KERALA

Fight against organised crime on

G. Anand

Gang wars had triggered a sense of insecurity

`Arrest of `Karate' Suresh a major step'The gang leader is an accused in over 19 cases

Thiruvananthapuram: The city police are viewing the arrest of `Karate' Suresh on Wednesday as a step forward in the fight against organised crime.

The 30-year-old alleged gang leader is accused in over 19 cases, including two gangland killings. He was high on the wanted list of the police for the past one year. Suresh was arrested in connection with the gangland killing of his friend-turned-foe, `Aprani' Krishnakumar, on the National Highway bypass at Chakka this February.

Suresh had gone underground after the murder of `Changidi' Vinod, a rival gang member, at Kazhakuttom in January 2006. Gangsters in Vanchiyoor, Sreekanteswaram and Palkulangara harboured him. The police said rich students and businessmen in Mysore and Bangalore also hosted Suresh.

The police believe that a businessman involved in real estate development, de-silting of canals and wetland reclamation, instigated Krishnakumar's murder. The police said Krishnakumar, who profited from extortion and muscle-for-money operations, had demanded a share of the businessman's profits.

The tit-for-tat violence involving Kazhakuttom-based gangs had claimed at least three lives in the past one-year. Several others were injured in revenge attacks carried out by hit squads wielding swords and country-made bombs. The inter-gang violence that spiralled out of control had triggered a sense of insecurity among residents and traders.

The armed gangs had also taken over the operations of several rent-a-car agencies that provide vehicles to Technopark-based firms. Some of the chauffeurs working for these agencies are history sheeters. According to the police, most of them do not have identity cards. Few firms bother to check the antecedents of such employees with the police.

A section of the security guards on the campus are afraid of the drivers because of their links with local gangs. A youth accused in two gangland murders had worked briefly for a Technopark firm.

Even builders developing sites inside the Government-owned Technopark campus have had to pay protection money to gangsters to prevent pilferage of construction material, disruption of work schedules and harassment of labourers, a Kerala Builders' Association member said.

The police said 36 of the 136 persons categorised as `violent and habitual criminals' in the rural district operated from Kazhakuttom.

The gangs had cleverly turned the aggressive rivalry between two local politicians to their advantage by striking opportunistic alliances with them and posing as their political supporters. They also profited from interfering in civil and monetary disputes. The gangs had attacked police officers several times in the past years.