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Bike-borne snatchers

There has been a spate of petty crime in Delhi-NCR, where mobiles have been snatched from people walking on the street or travelling in rickshaws. The police take little interest

It’s dangerous to walk on the streets of Delhi-NCR even in broad daylight, judging by a spate of snatchings in the national capital. Several journalists, corporate employees and common people have faced the brunt of this crime which has increased rapidly over the last couple of months. In a recent attack on a journalist Joymala Bagchi, the attackers not only snatched her phone but injured her while pulling her out from the auto.

Detailing the incident, Bagchi’s colleague told Patriot, “She was travelling in an auto at around 5:30 pm in CR Park near Pocket 4. Two men on a bike approached her auto. The person driving the bike was wearing a helmet and the other one wasn’t. The boys were in their teens, around 18-19 years. The second guy tried to snatch her mobile and the guy driving the bike tried to pull her bag. But, as she was tightly holding the bag, they couldn’t succeed. In the moment of pull-and-push, Joymala was thrown out of the running auto and was seriously injured. The bikers took away her phone but her bag which contained some shopping valuables was saved. The locals came running to help Joymala and the cops claimed that they reached immediately post the incident.”

Bagchi called up her father from a bystander’s phone and the police admitted her to a nearby hospital. But the police initially denied that any such incident occurred, and after some pressure tactics accepted, “Yes, there has been an incident where a journalist has been injured.” She was admitted to the trauma centre of AIIMS and a police case was registered. She is still in the shock about what happened.

When her colleague met her, the police said that her left arm was badly bruised. She was shifted from a local hospital to the AIIMS trauma centre, and taken to the private ward only at 4 am. Until then, she was in the emergency ward. Police showed her a few photographs and sketches of the suspects but none of them were near to what she had described. There were no CCTV cameras at the place of the incident. She was discharged from AIIMS on September 28 with a plaster on her left leg.

Another journalist Pushkar Banakar of The New Indian Express met the same fate when his phone was snatched while travelling in auto. Pushkar narrates, “I was going from Siri Fort to Jangpura in an auto with some friends. It was around 10 in the morning on September 30, and I was texting one of my friends. Two guys wearing helmets came on a bike. They just snatched the phone and left. I filed an FIR and got a call from the police that they were examining the CCTV footage. Both the bike-borne men would be around 25-27 years old.”

The FIR copy stated “Two bike borne men snatched mobile phone bearing the number 916064… while I was travelling in an auto. They approached on a bike and were wearing helmets. The bike was red and white bearing the number DL 3C 7428.”

As per the data, Delhi has reported a decline in snatching incidents since 2015 but the incidence of crime seems to have increased this year. In 2015, the reported incidents of snatching were 9,896 while in 2016, it was 9,571. During 2017, the reported cases came down to 8,231 and in 2018, snatchings happened in Delhi 6,932 times. Until September 15 this year, 4,516 cases have been reported in comparison with 4,707 with 2018.

Rajasthan Patrika’s journalist Saher Khan was also attacked in Noida near Sector 15 while she was going to her office in the morning of October 26, 2018. Her tale is similar to the other. She was going to office for the morning shift on an e-rickshaw. It was around 8:30 am when two bike-borne men speeding from the left side of the rickshaw came close near Sector 15 Metro station and tried to snatch her phone. “Incidentally, I was holding the phone with a tight grip and the snatchers weren’t successful but, in the meantime, I fell off from the e-rickshaw and wounded my hands and legs,” she recalls. A police chowki of Sector 19, Noida was in the vicinity where the incident took place but no one took immediate action as cops were not around.

Saher adds, “After a complaint was filed, it was found that 2-3 CCTV cameras were around in the incident area but none were working. The copy of the complaint which was handed over to me was neither signed nor stamped by the police. Further, when no action was taken, I tweeted out a complaint and received a response by Noida Police but the case was eventually ignored and was left in oblivion.”

It is clear that police are not taking such incidents seriously despite the fact that the rate of this particular crime is rising. Hemlata, working as Senior Quality Analyst in Tech Mahindra, was also robbed off her phone while walking towards the Sahara Chowk. The guard of an MNC nearby told her, “It keeps happening here, and it’s a routine matter.”

“I was returning from my office at around 8:30 pm. The incident occurred near Sahara Chowk in Noida when two men on a bike, wearing helmet snatched my phone as it was quite dark there. I complained about the incident on this mail id (digcomplaint-up@nic.in) with all the details available at my disposal but no response or reply was received. Such incidents keep happening in this part of the city but no strict action has been taken until now,” said Hemlata.

When Patriot interacted with Tribhuvan Singh, Additional Superintendent of Police, Fatehgarh, he said that these crimes are not committed by hardened criminals but are an effect of unemployment — and for some youngsters, it is a hobby, judging from the fact that most snatchers are in their twenties.

“Snatching incidents are on a rise but still certain precautions would make it tough for the group to commit crime,” says Singh. “One can avoid wearing (gold) chains during morning and evening walks. Walking or jogging in a group lessens any such attack because it’s easy to attack a single man or woman. Then people must also avoid roaming on lonely streets and one must make a loud sound if any incident of snatching takes place; it’s obvious that people are in a state of shock after the incident but shouting can help nab the criminal as locals or onlookers might help.”

Another precaution Singh suggests is about using ATMs. “While exiting a bank or ATM, people should keep their valuables and cash safely in pocket or bag and not carry out this activity outside. It’s quite rare that a person is robbed by snatchers at gunpoint if a big amount is not involved.”

Online FIR facility has been provided to immediately register cases of this nature where snatching or any such incident occur and one wants to file a complaint against unknown persons.

Interestingly, police say those who have decided on a life of crime want to make connections and become a big name in criminal world and to achieve all this, jail is a good place. Most of the accused in snatching cases are habitual offenders, who go to jail, get bail and restart their activities, which eventually forms a never-ending chain.