The gang of thieves, dressed mostly in their underwear, earning them the quirky sobriquet ‘kachcha baniyan gang’, would strike on moonless nights, robbing posh homes and killing their inmates in their sleep.
It was the early 1990s, and the pressure to nab them was tremendous, recalls former Delhi Police commissioner Neeraj Kumar whose book forms the basis of season two of the Netflix show “Delhi Crime”.
At the time, Kumar was deputy commissioner of police (DCP) in south Delhi.
"During 1990 and 1991, there were a spate of house dacoities with murder in which people would break into homes and kill every inmate in their sleep. Then they would ransack the house in peace and take away all the valuables," Kumar told PTI
“It took us three months to nab the culprits. Since then, no such crimes have taken place in Delhi," Kumar added.
As interest in the operations of the gang, whose members police said belonged to an erstwhile criminal tribe, rekindles with the “Delhi Crime 2” which dropped on Netflix on Friday, Kumar recapped the modus operandi of the criminals and the investigation that led to their capture.
The primary aim was to loot, he said. But the members would also go on to kill residents using a sickle-like blunt weapon called 'daulatiya', Kumar, the author of “Khaki Files”, said.
If chased by the police, the fleeing criminals would throw stones and escape under the cover of darkness, a tactic that also earned them the moniker of 'moon gazer’, the title of a chapter in his 2019 book.
Usually sighted in their undergarments, they were commonly referred to as the 'kachcha-baniyan' gang in police circles as well as in the media.
One such incident – where a mother and son were killed -- took place in an apartment in the residential quarter of Mausam Bhawan, headquarters of the India Meteorological Department in central Dehi’s Lodhi Road locality. The woman’s daughter, though injured, survived as she played dead.
A robbery when Kumar was DCP Northeast led to the arrest of a man and police found he belonged to the Pardhi tribe. “We worked on the assumption that the 'kachcha-baniyan' gang are also Pardhis, an erstwhile criminal tribe who come from Guna," said the 1976-batch IPS officer.
He recounted that he sent a police party to Guna in Madhya Pradesh. The team travelled across villages to study the MO and customs of the tribe and came back with a lot of information.
"An important piece of information that emerged was that they used a certain kind of weapon for offence called 'daulatiya', literally meaning for something to earn 'daulat' (wealth) with. It looks like a sickle but is made of wrought iron. It's a blunt object which they use to break open the homes and also bludgeon people," he explained.
Recounting the events leading to the unravelling of the gang and the solving of 13 cases, he said a police patrolling party caught hold of two men, one of whom was carrying a 'daulatiya'.
After a lengthy interrogation, they disclosed the location of their associates who were hiding somewhere in Faridabad, Haryana.
"We sent a police party and got all of them arrested. When they were interrogated, we managed to solve almost 13 cases similar cases involving house robberies and murder.
He explained why he titled the chapter on the gang “Moon Gazer”.
"It is named so because these people used to operate on dark nights when the moon is down. I would be so worried about dark nights that I'd deploy special patrolling to prevent crimes. So, in a manner, I had also become a moon gazer."
Filmmaker Richie Mehta, who directed the first chapter of International Emmy award-winning "Delhi Crime", is attached as the creator of season two, which is directed and showrun by Tanuj Chopra.
Kumar, who headed the Delhi Police when Nirbhaya was gangraped and murdered in 2012, was also associated with "Delhi Crime" part one.
The first season, which premiered in 2019, followed the 2012 case of the gangrape and murder of the physiotherapy intern, who was assaulted on a cold December night in a moving bus by six men and died of her grievous injuries 13 days later in a Singapore hospital.
That season was based on a chapter called 'A Night of Shame' from Kumar's "Khaki Files".
"Netflix and the production houses had bought the rights to the story from me back when the first season of 'Delhi Crime' was being shot. The book had not been published then but they had seen the monographs that I had written. There was a commitment that they will use this material for season two," he added.
"Delhi Crime" season two stars Shefali Shah, Rasika Dugal, Rajesh Tailang, Adil Hussain, Anurag Arora, Yashaswini Dayama, Sidharth Bhardwaj, Gopal Dutt, Denzil Smith, Tillotama Shome, Jatin Goswami, Vyom Yadav and Ankit Sharma.
[With Inputs From PTI]