A palatial mansion of Uttar Pradesh’s most wanted fugitive don Badan Singh Baddo was razed by the Meerut Development Authority on Thursday. Baddo carries a bounty of ₹2.5 lakh on his head and is wanted in more than 30 cases of murder, extortion and illegal supply of weapons.
Police teams from four police stations, a battalion of Provincial Armed Constabulary and three dozen officials of the MDA were pressed into service as three bulldozers brought the mansion down. Senior police officers remained at the site to ensure law and order as Baddo had got a temple built just behind his house in the narrow lane that connects his mansion to the plot where the house that his father built stood.
The demolition came after a commissioner court set aside the petition of his sister-in-law, Kuldeep Kaur. While Ms. Kaur contended that she bought the bungalow in 2003, the court said she could not provide any map or documentary evidence to prove her claim.
In November 2020, Meerut Police had attached his movables worth more than ₹1 crore.
Additional SP Krishna Kumar Bishnoi, who was tasked with finding out the illegal properties of the dreaded gangster in the city, said he came to the conclusion within 15 days that Baddo had an illegal house in Punjabipura but the Nagar Nigam and the MDA took time in paperwork.
“We figured out that the house tax that Baddo was claiming to pay for the building was actually for the adjacent plot, 8/9 Beripura, where the house built by his father existed. The mansion was built on 1096 Punjabipura. There’s no record of it with the MDA, Nagar Nigam, and electricity department,” said Mr. Bishnoi, who is serving as a trainee IPS officer in the district. ‘
At the turn of the millennium, officials say, Baddo demolished the house built by his father on the advice of a seer and turned it into a lavish garden where he held his ‘durbar’. The lotus pond, exotic plants and marbled pathways leading to a stage where Baddo allegedly used to sit suggest how he ruled the region under political and bureaucratic patronage.
Nobody could cross the huge iron gate guarded by his sharpshooters and dogs. Inside, there used to be cats and birds said an old-timer, describing Baddo as a man who loved the good life but was pushed into crime when the eldest of his five brothers was shot dead in the neighbourhood.
After interrogating at least 80 individuals, the real breakthrough, Mr. Bishnoi said, came when they found out that Baddo had taken a loan to build this house. “It led us to a chain of papers and the person who sold the land to Baddo. And even though he later gifted it to his sister-in-law, the loan remained in his name,” he said, adding as he had to be very discreet as he knew there were moles of Baddo in every department. “Even when he was on the run, he planted his trusted maid outside the gate to run a tea shop. She would report every movement,” he said.
Akhilesh N. Singh, SP (City) Meerut said this was the first major demolition of an illegal property of a mafia in western U.P. and would send a strong signal to gangsters in the region.
Mr. Bishnoi said Baddo and his cronies were one of the reasons why Meerut could not develop into an industrial hub in the last decade. “They would ask for extortion money from industrialists who were willing to set up industries in the area,” he said.
The neighbours, however, are still in awe of the don. Many of them were suggesting that a phone call would come and the exercise would be postponed. “We don’t know what he did in the outside world, but he was very gentle with us. He touched the feet of the elderly and kept his eyes low while talking to women,” said Om Prakash, an elderly neighbour. “When my son was kidnapped, it was he who brought him without any ransom,” said businessman Suresh Jain. “More than a police chowki, his presence made us feel safe. Many might not express it, but all of us have a tear in the eye,” he said.
Social activist Abhishek Som who approached the Allahabad High Court alleging that Baddo is being provided political and police patronage said that the action had come after the court asked the Meerut Police to submit a report on what action had been taken against the gangster who escaped from police custody in March 2019 from a Meerut hotel.
Interestingly, he said, the criminal is active on social media but the police have not been able to catch him.
He was referring to Baddo’s February 2020 rant against former U.P. DGP and now BJP Rajya Sabha member Brijalal on Facebook where his location was said to be Rotterdam, Netherlands. Police sources feel it could be his way to misguide the police and that he was in India.