The fear of Chaddi-Baniyan gang has crossed the city borders and reached the tribal hamlets inside the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP). The people living inside the park say they have seen members of the gang roaming in their hamlets.
When DNA visited tribal hamlets such as Patach Pani and Aakarachi Bhati near Thakur village in Kandivli, the 50-odd houses in these two hamlets were scared of this gang. The rumours making rounds in the city were not the only reason of their fear, but three of the residents claimed to have seen the members of this gang.
“I had gone to answer the natures call behind my hut when I saw two heads in the bushes. It was difficult to see them as it was dark. They were not animals, but had worn only shorts and were carrying a bag at the back and they were walking on their knees,” said Shakuntla Kirtire, a resident of Aakarachi Bhati.
Mangesh Savar claimed to be another eye-witness as he said that two persons jumped from the fence in front of his house and ran after Kirtire screamed for help. Such is the fear among tribals that the residents have decided to patrol the forest area in the night to prevent any attack.
“We are divided into groups and roam around the houses during nights. Many of us now sleep at 6 in the morning,” said Prakash Savar. The women are always accompanied by men holding lathis while they go to fetch water from the nearby pond. Children have been barred from going to school alone. Women going deep inside forest area to collect wood have stopped the work for last three-four days.
“These all are the rumours of the monkey gang. Somebody says something and word spreads without verification. I urge the tribals not to panic. Contact us on 100 immediately, if you find anything unusual,” said RE Pawar, additional commissioner, north region.
Apart from these two hamlets, the men have begun patrolling in Devicha Pada, Kalambacha Ponda, Barik Payri, Dukkarbhuji, Nimbonicha Pada etc. “As the news spread, almost every other hamlet has set its own patrolling groups,” informed Madhu Bombe, another resident from the hamlet.