Ghaziabad, Aug 14: Police investigation into the attempted assassination of a BJP leader has revealed that AK-47 assault rifles -- or similar weapons -- are available for hire in Uttar Pradesh.
The problem is clearly more acute in western Uttar Pradesh, a traditional crime belt bordering Delhi.
Police officers probing the attack on Bharatiya Janata Party leader Brijpal Teotia say criminal gangs in the region are also into "sub-contracted killings" -- in a bid to derail investigations.
"A rough estimate is that over a dozen gangs possess weapons like AK-47s," one officer said.
These gangs include those led by the notorious Anil Dujana, Sushil Moonchh, Sunder Bhati, Dharmendra Kirthal, Udham Karnawal, Yogesh Bhadora and Mukeem Kala.
They are said to possess more than one assault rifle and other automatic weapons. When needed, the gangs buy or rent more.
The modern weapons these gangs possess are easily available along Uttar Pradesh's porous border with Nepal. The weapons are smuggled from China via Nepal.
"All these gangs are now under police radar to ensure that they lose their weapons," the officer told IANS.
The cost of hiring an AK-47 is Rs 2 to 3 lakh. If the weapon is lost, the deposit is forfeited.
If the weapon is returned, a "rent" of Rs 50,000-60,000 is deducted per weapon.
The weapons are also available for outright purchase, revealed another police source.
At times, two gangs get together to carry out a hit, police sources say. A "supari contract" -- to kill a target -- is occasionally sub-contracted.
"New entrants are hired on daily wages," a source said, explaining how the killer gangs operate.
Dujana, whose crime history includes over three dozen cases of extortion, loot and contract killing, operates from Banda jail. His operational area is Noida and Greater Noida.
Bhati, who is on bail, is active in Loni area. He faces over 35 cases of killing and robbery.
Kirthal, who operates in Meerut and Baghpat, is now in Meerut jail. His specialised field is contract killing and robbery.
Karnawal is another criminal from Meerut who is notorious for contract killing. He has 40 cases of murder and robbery. He too is now jailed in Meerut.
Bhadora, accused of extortion and contract killing, is also lodged in Meerut jail. He has over 55 criminal cases registered in Meerut, Baghpat and Ghaziabad districts.
Kala operates in Muzaffarnagar, Bijnore and Shamli. He is caught up in over 60 criminal cases of extortion and contract killing.
Moonchh, out on bail, lives in his village in Muzaffarnagar and is known to enjoy political patronage.
Teotia, 54, was seriously injured when AK-47 wielding assailants fired at his vehicle off National Highway-58 last week.
Police put the number of attackers at four and said they also used 9 mm pistols. Teotia survived the attack but was injured, as were his guards. He is still in hospital.