Gangster Raju Theth has been gunned down in Rajasthan's Sikar on Saturday, in an alleged gang-war incident. Theth was killed near his residence in Sikar's Udyog Nagar area in the morning of 3 December. He was in his forties.
Rohit Godara, a prominent member of the Lawrence Bishnoi gang, is said to have taken responsibility for Theth's killing in a purported Facebook post.
The post says, "Raju Theth was killed today. I Rohit Godara, take complete responsibility for the killing. He was involved in the killing of my brother Anand Pal ji and Balbir ji. We have avenged them by killing him (Raju Theth). As far as our other enemies are concerned, we'll meet them soon."
The veracity of the post is still being verified.
The "Anand Palji" and "Balbirji" mentioned in the post are gangster Anandpal Singh and Balbir Banuda, both rivals of Theth. While Banuda was killed by an associate of Theth in 2014, Anandpal Singh was killed in a police encounter in 2017.
If the Facebook post is indeed by Godara, then it would mean that Theth has been killed as a result of a gang rivalry that began about 17 years ago. This gang war began as the result of a friendship gone wrong and engulfed Rajasthan's Shekhawati region for several years.
So who was Raju Theth? How did this gangwar pan out, eventually culminating in his killing?
We will try and answer some of these questions in this article.
How Raju Theth Became a Gangster
Hailing from Sikar, Raju Theth's foray into the world of crime began during his college days, as is the case with many other gangsters in North India. In the mid 1990s, he is said to have been studying in Sikar's SK College when he became friends with Balbir Banuda. Both of them started a business selling milk but soon started selling liquor as well.
In the mid 1990s and early 2000s, Sikar's crime scene was being dominated by Gopal Singh Phogawat, who was earlier a right wing local leader.
Theth, Banuda and the latter's brother-in-law Vijaypal at that time worked under Phogawat's protection.
However, around 2005 there was a massive argument between Theth and Vijaypal apparently because Theth suspected that Vijaypal had been selling their liquor on the side for his personal profit. Matters escalated to such an extent that Theth and his associates killed Vijaypal.
Since the deceased was Banuda's brother-in-law, it led to a bitter split between him and Theth.
Banuda joined hands with Anandpal Singh while Theth remained with Gopal Phogawat. At that time Anandpal Singh and Phogawat had become bitter rivals.
In 2006, Anandpal Singh and Balbir Banuda carried out a dramatic killing of Gopal Phogawat. Banuda himself is said to have shot Phogawat at point blank range. Theth, who was till now at an advantage due to Phogawat and his own clout, now became increasingly vulnerable.
The Killing of Balbir Banuda and Encounter of Anandpal Singh
Around 2012-13, Banuda, Anandpal and Theth all got arrested in quick succession. But their rivalry didn't abate.
In January 2014, Theth was shot at in Sikar jail by an inmate called Subhash Moond, allegedly at Anandpal and Banuda's behest. The attack critically injured Theth but he survived and vowed revenge against Anandpal and Banuda.
Theth retaliated an orchestrated an attack in Bikaner jail on Anandpal and Banuda. Anandpal survived but Banuda was killed in the attack.
It was now Anandpal vs Theth.
This rivalry also assumed a caste dimension. Anandpal Singh, a Ravana Rajput, became a hero for many youngsters in his community after killing Gopal Phogawat. Theth was a Jat and he began gaining popularity among many Jat youngsters due to his rivalry with Anandpal and the fact that he was seen as the person who could avenge Phogawat.
The Theth-associate who killed Banuda, was killed by Anandpal and his men in a dramatic fashion - by being hit repeatedly with bricks.
Anandpal Singh grew close to Lawrence Bishnoi, whose influence was rising at that time in Punjab's gang scene.
Hailing from Fazilka district on the Punjab-Rajasthan border and being originally from Rajasthan, Bishnoi was keen on expanding his footprint in that state as well.
Bishnoi saw Anandpal as an elder brother and also someone who can be his ally in Rajasthan in his attempts to expand his syndicate across different states.
But Anandpal Singh was killed in a police encounter in 2017, an act which led to a Ravana Rajpur backlash against the then Vasundhara Raje government.
Theth meanwhile continued to operate from jail but Anandpal Singh's supporters and allies like Bishnoi suspected him of being involved in the killing as well.
Who is Rohit Godara?
Rohit Godara, who is purported to have 'taken responsibility' for killing Theth, is a member of Lawrence Bishnoi's gang though he has a smaller gang of his own.
Hailing from Bikaner, Rohit Godara is said to be in his late 20s. The first murder case against him was in 2010.
Godara is alleged to have been involved in the killing of Punjab-based history sheeter Manpreet Singh Manna in December 2019. Bishnoi's gang accuse Manna of providing information to he police leading to the encounter of their gang-member Ankit Bhadu. He is also accused of killing a local BJP leader in Sardarshahr.
Godara's name came up in connection with the Sidhu Moose Wala murder case. According to some reports, he is said to have arranged for the vehicle used in the killing, from Rajasthan.
Despite the increasing scrutiny around his activities following Moose Wala's murder, Godara has only become more active. He is said to have threatened a Jaipur-based businessman over WhatsApp, demanding Rs 17 crore 'protection money'. He has been underground since then.