mobile snatching and pick pocketing.
>> Pahadgoan, Dardanga, Udhva, and Raj Mahal for housebreaking.
>> Tahire Tola, Jhumroi Tola, Hassan Tola and South Piharpur for 'opportunists',  who steel and grab when the opportunity presents itself.

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