Saturday, February 17, 2007

Breeding ground for land mafia

Breeding ground for land mafia
Was it bound to happen? The exponential growth in the demand for land and subsequent multiplying of land worth, has brought the underworld to the scene in Bangalore. People are threatened, lured and plain shot at to acquire land. Azmath, S Kushala & Smitha Rao throw light on the dark side of Bangalore and dig out some in-the-face facts

The TImes of India

Has Mumbai’s underworld arrived in the city? This is the question haunting the police, realtors and the common man ever since hitmen entered the office of realtor-turned-corporator K S Sameeulla on Thursday afternoon and killed two innocents working for him.
The order is supposed to have come from Ravi Prakash Pujari, a don operating from overseas.
Realtors, especially those who have made fast money, are scared. They said the Mumbai’s underworld has finally arrived here after testing waters in 2001 by killing builder Subbaraju.
Former city police commissioner L Revannasiddaiah, who had a stint with the CBI, said, “Where there is a flourishing real estate trade, underworld wants a presence. Fortunately or unfortunately, Bangalore is witnessing an unprecedented boom in the realty sector. Thursday’s incident is similar to organised hits in Mumbai. It is not the first time though, Bangalore has earlier too witnessed several episodes of underworld invasion.”
“Proper investigation and tracing of real culprits will prevent the underworld from firmly establishing base here. Complacency of investigating agencies and booking wrong culprits will only help the mafia. In the past, there have been instances of the police washing their hands of such cases by booking wrong people,” he warned.
“Though several gangs have tried to set up base here, they have not been successful. Dawood Ibrahim, Chhota Shakeel, Chhota Rajan and Pujari himself have tried in the past to control operations here, but unsuccessfully. They keep testing the waters time and again,” he said.
“When people fail to get justice from law enforcement agencies and courts in land and real estate cases, they approach the underworld for instant justice,” he said.
A realtor, who has once paid money to overseas gangsters, pleads helplessness. “What can we do? We have to pay to survive. If you don’t pay, they will send somebody and get an attack staged. If you survive the attack, people like Ravi Pujari will call the media and label us as agents of Dawood Ibrahim. After that, the police, intelligence agencies and taxmen will be after us for the rest of our lives. Is it not better to pay and avoid bullets, than to get harassed by the police?’’
After Thursday’s attack, Ravi Pujari called up The Times of India, Mumbai office, and labelled Sameeulla a Dawood agent, which the former denies.
Another reason for Mumbai’s underworld looking for its presence here: A large number of people from Northern and Western parts of India and NRIs have invested money in lands around the city. When some complications arise from the locals regarding the title of the property or payment, they try to solve it by bringing in the underworld, a builder explained.
Land deals being big earners nowadays, the underworld too wants a share in it. In the absence of scientific maintenance of land records and disputes between a large number of people, people with money use muscle power to see the deals through.
“When stakes are low, city realtors go to local dons to settle deals with chakuchuri (knives). But when the deal involves huge money, bigger dons come into the picture with firearms. That’s what has happened here,” a senior police officer said.
One more reason for the underworld’s entry: The realty sector provides them an opportunity to launder money. Since it involves small investments and big returns, it hardly comes to the notice of taxmen and the police.
But police commissioner N Achuta Rao said, “It is too early to say Mumbai’s underworld has arrived here. On the face of it, there is some organised act behind Thursday’s attack. We will solve the case and teach a lesson to antisocial elements.’’


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