Bangalore: From a dozen goons in the 1980s, Bangalore's underworld now boasts of 2,118 criminals of all hues. Gone are the days of underworld dons like Kotwal Ramachandra (slain by his own henchmen) and MP Jairaj (shot dead by his lawyer friend near Lalbagh South Gate in 1989). Bangalore, with a population of 80 lakh, has over 2,000 rowdies and there are 18,000 police personnel. That is, for every 3,700-odd law-abiding citizens, there is one sour grape.
"We have categorised rowdies into three categories: A, B and C. 'A' denotes active criminals, B denotes those who operate in areas other than the localities they live in and C denotes those who are dormant and are not involved in anti-social activities for the past 10 years," says Alok Kumar, joint commissioner of police (crime).
JCB Narayan, who was released after being arrested under the Goonda Act, and Silent Sunil of Gayatrinagar, who is currently cooling his heels behind bars, are part of gangs that operate in Bangalore. "Most of them make money by supporting the real estate business, where the real money is," adds Kumar.
Now, criminals have another avenue to make money. The police are worried due to the emergence of private finance firms run by goons.
"Recently, we had a crack down on the Parvathipura gangs — who're into small-time businesses. These goons finance pavement and pushcart vendors. In fact, the motive for a couple of murders in Malleswaram was rivalry between financiers," he adds.
According to police commissioner Shankar M Bidari, these private financiers do not have licenses to give loans or advances, which are given out at exorbitant interest rates. Thus, it's perfect breeding ground for crime syndicates. Police records claim there are 509 rowdies who are 'out of view', with some of them absconding. "Still, there are 1,332 rowdies who are active and might strike anytime. The number of rowdies who are in jail is 277. The number of rowdies lying low is 275," said a police officer.
The western parts of the city account for 645 rowdies, the highest in the city. South division comes second, with 447 rowdy-sheeters. "One among them was Mohammed Ali alias Diwana Ali, a Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) corporator from Banashankari Temple ward; he was shot and hacked to death on Sunday. The prime suspect in the case, Shaikh Mohammed Asgar alias Mahim, lives within the limits of another police division and operates in South division," said a police official.
Deputy commissioner of police (East) Chandrashekar said rowdies such as Pradeep, 27, from Lakshmipura, Indiranagar, and his brother Vijay, 25, are absconding after they escaped after being arrested for murdering Palani, another rowdy, on February 16, 2006. A gang led by the brothers stormed into Hosmat hospital and hacked Palani to death.
One of the accused, Johnson, was gunned down in KG Halli on April 23, 2007.
At the time of the encounter, the police had no clue about his background, but once they checked the records, they found that he had not visited his home for 15 years. Incidentally, his sister is a police constable.
"There are many others who were killed, either in police encounters or in attacks by rival gangs. In a recent case, three rowdies — Lambu Nataraj, 24, of Palace Guttahalli, Somashekar alias Somu, 23, and Balasubramani alias Bala — were hacked to death on December 4, 2010.
They had barged into a wedding reception being held at a hotel on Sampige Road, Malleswaram, in a bid to kill their rivals," said a police officer. A common thread running through all these tales is that more often than not, these rowdies suffer violent deaths.