Lawless biker gangs menace India’s Bengaluru while officials look the other way (2024)

Charan Singh’s car was ambushed on a deserted Bengaluru road one night – swarmed by a pack of reckless motorcyclists engaged in a terrifying high-speed chase.

As the bikers manoeuvred dangerously close, one suddenly cut in front of Singh’s vehicle and dropped their bike, apparently trying to provoke a collision. With his three women passengers screaming, Singh had no choice but to run over the bike, narrowly avoiding hitting the riders.

Regrettably, such brazen acts of road intimidation have become all too common for drivers navigating Bengaluru’s streets, especially after dark.

The rise of brazen biker gangs targeting cars and their drivers for extortion has become a major source of concern for residents of India’s Silicon Valley. Social media has been flooded with reports of these harrowing incidents in recent months, underscoring the scale of the problem.

“Our car was registered in another state. This looks like an extortion attempt by an organised gang,” said Singh, who is a human resources professional. “Initially, two people blocked our car, but when it became a chase, others immediately joined.”

Singh filed a complaint at a nearby police station after the incident and authorities quickly apprehended three individuals in connection with the confrontation. According to Singh, the alleged perpetrators boasted of having influential political ties.

“Other neighbours have experienced similar acts. I’ve heard about such unsavoury incidents from friends and colleagues as well,” he said.

Lawless biker gangs menace India’s Bengaluru while officials look the other way (1)

Marketing professional Deepak Jain also found himself the target of an extortion attempt while driving in Bengaluru earlier this month.

“I keep reading about extortion cases in Bengaluru, so when I was forcibly stopped and saw the attacker pick up a coconut shell, I had an intuition,” said Jain, who initially thought it was a road rage incident. “I also noticed another car trying to obstruct my way about 200–300 metres ahead while I was trying to flee the scene.”

“The next day, while returning from the police station, another individual followed me and was recording a video of me and my car,” he said. “All these incidents happening in quick succession feel too coincidental and make me suspect it was more than just random aggression.”

The ordeal left Jain shaken, and he has since grown more vigilant about potential threats from such gangs while driving.

Jain and Singh were able to provide evidence for their cases thanks to dashcam footage stored in their vehicles.

Lawless biker gangs menace India’s Bengaluru while officials look the other way (2)

‘Wild west’ streets

The infrastructure of Bengaluru, population 14 million, has deteriorated over the years. Many of the city’s roads are riddled with potholes, while chronic water shortages and worsening air pollution also plague residents.

Bengaluru ranked as the world’s second-most congested city and India’s most congested in terms of vehicular traffic in a 2022 report by Amsterdam-based location technology firm TomTom.

Civil advocates say the city’s streets are turning into a “wild west”, with rising scams, road rage incidents and other violations.

“Bike gangs and even cars without registration number plates have become a common sight,” said Sandeep Anirudhan, an activist who has founded several non-profit organisations focusing on road safety, sustainability, and water security.

Anirudhan said the gangs could become a major safety risk if they were not kept in check.

“They race around main roads and even narrow residential streets,” he said. “They are easy to spot but then disappear quickly, so residents cannot even get pictures.”

Lawless biker gangs menace India’s Bengaluru while officials look the other way (3)

01:08

Dash cam shows Hong Kong police in wild car chase with illegal driver in Sha Tin

Dash cam shows Hong Kong police in wild car chase with illegal driver in Sha Tin

A lack of coordination among enforcement authorities has emboldened perpetrators, who continue harassing motorists with impunity Anirudhan said, adding added that the criminals even violate traffic laws in plain sight of police vehicles.

“This normalises violations to a point where the state is shown to be impotent in the face of violations,” he said. “This has a very serious negative psychological outcome.”

Official data shows Bengaluru saw 4,000 traffic violations last year. Yet the city only has 5,600 traffic police officers on duty to monitor some 2 million cars and 7.5 million two-wheelers, plus numerous public transport vehicles and autorickshaws.

“The separation of the police force into law and order and traffic has a negative outcome,” Anirudhan said. “Traffic police staffing is limited.”

Lawless biker gangs menace India’s Bengaluru while officials look the other way (4)

When approached by This Week in Asia, Bengaluru police officials from the traffic and crime department deflected responsibility, each pointing to the other as being accountable for violations by biker gangs. Crucially, the officials claimed to lack relevant data on the issue.

Faced with official inaction, residents have taken matters into their own hands, creating online accounts to document traffic violations. One such account, run by the user “3rdEyeDude”, has gained popularity and sparked numerous complaints about hazards on the city’s roads.

The only way to deal with the menace of biker gangs and road rage incidents is a systematic overhaul, Anirudhan says, involving a merger of enforcement units, additional road patrol personnel, public education, and streamlining of vehicle registration.

“We are an IT city in name only,” he said. “In every other way, we are so backward, we should be called the Stone Age city.”

Lawless biker gangs menace India’s Bengaluru while officials look the other way (5)

Lawless biker gangs menace India’s Bengaluru while officials look the other way (2024)

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