On the evening of 6 April 2015, the Special Cell of Delhi Police received a message from a source. Neeraj Bawana—one of the most wanted men in the capital, sought on more than 40 counts of murder, land grabbing and extortion—was going to be in Kamruddin Nagar in west Delhi at around midnight, and then head to Bawana, his hometown on Delhi’s north-west border. A press release that was circulated by the Special Cell on the day of his arrest said that Bawana was going home to visit his family. A senior official from the Cell told me that that Bawana often undertook these trips, and that they were important to keep his extortion racket running.
Police forces across the National Capital Region, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand—all areas where Bawana acted prominently—have been scrambling to catch him for over two years now. Even though 35 members of his gang were arrested in the past year, Bawana remained elusive. Barely educated but a quick learner, he had, according to the senior official I spoke to, picked up pointers from other criminals he had met during earlier stints in jail. He disguised himself when communicating online or over the phone, and changed vehicles often. When the police thought he was in one state, he was actually in another. More than a dozen operations to catch Bawana had failed.
But on the night he was arrested, the Special Cell had concrete information. Bawana, they knew, would be in a white Hyundai Verna with a registration number that ended in 4386. Quickly, a team of specialists was formed and equipped, and rushed to Rohtak Road, a long stretch of road which Bawana would have to cross. They laid a trap, and he fell into it. At 3.45 am, the king of the Delhi underworld was put in handcuffs.