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Snatching to sextortion – Covid and curfews didn’t make crime go away in 2021

Covid could hardly have an impact on crimes and the extent of brutality in 2021 – from a conman’s Bollywood connection to a Burari-like murder.

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A devastating second wave of Covid and night curfews for months across cities in 2021 didn’t make crimes go away. From snatching bids leading to murder, three men burning the body of a Dalit rape victim, to the decapitated body of a Muslim youth who dared to love a Hindu woman — Covid hardly had any impact on crimes and the extent of brutality in 2021. Dowry death, hate crimes, rape, rioting and violence — all grabbed headlines. In the case of cybercrimes, ‘sextortion’ occupied centre stage with men over the age of 40 being lured into paying for explicit video calls.

Here are 10 that grabbed headlines.

Snatching in Delhi

India’s capital doesn’t have a law against snatchers, which has probably led to immunity for most offenders, so much so that a gold chain was worth the life of a 25-year-old woman — Simran Kaur in Adarsh Nagar.

Even though the need for a separate law for snatching has been doing the rounds for some time now, it hasn’t materialised. In a recent press conference, Delhi Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana said that the police was deliberating about it. As of now, a snatching accused is charged under two IPC sections — 379 (theft) and 356 (use of criminal force) and maximum punishment is three years.

States like Haryana, however, amended existing laws to deal with snatching and made it a non-bailable offence. But it’s a distant dream for Delhi – even with Covid-induced lockdowns, 2021 saw 7,504 snatching cases till 31 October.

Also read: Lesson from 2021 is that TV news sees a lot ‘ulta’ — Covid, Bengal election, farmers’ protest

Dalit minor raped and burned

The tough POCSO Act was brought in to punish those who sexually assault minors, but it is debatable if it has led to any difference in reality. Now, many rapists resort to burning the body in order to get rid of the evidence. Without a forensic and autopsy report, the probe can only stick to eye-witness statements.

In August this year, a nine-year-old Dalit girl in Delhi Cantonment area was allegedly gang-raped and then burnt inside a crematorium by a priest and his three associates.

Initially, the accused had claimed that the girl died from electrocution when she had gone to fill water from the crematorium’s water cooler. The priest, ThePrint had reported at that time, manipulated the mother into hurriedly cremating her. The police filed a chargesheet and the case is currently under trial.

People protest against the gangrape and murder of a 9-year-old Dalit girl who was 'forcibly cremated' by the accused, in Delhi on 3 August 2021 | Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint
People protest against the gangrape and murder of a 9-year-old Dalit girl who was ‘forcibly cremated’ by the accused, in Delhi on 3 August 2021 | Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint

Dombivli serial rape

15-year-old girl in Maharashtra’s Dombivli was allegedly raped by 33 people at different places in Thane from January to September 2021.

The minor, according to the state police, knew the main accused since 2014. He would film the rape and blackmail her with it. The tragic crime was like a vicious circle, which continued for months. The girl would be called to different locations, and the men would take turns to rape and blackmail her with the new videos.

The girl finally confided to her aunt on her birthday, who then laid a trap to catch the accused but things turned all the more tragic when the girl ended up being sexually assaulted all over again.

Thane Police has arrested all 33 accused.

Also read: Horse, Persian cats, gifts worth Rs 10 cr: How ‘conman’ got Jacqueline Fernandez in ED trouble

Bollywood and business from jail

Criminals running scams from inside jail premises grabbed several headlines in 2021 – most notably, conman Sukesh Chandrashekhar and ex-Unitech promoters Sanjay and Ajay Chandra.

The Chandras, who are behind bars for cheating homebuyers and money laundering, were operating a secret office in South Delhi and conducting business from inside Tihar walls. Their life in jail included exclusive access to an official landline phone for “unhindered private conversations,” money dealings, outside food, unlimited time outside the prison cell, regular exchange of pen drives, business documents and flow of cash from inside the prison, ThePrint had earlier reported. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) said that the jail officials were complicit in the crime.

When the matter reached the Supreme Court, the bench ordered the Unitech brothers to be shifted out of Delhi’s Tihar Jail to Mumbai.

Conman Sukesh Chandrashekhar’s case hit the headlines when Bollywood actresses Nora Fatehi and Jacqueline Fernandes were questioned about the extravagant gifts they received from him, including a BMW, Persian cats and a horse. Chandrashekhar was running an extortion racket from prison and was aided by senior jail staff.

Actor Jacqueline Fernandez appears before Enforcement Directorate Wednesday | Photo: ANI
Actor Jacqueline Fernandez appears before Enforcement Directorate Wednesday | Photo: ANI

Dowry death in Sabarmati

Ahmedabad resident Ayesha Banu’s heart-wrenching video message just before killing herself is a reminder that dowry is still a lingering social evil. In the February video, the 23-year-old said she was being harassed by her husband. Three days later, she jumped into the Sabarmati river.

She had earlier registered a dowry case against her in-laws and husband. ‘Go die and send me a video of your death,’ he had allegedly told her.

Her husband now faces abetment to suicide and domestic violence cases.

Also read: Yogi Adityanath said ‘gunda raj’ over and people bought it. But UP crime still the worst

Sextortion gangs

Sextortion, earlier a seemingly uncommon term, has now gained notoriety and is giving investigative agencies a hard time. A Rajasthan man and his cousins allegedly fleeced over Rs 30 lakh from more than 300 victims. Police sources say that while the modus operandi remains the same, probe and conviction in these cases are difficult as complainants often back out due to social stigma. The soft targets are men, often in their 40s, and include doctors, businessmen, people with political backgrounds and even cops themselves.

A Burari-like case

In a chilling reminder of the 2018 Burari case, a Haryana man allegedly fed his family — wife and four children — sleeping pills and then hacked them to death with a Roomba. He then wrote an 11-page suicide letter about how he wanted moksh and killed himself by standing in the middle of the main road, this December.

Images of the crime scene showed the brutality with which his wife, two teenage daughters and 11-year-old son were beaten to death with an iron rod. The case also exposes the mental health gap in rural India.

The Verma house in Nangthala village, Hisar | Photo: Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint
The Verma house in Nangthala village, Hisar | Photo: Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint

Death for interfaith love

Hindu-Muslim love has led to more and more bloodshed. Last year, the Uttar Pradesh anti-conversion law, or ‘love-jihad’ law, as coined by Hindu fundamentalists, garnered national attention.

Arbaz Aftab Mullah’s mutilated body, head separate from the torso, was found on railway tracks in Belagavi’s Khanapur. He was killed allegedly by Hindu extremists hired by his Hindu girlfriend’s parents in October.

Belagavi Police had arrested 10 persons in the case.

Also read: Lakhbir Singh’s lynching is the ‘irrational religiosity’ that Gandhi warned against in 1925

Sacrilege killings

Alleged ‘sacrilege’ incidents leading to mob-lynching/murder also grabbed headlines in 2021.

At the farmers’ protest site in Singhu, a Dalit man named Lakhbir Singh’s hand was chopped and his body tied to an iron barricade because he allegedly attempted to steal and disrespect the Sarbloh Granth. Viral videos purportedly show some Nihang Sikhs and others questioning Singh. In the months that followed, there have been similar cases in Punjab.

The site at Singhu border where Lakhbir Singh was hanged from a barrier | Praveen Jain | ThePrint
The site at Singhu border where Lakhbir Singh was hanged from a barrier | Praveen Jain | ThePrint

Dalit man killed for ‘eating with upper castes’

There have been multiple cases of Dalit atrocities in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Haryana – so many that they usually don’t become big headlines. In some cases, Dalit men have been forced to drink urine as well.

In December this year, a 45-year-old Dalit man was killed in Uttarakhand’s Champawat district for ‘eating with upper-caste people’ at a wedding.

Lakhimpur Kheri deaths

The Lakhimpur Kheri violence in October rocked India after protesting farmers were run over by a convoy of SUVs of BJP workers. Eight people were killed in the violence that erupted later, including a journalist.

While the SIT formed to probe the matter has called it a ‘pre-planned’ conspiracy, the UP government announced compensation for the families of the deceased. Ashish Mishra, son of Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra Teni, who was allegedly a part of that convoy, along with 13 others have been booked for murder.

A vehicle set ablaze at Lakhimpur Kheri during the 3 October violence | ANI photo
A vehicle set ablaze at Lakhimpur Kheri during the 3 October violence | ANI photo

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