An Elite Band Of Dacoits

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Haryana Police is shamed as seven members of its Special Task Force are arrested for extortion and intimidation, reports Brijesh Pandey

Scandal Arrested Haryana STF members being taken to court
Photo: Sukhjinder Saroha

HARYANA POLICE is unlikely to forget March 15, 2010, in a hurry. Its elite Special Task Force (STF), formed to tackle terror, Naxalism and serious crimes, was disbanded that day and even worse, seven of its members were arrested on charges of extortion and criminal intimidation. The STF chief, Assistant Superintendent of Police Ashok Sheoron, has been detained and is been questioned by Panipat police.

Sheron’s subordinates have been accused of extorting money from BK Malhotra, a jeweller, and stockbroker Rajat Sharma in Panipat on March 11. Five or six people entered Malhotra’s shop that day, posing as vigilance sleuths from Chandigarh. They said he was wanted in several vigilance cases and would be jailed for at least 10 years if he didn’t pay up. “They threatened me with dire consequences if I don’t pay up Rs 10 lakh. I was stunned. My whole world came crashing down. But to get them off my back, I negotiated and finally the amount was reduced to Rs 1 lakh. I told them that it would take me a while to arrange the money. They agreed to return an hour later,” the jeweller said.

Luckily for Malhotra, he had heard of a similar “raid” on Sharma by a team of vigilance sleuths. The stockbroker said the sleuths had threatened to book him for various offences and managed to extort Rs 6 lakh from him. Thus, when one of the sleuths turned up at Malhotra’s shop an hour later, the jeweller knew what to say. He was going to contact local police and would only pay up in front of them, he said. On hearing this, the “sleuth” said he would go back and contact his officer.

Malhotra had little idea at the time that the closed circuit television he had installed to prevent theft in his store would end up putting policemen in the dock instead. When local police arrived at the jewellery store and studied the CCTV footage, it was found that the “sleuth” who had visited the shop was an STF constable, Jasbir Singh. Panipat SSP Rajinder Singh says: “When we saw the CCTV footage, my staff recognised one of the men as an STF constable as he was earlier posted in Panipat.”

The scandal has shaken the corridors of power in Haryana. Rajeev Dalal, the Haryana DGP, says the STF has been made non-operational. There are also reports that SSPs in the state have been asked to take back all the fire-arms and vehicles which had been given to the STF. The Haryana Minister of State for Home, Gopal Kanda, said that a probe has been ordered into the allegations against the seven STF members, who were sent to four days’ police custody.

The STF may have been disbanded but its actions, which could not have been carried out without its chief Sheoron’s knowledge, have tarnished Haryana Police’s image. It will be a while before the current scandal fades from memory.

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