BENGALURU: Younger people in the city, between 18 and 25 years, are being hired by criminal elements as musclemen and supari killers. “They are usually school dropouts… they are uneducated but not illiterate,” says ACP (Organised Crime Wing) Mahadevappa. Most often they are trying to capture the running of a neighbourhood. “The fights and threats are for a group to show its strength in the locality,” he says.
If you have to hire a person to kill another, the fee is usually Rs 3 lakh to Rs 5 lakh, he says. The police is running an investigation into this and, therefore, reticent to share too many details. Lawyer Narasimhamurthy, who has helped people at the receiving end of threat calls, says that to hire a man from the city it costs in lakhs but to hire anyone from the outskirts and from neighbouring states it is much lesser. “The market rate, we hear, for people who come from Tamil Nadu and so on is only Rs 10,000 to Rs 25,000,” he says. “The musclemen are usually young boys who are from struggling farmer families… agriculture is difficult with poor rains and no support, and when they are offered this as a way out, they take it.”
Mahadevappa says that most of the young rowdies are being groomed in the city outskirts, where they are seeing a real-estate boom. There are disagreements over property development and acquisition, and musclemen are much in demand. Lawyer Srinivas has represented a real-estate tycoon, who was asked to pay Rs 4 crores for a property on Kanakpura Road. The businessman refused to pay and was even kidnapped by a group of people. “The brain behind the operation was of older people, maybe in their thirties, but the muscle… the people who did the beating up and kidnapping, they were much younger, maybe in their early twenties,” he says.
“Usually, realty businessmen get threats from people who say that they were robbed off a property. They want the developer to return the property or pay an amount,” he says. Srinivas’ client had bought the property from the rightful owner, he says, but another organisation made a call saying that the developer has to pay “the rightful owner”. “He refused and, one day when he was travelling in a car, they kidnapped him… thankfully, his wife immediately alerted the police and the police tracked the mobile phone signal. When the police reached the spot, the assaulters fled.”
Most victims Settle out of court
The police is usually helpful in such cases, says lawyer Narasimhamurthy, but the victims do not pursue the case in court. “They are threatened by the accused,” he says. “They say that they have seen the inside of the jail and are not afraid, so won’t it be better for the both of them if it is settled outside the court for a much smaller sum than demanded earlier.”
The victim then turns up in court and says that he or she cannot identify the accused. Lawyer Srinivas says that even the caller knows that the settlement will be done for much lesser than what was demanded. “If they had asked for Rs 25 lakh, they usually settle for Rs 50,000,” he says. Even his client did not pursue the case in court, fearing for his life and the safety of his family. “There are atleast 10 to 15 such cases in the city in a month,” says Srinivas, “but only one or two are even reported”.He says that, besides realty developers, even rich businessmen get ransom and threat calls.