Underworld lurks under dim city lights Vinay Madhav | TNN
Bangalore: IT City is not just about software, malls, brat packs and bright city lights. In the dimmer galis and congested market areas, lives another world, armed, dangerous but silent. It has always been there, in those narrow lanes, where battles are fought for supremacy over turf.
As the city sped on to the fast lane, the character of the underworld changed too. Gangsters still brandish swords and longs at each other, and fiercely guard their business of ‘real estate’. Many have graduated to firearms, though fortunately, the gun culture is not prevalent. Neither do they trouble ordinary people. In their world, momentary glory and inevitable death are hard realities. But what’s missing is a don who controls all of Bangalore.
These ganglords live by the sword and suspicion — there are bloody wars, hot chases by the police, they are in and out of jails, and their job is to plot and make money. But once they are sucked into the system, it is tough to get out. Individuals may come and go, but the system lives on.
Monday’s gang battle at the gym had all these elements, and more. Sandalwood movies have been made on this world, some fictitious and some based on real stories.
Gangsters no longer survive on hafta from wine shops, bars, brothels and live band joints. Their money-spinners are real estate and disputed properties. Today, there are over 1,800 rowdy-sheeters in the city, but only 150-200 are really active.
Traditionally, Bangalore West Zone leads the number of rowdy-sheeters, followed by South Zone. There are also some Muslim dons. Each of them guards his tract, and they don’t mingle or cross swords with each other.
Rowdy-infested areas run like a chain: including Mahalakshmi Layout, Basaweshwaranagar, Kamakshipalya, Vijayanagar, Girinagar, Hanumanthnagar, Subrahmanyapura, J P Nagar, Madiwala. Most rowdy-related murders and kidnappings take place in these areas.
Unlike earlier, where rowdies had only machetes and swords, these people have country-made firearms and sophisticated sten guns.
What’s the history?
Bangalore’s underworld dates back to the late 1960s, when Ko d i g e h a l l i Mune Gowda became the first u n d e r wo rl d don. He controlled all of Bangalore, and his basic revenue source was hafta from brothels and arrack shops. In the ‘70s, Kotwal Ramachandra and Jairaj entered the field. Wine and other shops were added to the list. They had political affiliations, but gang wars were not common.
The scene changed in the 1980s and ‘90s, when young turks entered the field: Muthappa Rai, Sridhar, Boot House Kumar, Bekkina Kannu Rajendra, Srirampura Kitty, Jedarahalli Krishnappa, Pushpa, Kala Pathar and Ele Naga emerged.
At the same time, the Muslim underworld became active, with Abu Shair, Koli Fayaz, Tanvir, Ishtiyak, Sajjad, Nazir, Tarakari Khaleel, Chappal Hamid and others taking control of areas like Shivajinagar, Tannery Road, JJ Nagar, Ilyasnagar and other Muslim-dominated areas. Bangalore was virtually a battleground, as these operators stretched their businesses to all possible revenue earning sectors, including live bands and oil adulteration.
Return to peace
While most got eliminated in the process, some survived and began leading peaceful lives, like Muthappa Rai, Agni Sridhar, Jedarahalli Krishnappa, Pushpa, Kalapathar. They also gained social acceptance. Muthappa Rai and Agni Sridhar, staunch rivals, are now activists of sorts and also editors of tabloids.
The advent of gun culture in the Bangalore underworld is rather late. Guns were first used in 1989, when Jairaj was eliminated. Since then, there have been sporadic incidents.
Of late, everyone in the underworld has procured guns — from country-made katta, revolvers, pistols and even sten guns. Supplies came from Purulia, West Bengal, through the Muslim underworld. Haveri Aslam, from Jharkhand, came into contact with Reebok Naseem of JJ Nagar in jail. When Naseem realised that Aslam had contacts with arms dealers in Purulia, they decided to get some to Bangalore.
Huge consignments of weapons came to Bangalore, and the underworld lapped them up. One consignment was seized at the city railway station, after which they decided to stop procuring guns through the train route.