Kalpetta: The roads branching out of Kerala from Wayanad district pass through desolate, forest stretches before entering human settlements in Karnataka. Motorists on this stretch are prone to attack by not only wild animals but also by thugs who employ various tactics to trap and rob. Highway robbers have become active once again along the Bengaluru–Mysuru highway, thus instilling fear among night travellers. Their latest victim is N Usman, hailing from Naikkatti, near Sultan Bathery, in Wayanad.
Usman was attacked by the robbers by around 1 a.m., the other day, after they stopped his lorry between Ramnagar and Bidji on the Bengaluru-Mysuru highway. He was badly beaten up with the jack lever by the robbers who took away Rs. 35,000, vehicle documents and mobile phone.
In bike and auto
The Bengaluru–Mysuru highway is notorious for robbery. The highwaymen roam around on bikes or autorickshaws. Two years ago, an armed gang waylaid a KSRTC bus in broad day light at Channapatana in Karnataka's Ramanagara district, and robbed passengers. In last March, a private bus that was plying from Bengaluru to Payyannur in Kannur was also robbed. A group of businessmen belonging to Kenichira in Wayanad were also robbed recently as they were going to Bengaluru for trade purposes. In another incident, a gang who appeared in the guise of Vigilance officials, extorted money from a man hailing from Bathery at midnight.
Even college students
Even college students are active members of many Karnataka-based robbery gangs. Last month, a four-member team including some B.Com students were nabbed in Bengaluru, armed with 1 kg of chily powder, weapons and masks. Another favourite mode of robbery is to make small kids wave for the vehicles in lonely stretches of the highway.
The guise of traders
The latest ruse of the robbers seems to assume the guise of innocent fruit sellers, displaying announcements giving extra discounts, points out the Police. The boards flaunting the prices which will be very low compared to that of Kerala will be piled up on the makeshift tables carrying the fruits. It is always safer not to fall for these ‘discount’ boards appearing along the deserted parts of the highways. The robbers can also appear behind the traders and fruit sellers.
Pursuing on bikes
The robbers have a few tricks up their sleeves to trap even the riders of two-wheelers or small cars who speed away, refusing to stop. Following the smaller vehicles in large cars, with the headlight continuously switched on and off is one of their tricks. If drivers of small vehicles slow down, thinking that the other driver wants to overtake, then robbers find it easy to spread chilly powder or to block the vehicle. A group of youngsters were robbed in this manner along the Mysuru-Bengaluru highway in May 2016.
The robbers have many tricks up their sleeves to con motorists.
One of the gang members would cross the road after signalling to vehicles coming from both sides. In between, he would have managed to splatter some oil on the grill of the car, without letting the driver notice. Soon, other members of the gang, who would follow the car on bikes, would point out the ‘oil leak.’ The moment the driver would stop the vehicle to check on the leak, the gang would pounce upon him and rob everything in one's possession.
Some gangs use women members to wave at the vehicles from the road side. When the drivers stop or slow down, offering a lift for the lonely lady, the gang members would surge out. The women gangsters can also get into car, then threaten the driver.
Another ploy is to spread chilly powder at the vehicles that may slow down at the humps in the forest roads, or on seeing wild animals. Throwing eggs to the front glass of speeding vehicles is another trick. But the most popular one is to throw spikes on to the road so as so rupture the tire.
For your attention
Never stop the vehicles in deserted corners, or shrubs or deserted open spaces.
Travel close to larger vehicles as much as possible.
Remember that the gangs can also lie in wait around the ATMs in deserted places.
Never stop the vehicles when you do not find anything wrong with it, even if people point out some trouble, from outside.
Stop the vehicles only on reaching restaurants or petrol pumps.
Be alert on these routes/areas
Mandya, Ramnagar, Hassan, Davangare, Chickamagaluru.
Usman narrates his ordeal
I’d started from Bengaluru by around 11 p.m. with the loaded vehicle. Since the cleaner could not turn up, I had to start all by myself. I had Rs. 2,000 in my shirt pockets, and a borrowed Rs. 34,000 in the pocket of the pants. I reached Bidji, near Ramnagar, within one and a half hour. It was around 12.30 a.m.. I’d to stop the lorry by the wayside for relieving myself. On returning to the lorry, I found a black autorickshaw lying across my lorry. As I reached nearer, one of the four people in it asked for water. When I told them that water was over, they replied that they needed only some to pour into their vehicle’s radiator.
As I felt something was amiss, I climbed into the seat of the lorry quickly. But, the gang who had got down from the autorickshaw by that time, did not allow me to shut the door. They started beating me up using an iron rod, asking for my mobile phone. They grabbed Rs. 2,000 that was in my pocket. They were talking mostly in Kannada. In between, I took out the money that was kept in the pants and dropped it on the floor below the seat, fearing that they may catch hold of it. As the gang noted my action, they beat up my palm with the iron lever, leading to severe bleeding. They took away all documents and the money and fled.
Getting down somehow, I waved for many vehicles, but none of them stopped. Finally, I had to drive for around 10 kilometers with the injured hand, stopping at the first restaurant on the way. The people there helped to take me to the hospital, the police also arrived by them. In between, the local youngsters were able to capture one of the assailants as well as the autorickshaw they had used, handing over both to the police. Rs. 12,350 could also be recovered from the nabbed person.
The next day also, I spent in Bidji, at the hospital and following up the police case. It is learnt that two others were also nabbed later. I’ve been asked to report at the Bidji Police Station for identifying the robbers.