Bengaluru-based Sumith* was on his way to work as usual on August 26 when he heard a sound on the left side of his car. “I was pretty sure that it was just someone’s hand hitting the back of the car,” he recounts. “I looked in the rear-view mirror. I saw two men on a scooter, who had stopped but not fallen off,” he adds. Thinking nothing of it, he continued to drive.
However, soon the duo on the scooter chased him down. “They started shouting at me, and said one of them was in a lot of pain because he had broken his hand from hitting my car. They said he had to be taken to a hospital,” Sumith says.
Thought Sumith did not think his vehicle had collided with theirs, he agreed to take the apparently injured man to a hospital. The latter sat in the car with Sumith, while his friend followed them on the scooter. The man in the car did not tell Sumith which hospital they were going to, and just kept giving directions. “He kept using abusive language at me, and also asked for Rs 13,000, which I refused,” Sumith alleges.
Things only got more ominous after this. While driving through Jayanagar, the man in Sumith’s car allegedly kept referring to the area as his “adda”, and saying that his brother was the right-hand man of a senior political leader. He allegedly also snatched Sumith’s mobile, threatened him and that he would damage his car, and tried taking the car keys.
Finally, Sumith said he had very little money with him; and was allegedly made to go to an ATM. Sumith was allowed to leave after he agreed to pay a negotiated sum.
Sumith* decided to share his experience on a WhatsApp group of local residents, which is when Arvind* who is a part of the group said something eerily similar had happened to him near Koramangala in July.
Another similar incident
56-year-old Arvind was returning home the evening of July 15 when he too heard a bump on the left side of his car, “like someone had hit the car with their hand,” he tells TNM. “I looked behind me, there were two people on a scooter. I was sure I had not hit them. It seemed like the bike was still in the process of falling, but the rider had gotten off and was already walking towards my car.”
What ensued was very similar to Sumith’s case. The pillion rider, who claimed to be injured, insisted that they go to a nameless hospital of his choice rather than the one nearby. He got into Arvind’s car, then went on to threaten Arvind.
“The guy who followed us on the two-wheeler told me at one point that if I did not want to get in trouble, I should give them Rs 3 lakh, because the injured man was connected politically,” Arvind narrates.
Arvind ended up paying the men close to Rs 1 lakh. The men allegedly made Arvind go to an ATM and withdraw money. However, due to Rs 40,000 limit on withdrawal, they made him transfer some amount using UPI to another account, and some more amount through UPI to a security guard near the ATM.
Then, they made Arvind delete the apps from his phone.
“I feel stupid having given that much money now. But I just felt guilty that I had caused someone injury,” Arvind says. He did not consider the possibility that it may have been a scam until he came to know about what happened with Sumith.
Manohar Rao, who is part of the WhatsApp group, posted the conversation on his blog praja.in. Another woman who recounted a similar incident during this conversation was Neeta*. It happened to her around a year ago near Agara Lake. “I think something did happen to him, because there were some bruises on his arm. But I don’t know if it was there from before. I think if I had hit him with my car, I would have felt it too,” Neeta tells TNM.
She ended up taking the man to the doctor, paying for some preliminary treatment, and also giving him a few thousand rupees to repair his scooter that was apparently damaged. However two days later, he ended up finding out her address from the RTO and landed up at her residence to demand more money.
It was Manohar, who ended up speaking to the man, and said that they should go to the police if he wanted more money. After that, the man decided to leave. "The fact that he managed to get my details from the RTO and came here was very scary,” Neeta says.
Police say they can’t do anything without complaint
Neither Neeta nor Arvind nor Sumith filed a police complaint for fear of backlash from the men who took the money from them. The fact that the man from Neeta’s case ended up finding her address also made them worried about their safety and that of their families.
As to whether it’s could be an organised crime, police is not so sure.
Both DCP South East Isha Pant and DCP South Roopali Katoch Sepat, under whose jurisdictions Koramangala and Lalbagh respectively fall, told TNM that they have not received complaints about such kind of extortions on the pretext of injury caused in a road accident.
Both of them encouraged the victims to come forward and file a complaint with the police. “Without an FIR, we can’t cannot really proceed against such persons,” the police officials said.