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Who drives Rajasthan’s raging gang wars? Young ‘foot soldiers’ in search of guns, gore, glory

At midnight, two masked men, armed with guns, knocked at the gate of G-club in Jaipur on 28 January. For the next five minutes, at least 17 rounds of gunshots were emptied from the barrels. Before Akshay Gurani, 29, the director of the nightclub, and the guards could react, the shooters vanished into thin air.

But before the men disappeared, they left a note: “This was just a message, if you don’t give one crore, we will kill you.”

For 20 days, Gurani, who also owns Jaipur’s Days Hotel, had been living with a sense of dread.

On 8 January, he received a WhatsApp call and a voice note that sent chills down his spine.

“Rohit Godara speaking. Give Rs 5 crore or lose your life,” the caller had threatened. A few hours later, Gurani’s phone rang again. This time, the caller claimed to be none other than the dreaded North Indian criminal Lawrence Bishnoi himself: “You must have received Rohit Godara’s call. Do what he has asked you to do.”

Bishnoi is in Tihar jail. Godara lives in Europe. But the gang wars of Rajasthan rage on in their name—with a little help from an ever-growing army of self-propelled young men looking for guns, glamour, gore and glory.

“Law and order, law and order,” the opposition party leaders decried after the G-Club shooting. Dreaded gangsters were taking over peaceful Jaipur, screamed news headlines. A high-level meeting was called, and within three days of the firing on 31 January, the Rajasthan police arrested three minors: PC Jat*, Jitu* and Pratap Mishra* from UP’s Agra. Sharp-minded, hardcore criminals—the headlines ran, but this was far from the reality.

At 15, Jitu was barely a school dropout working as a DJ; 16-year-old PC Jat was studying in Class XI to prepare for a government job later.

The two are at the bottom of the gang’s totem pole.

Rajasthan’s gang culture is built like a multi-layered, precariously poised wedding cake. The one at the top is in jail. The number two and number three are not even in India. At the lowest layer are young men and teens who don’t even know who they are working for but want to instil fear in their neighbourhood.

Illustration by Ramandeep Kaur | ThePrint
Illustration by Ramandeep Kaur | ThePrint

It is diffused, and there is no recruitment. It grows on social media, much like the hybrid model of terrorism in Kashmir. PC Jat met Jitu, and the duo then connected with Mishra to go to Jaipur to mount a bold, Bollywood-style act.

The details of the extortion threats made it to the FIR, and sections such as 307 (attempt to murder), 384 and 386 (related to extortion), and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code and the Arms Act were invoked.

Extortion, threatening calls from jails, and occasional shootings are often mounted by the self-motivated ambitions of youth swayed by violence-laden Haryanvi and Rajasthani pop songs. It is the fallout of rising unemployment, rural despair and popular culture that glamorises gun violence.

Also read: ‘Murderer at 17, brutal mafioso’ with stint in Parliament: Atiq Ahmed, a story of crime & heartland politics

The rise of Rohit Godara

Hours after Raju Theth, a dreaded gangster, was gunned down outside his home in Sikar in December 2022, the notorious Godara, originally from Bikaner’s Shekhawati region, took credit for it in a Facebook post.

Police officers say that Theth was gunned down in a tit-for-tat killing by new gangs that wanted to assert their dominance in the extortion and bootlegging rackets of the Shekhawati region.

“This was Godara’s plan. Ever since he claimed credit for this murder, everyone in Rajasthan knows his name,” said a police officer familiar with the case.

A recent presentation by an Additional Director General of Police (Anti-Terrorism Squad and Special Operations Group) Ashok Rathore in Jaipur revealed that of the eight extortion calls made to various local businessmen between 21 to 23 January, six were allegedly from Godara.

“Nobody knew Godara two years ago,” Director General of Police Umesh Mishra said. “He is operating outside of India, and we are trying to locate him and bring him back through various channels. We have written to various central agencies as well,” he added. Senior police officials suspect he fled to Europe. Earlier this month, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) issued a red corner notice against Godara.

Also Read: Silence envelopes Chakia colony in Prayagraj ahead of Atiq Ahmed, brother Ashraf’s burial

Young, unmotivated takers

While Godara is on the run, the lives of Jitu and PC Jat follow a familiar pattern – of broken schooling and impatience with hard work.

Jitu’s parents, Sunita and Narayan, settled in Bikaner some 25 years ago. He was the second among three children. Jitu, who managed to pass Class X with 65 per cent marks, showed no interest in continuing his education. His family arranged for him to move to Delhi and then Dehradun, where he worked as a waiter for a few months.

“Mummy, for every decent job, they ask for a computer diploma,” he told his mother, Sunita. Disillusioned but hunkering for a taste of the high life he consumed on Instagram reels, he took up a job as a DJ for Rs 500 per gig in December 2022. It was around the time his eldest sister got married.

He had hardly worked for 15 days before he was arrested for his alleged involvement in the G-Club firing case.

Jitu’s Instagram reels are a far cry from his financial reality. His 924 followers see a carefully curated world of badmashi songs, revenge shayari and cricketer Hardik Pandya, whose lifestyle he tries to mimic.

“He is being framed. He can’t shoot,” said his mother. This was not the life Sunita and Narayan wanted for their son.

Neither was it what PC Jat’s mother, Suman, had envisioned when she shifted base from Nagaur to Bikaner seven years ago so that her son could have access to a better education and jobs.

“His father got early retirement as he developed mental health issues. I moved to Bikaner so that he could study well and become a government employee,” said Suman, her eyes welling up with tears. Her husband is ill, and PC Jat is their only child.

“Two of his cousin sisters are in the police,” said Suman, who lives in Mukta Prasad colony in Bikaner.

Case number 23 at the Naya Shahar police station, registered on 10 January this year, is where PC Jat’s criminal record starts. Named the main accused in a group fight he was sent to a juvenile home for six days before his mother bailed him out.

But in those six days, PC Jat met Sonu Maratha from Maharashtra. A minor from Pune, he had been recruited by the Lawrence gang, the police claim.

“His [Sonu Maratha’s] only wish in life was to speak to Lawrence, and he would do anything for him,” said Station House Officer Ved Pal. According to the police, Sonu Maratha was tasked by Ashish Bishnoi, a member of the Lawrence Bishnoi gang to threaten a businessman from Bikaner, and extort Rs 50 lakh from him.

“For this, he travelled all the way from Pune, but was arrested and sent to the juvenile home,” said Pal.

In Bikaner, Sonu Maratha allegedly came in contact with one Ritik Boxer through Ashish Bishnoi, who had allegedly instructed him to recruit “fresh faces” for the G-Club task. At least this is what the police suspect. So when PC Jat was sent to the juvenile home in another case, Maratha found an ally.

Before they left for Jaipur, Jitu told his mother that he would return on 31 January. He promised to enrol in a computer course on 1 February because he would have enough money by then.

He took his bike with him.

When PC Jat was arrested in case number 23, his head was shaved. It was what helped Deepak Yadav, cyber cell in-charge at Bikaner police, to identify him while investigating the G Club shooting. His distinctive short hair, which suggested he had done time in a juvenile home, gave him away.

A police team picked up his uncle, a wine shop owner from Bikaner with whom PC Jat and his mother had been residing. Mobile phone records indicate that he had called his uncle three to four times after the shooting, in want of the former’s bank account details.

“Mama, you will receive money,” PC Jat allegedly told his uncle while in hiding. The Rajasthan police tracked Jat, Mishra and Jitu to Agra. Apart from mobile phone records, Jitu’s bike was another breadcrumb trail the team followed.

All three ‘foot soldiers’ await trial in Jaipur’s central jail while their families run from pillar to post to secure bail.

Also Read: ‘Totally reduced to dust’: Atiq Ahmed on his life — from a dreaded gangster to MP, and then in jail

Social media crackdown

But the police aren’t waiting for clues to land in their lap. They know where it all begins and want to strike at the source. As a preventive measure, they also scour through Facebook and Instagram reels of young men in the area.

There are many early warning signals in these posts.

On 17 March, around 8 pm, the police arrived for 19-year-old bike mechanic Nikhil Soni. He had posted a photo of Godara wishing everyone a Hindu Nav Varsh in one of his Instagram stories. Hishandle, with more than 13,000 followers, was on Yadav’s radar.

Soni was picked up under Section 151 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which gives police the power to make preventive arrests without a warrant. The person picked up can be detained for up to 24 hours without orders or warrants from a magistrate.

In a massive crackdown on gangs attempting to recruit youth on social media, the Rajasthan police, since last year, has been profiling people who engage with criminals such as Bishnoi and Godara on Instagram, Facebook and other platforms.

According to a press release by Jaipur police more than 20,000 people, including history sheeters, were arrested and detained in March alone as part of a war against gangsters and gang culture in the state.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Saturday used Rajasthan Police Foundation Day (April 16) to address gang wars, crime and punishment.

“In a democracy, instant justice cannot be the solution. We have to deal with criminals strictly within the rule of law,” he said. He also addressed the assassinations of gangster-turned-politician Atiq Ahmed and his brother Ashraf in UP on 15 April.

“The nation can see what’s happening in UP…it’s easy. Establishing rule of law is difficult.”

Over the last year, more than 250 youths were detained and counselled in Bikaner before being let off with a warning, said a senior police official.

Each gang – even the local ones looking to earn a name – has developed its own language with special hashtags and captions on social media. And they look up to big ganglords for inspiration.

In one photo, Ashish Bishnoi displays the tattoo on his back. It reads ‘Notorious’, but the letter ‘i’ is replaced with a gun. It’s captioned: ‘Behind every successful fortune, there is a crime’.

Ashish Bishnoi flaunting his Notorious tattoo | Jyoti Yadav, ThePrint
Ashish Bishnoi flaunting his Notorious tattoo | Jyoti Yadav, ThePrint

Photos with other gangsters are often posted with captions such as ‘real friends have the same enemies’. Even their district court visits are made into romanticised reels. Others describe themselves as ‘Bajrang Bali’ or ‘Shiv Bhagvan’ devotees in their social-media bios.

 Ashish Bishnoi, Ritik Boxer and others. Photo from Ashish's Instagram handle. | Jyoti Yadav, ThePrint
Ashish Bishnoi, Ritik Boxer and others. Photo from Ashish’s Instagram handle. | Jyoti Yadav, ThePrint

Gang wars sweep across Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab to the beat of new songs glamorising gun culture. Tuition Badmashi ka Centre, a recent hit by singer Masoom Sharma, has grabbed over 5.2 million views on YouTube in just two months of its release. Meanwhile, Rahul Puti and Ashu Twinkal’s Court Mein Goli has acquired 33 million views on the video streaming platform.

The police, in a press release, claimed that their effort has been successful—to an extent. The Monu group from Bikaner now has only 9,189 followers compared to the 36,537 followers it had before the campaign. Similarly, the number of followers on Godara’s handle plummeted from 38,862 to 6,558.

But many are not criminals and lead rather ordinary lives. They are just starry-eyed about the gangsters.

Raised by a single mother, Soni showed no interest in studies.

“After Class V, I left school. One of my uncles got me a job at a jewellery shop. But I moved to the mechanic field. I wish to open my own shop one day,” Soni said, adding that participating in Bajrang Dal Ram Navami processions gives him special joy. He was released after 24 hours but now has to report regularly to the local police station.

Soni’s Instagram life is full of sher-o-shayari and swag. When the cops read his Instagram bio, they realised he is a great Sidhu Moose Wala fan. The rapper had been shot dead, allegedly by members of the Lawrence Bishnoi gang, in Punjab last year.

“We told him that the man [Godara] he is trying to idolise has the blood of his favourite singer on his hands,” one of the cops at Naya Shahar police station said.

As part of the police drive, Mohit Khatri, 27, a B.Com final year student, was picked on 12 March. Police claim he was a member of the Raju Manju gang’s Facebook group and constantly posted in their comments section. Since his ‘encounter’ with the police, he’s made his Facebook page private and has blocked the gangster’s pages and groups.

These are the ones who were temporarily cured of Godara-mania at the early stage itself.

Also read: Atiq Ahmed was shipped out of UP. But this is how he ran his empire from Gujarat jail

‘Behind every fortune, there is a crime’

The footsoldiers do the work and get arrested, but the daddy of dons is still Rohit Godara. His rebellious, bad-boy story is remote-controlling the army of young, loyal troopers who would do anything for him.

His journey from a poor farmer’s son to Rajasthan’s most wanted criminal is straight out of a movie. Born as Rawat Das Swami to farmer Sant Das in Bikaner, Godara now has a bounty of Rs 1 Lakh on his head.

“We used to call him Rawata,” 56-year-old Sant Das recalled while sitting at the Lunkaransar police station, almost 20 kilometres from his village in Bikaner. Thanks to his son’s choices, he often finds himself at police stations.

Sant claims that two superintendents of police have told him over the time: “Forget that you had two sons. Consider him dead.” He sees this as warning that his son will be killed in an encounter if he is brought to India.

But the father says he cut ties with him via a newspaper advertisement in 2013 when Godara was charged with cases of theft and trespassing.

Like the mechanics and DJs who look up to him, Godara’s journey to infamy has a rather innocuous beginning—shop number 47 in Bikaner’s Jain Market, which he rented out to start a mobile repairing shop. He had no interest in studying after class X, said his mother, Gita Devi.

Shop number 47, Jain market. Rohit Godara worked here for a few years before becoming a gangster | Jyoti Yadav, ThePrint
Shop number 47, Jain market. Rohit Godara worked here for a few years before becoming a gangster | Jyoti Yadav, ThePrint

“He was a silent yet sharp man. He had a good knowledge of mobiles. Many of us used to take his help,” said Nirmal Chaudhary, who has been working in the same market since 2006.

This is where he got the first case (assault and attempt to murder) against him on 7 April 2010 in Sadar station. However, he was acquitted a year later.

It was the second case that changed his life forever, claims his family. According to Gita Devi, Godara’s wife, who was pregnant with their first child, suffered a miscarriage and filed a domestic violence and dowry case against him and his father in 2012.

Rohit Godara and his brother as grooms. The marriage happened in 2001.
Rohit Godara and his brother as grooms. The marriage happened in 2001 | Jyoti Yadav, ThePrint

Both father and son were arrested and sent to jail, but the family got the father out on bail. The case is still pending in court.

“His bail was secured by his friends. By now, we are done with his marriage and his behaviour,” said Das.

This marked the beginning of Godara’s rise as a gangster in the region as case after case mounted against him.

Currently, Godara is charged with 29 serious offences under the Arms Act, as well as murder, theft, threat and extortion. He is a history sheeter at Bikaner’s Kalu police station, and his file weighs more than 5 kg.

Rohit Godara is a history sheeter at Kalu Police station in Bikaner. His file has 29 cases against him | Jyoti Yadav, ThePrint
Rohit Godara is a history sheeter at Kalu Police station in Bikaner. His file has 29 cases against him | Jyoti Yadav, ThePrint

His family last saw him on 3 March 2022 when he came along with his ‘friends’ Raju Singh, Teju Mali and Dana Ram.

He stayed overnight.

“I asked him to kill us. He said staying would kill him instead,” said Gita Devi.

Since then, the family has been living in fear of the police and rival gangs.

Whenever a person in plain clothes appears at their gate, the men in the house go into the fields to hide.

But policemen tracking his case say Godara is following Lawrence’s model and wants to make money before being arrested. A police officer from the Shekhawati belt confirms this.

“He will operate out of the jails then, if he has got enough money.”

(*names have been changed to protect the individuals’ identity on account of them being minors.)

(Edited by Zoya Bhatti)

Source: The Print

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