Bhutanese businessmen who trade across the border are quietly befriending local gang members of Jaigaon and other neighboring Indian towns so that they do not have to face unnecessary hassles while going about their business, especially while importing and exporting materials, according to reliable sources who wanted anonymity for fear of reprisal.
These businessmen maintain a low-key relationship with the groups treating them to food, drinks, and pocket money in order to keep them happy.
The so-called gangs, whom even the Bhutanese fear areunemployed Indian youth mainly between the ages of 20 to 25.
Most are uneducated and school dropouts coming from poor backgrounds. They make small allowances through illegal means.
Jaigaon has just two groups hailing from Jharna and Mache bastis, Rangamati (tea estate) village has about six groups, Dalsingapara and Birpara has more than 10 groups.
Each group has 10 to 15 members who are always headed by the group’s head, known as “Dada”.
The deadliest of these groups come from Rangamati and Dalsingapara.
The groups have a good network among themselves though they don’t have an office of sorts, but meet up in their own hang outs.
They usually carry weapons like Khukri (traditional Nepali dagger), pistols, and chains and make commissions between Nu 200 to 300 from travelling Indian vehicles; they also collect club donations between 2% to 5% when there is transaction of land.
They earn more when they are hired for warning and beating up targeted people at a cost of about Nu 25,000.During elections, the gangs make good commissions by helping in campaigning and influencing voters.
Each groupcan earn between Nu 30,000 to Nu 40,000 but it is during the Panchayat vote that they earn between Nu 100,000 to Nu 200,000.
Their murder charges exceed Nu 200,000 to Nu 300,000. This amount is usually paid by the rich Marwari merchants. According to the sources, it is difficult for the border police to nab these people when they commit a murder as all the eye witnesses fearing a similar fate fail to stand witness against them.
And if in some stray instances the suspect is identified, then he flees.
The suspect hides and keeps a low profile and if arrested he stays in prison usually only for three months, then comes out on bail and the case never ends. One of the sources said that he had not heard of any life imprisonment slapped on these people till date.
However, murder cases have dwindled in recent years. Earlier, around five years back, there used to be one such case a week but now one case emerges in four to five months.
This has been possible with stern action taken by the villagers, one “dada” killing another “dada” and internal group problems. But the formation of new groups has not died out. “If one group fades there is another two, it is not minus but a plus,” said a source.
A notorious group called Kumar Baun gang from Rangmati has disappeared but last heard, a junior group has been formed.