New Delhi: A bulletproof BMW, centrally air-conditioned house with CCTV security, Louis Vuitton shoes and imported pistols — the life and crimes of Uttar Pradesh criminal mastermind Badan Singh ‘Baddo’ aren’t far from the world of gang wars and kingpins shown in Bollywood films.
Last week, Baddo — who is currently serving a life sentence for the murder of an advocate in 1996 — escaped the clutches of six police officials while in transit from Fatehgarh Central Jail to a court in Ghaziabad.
What adds to 51-year-old Baddo’s public persona is not the fact that he escaped, but how he managed to do it.
On 28 March, when the police convoy stopped at Mukut Mahal Hotel in Meerut for food, Baddo reportedly managed to get all six police officers drunk, and used the lapse in protocol to flee in a black luxury car with the help of his gang members.
The Uttar Pradesh police later discovered that Mukut Mahal had earlier received financial help from Baddo.
“Badan Singh, an arrested criminal escaped police custody reportedly after throwing a liquor party for police personnel in a hotel,” Akhilesh Narayan Singh, additional superintendent of police, Meerut, told ANI.
“Six police officials and three civilians have been arrested in the case and an investigation is underway,” said Singh.
However, as far as Baddo’s notoriety goes, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Meerut police told ThePrint that the gangster has over 40 other cases lodged against him between multiple states in northern India — ranging from murder, attempted murder and extortion, to owning and supplying illegal weapons, and bank robbery.
“Ask me something he hasn’t done,” Meerut’s Transport Nagar SHO Pramod Gautam tells ThePrint. Several cases against Baddo are registered under the Transport Nagar jurisdiction, where the gangster lives.
“From the very beginning you could tell he was interested in the fine things of life. He was a pleasure seeker with an ego, who would often try to show that he’s a big man in front of his friends,” says Gautam.
Baddo’s persona is a calculated effort to appear sharp, focused and successful. Those who knew him say that he only passed the 8th grade, and had learned 15-20 sentences in English to “make it seem like he spoke the language”.
On his Facebook profile, Baddo projects himself to be a sort of guide for others through a series of stock inspirational pictures, revolving around themes like self-improvement, loyalty, leadership, trust, success and living a good life.
“A good king knows when to save his strength and when to destroy his enemies,” reads one post, while another says, “At this age, I’m only interested in consistency, stability, respect and loyalty.”
Ironically, a picture of bullet shells with a flower growing out of one is captioned, “Life finds a way”.
Through the social media platform, where Baddo chooses to go by the name Badan Sandhu, he presents a picture of a polished businessman. With a perfectly cut beard, thick moustache, tight-fitting expensive tuxedos and a love for reflective sunglasses, Baddo looks nothing like a stereotypical street thug.
Three decades ago, when Badan Singh was introduced to the world of crime, that’s exactly what he was.
Rise of Badan Singh
In the late 1970s, when Baddo’s father Charan Singh migrated from Jalandar, Punjab, to Beripur, Meerut, he needed to make ends meet for his family. Singh began working as a driver of personal cars and commercial trucks, working his way up to start his own transport business.
Baddo, who was the youngest of seven brothers, sought the guidance of his father and eldest sibling Kishan Singh to join the family trade, using the leverage of his transport business to make friends in criminal circles.
Life would prove to be lonely for Baddo, allowing him to mingle unchecked with what Gautam calls “bad company” in Meerut. By the time Baddo was 40 he had lost all six of his brothers.
Kishan Singh, the eldest brother, died about a decade ago in a high-speed collision with a truck as he was driving back from New Delhi to Meerut.
At least three of Baddo’s brothers died at an early age — one from illness, and the other two in accidents.
By the time Baddo was in his twenties in the late 1980s, he was “running with small time crooks in Meerut and smuggling alcohol across the UP border”, Gautam says.
“This was the start of his long descent into the underbelly of not only Meerut, but across UP, Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan, and even Andhra Pradesh, where he would eventually have a bank robbery case registered against him.”
For a Meerut-based journalist, who has been following the criminal trajectory of Badan Singh for two decades now, the turning point in Baddo’s life was when he was recruited by notorious western UP gangster Ravinder Bhura.
“By 1996, when he killed advocate Ravinder Singh, Baddo was already entrenched in major crime networks in western UP. From the alcohol smuggling business he soon graduated to stealing and selling luxury cars on the black market and duping people out of expensive property during dispute settlements,” the journalist tells ThePrint on condition of anonymity.
A significant part of Baddo’s criminal clout came from his alliances with other gangsters in Uttar Pradesh.
After the murder of Ravinder Bhura in 2007, Baddo joined hands with another infamous mobster from Muzaffarnagar, Sushil Mooch — wanted for more than 10 murders in the state.
Interestingly, Mooch surrendered before the chief judicial magistrate of a local court in Muzaffarnagar Saturday — merely two days after Baddo absconded from the police.
However, Baddo’s appetite for crime came to the fore in the first registered murder case against him in 1988 when “he shot a man named Rajkumar in broad daylight in Gudri Bazar Kotwali in Meerut after they had a business disagreement”, SHO Gautam says.
But it was the murder of advocate Ravinder Singh in 1996 that would prove to be Baddo’s undoing.
Murder of Ravinder Singh
Devender Pal Singh still remembers every detail of that day when his brother was shot and killed before his eyes.
Devender’s classmate Pawan Soni, owner of Vijayant Gas Service in Meerut, used to be Badan Singh’s neighbour before moving out of his father’s house. Ravinder, who was visiting Soni’s store one day, got involved in a clash between Badan Singh and Soni, resulting in Ravinder slapping the gangster.
As the dust settled after a while, Soni went to visit his ailing father in Thapar Nagar on 9 August 1996, along with his wife Geetanjali, and the brothers Devender & Ravinder.
“After visiting his father for an hour, when we returned to the parked car, we saw Badan Singh standing there with guns, rifles, double-barrel shot-guns and what looked like an army of 40 people,” Devender tells ThePrint.
At the time, Baddo’s brother Kishan, who was still alive, was present at the scene of the crime.
“Badan Singh manhandled Geetanjali, shot my brother dead and burnt Pawan’s new car on the spot,” Devender recalls.
Devender later filed the case against the two brothers. Kishan died during the trial.
Ever since that day, Devender says he has been “separated from his wife and children and has had to constantly change cities in order to protect himself”.
In 2015, the Ravinder Singh murder case was eventually transferred to an SC/ST court in Greater Noida, where two years later Badan Singh was given life imprisonment on 31 October 2017.
After Baddo’s escape last week, Devender — a lawyer himself who played a pivotal role in bringing the gangster to justice — feels that the history-sheeter is likely to come after him.
“It’s a matter of shame and embarrassment for a criminal kingpin to get jailed,” Devender says.
“I’m living in the constant fear that I could be next on his list.”
Need for ‘recognition’
As of now, though, Meerut police “is doing everything within their capability to track him down”, Akhilesh Narayan Singh tells ThePrint, refusing to divulge more information fearing a tip-off.
Singh adds that Badan Singh is “a very clever criminal” and “would be pleased to find his face splashed across the screens”.
“Publicising his notoriety only helps his business dealings in the future. He wants to be recognised as a big mafia don,” says the cop.