BENGALURU: Central Crime Branch (CCB) police are leaving no stone unturned to ensure that there is no extortion from business establishments by anyone claiming to be a Kannada activist in the run-up to Rajyotsava Day on November 1.
“Extortion in the run-up to Kannada Rajyotsava is a major racket in the city. There are many retail outlets that end up coughing money to unscrupulous elements masquerading as Kannada activists. The racket runs up to `5 to `6 crore every year,” a senior police officer said.
Those who end up paying are usually pubs, software companies, big builders, educational institutes and private medical institutions. Secretary of a well-known educational institution in HSR Layout told The New Indian Express, “They come like goons and most of the times they have political clout. They target people from outside Karnataka so that it is easier to extort money.”
There have been many serious incidents of vandalism on Rajyotsava Day when some firms refuse to shut down. These business establishments fear not paying them, police sources said.
A restaurant owner on MG Road said, “As a businessman, no one wants to take any risk. So we give the money. There have been cases where police have intervened and there are ‘discounts’ discussed.”
Most of the times they operate in groups, an officer from CCB explained. They carry pamphlets or photos of them with several politicians and then approach these establishments claiming to collect money for Rajyotsava Day celebrations. There is no option but to give them the money, business establishment owners say.
“Last year, a gang of 12 people barged into our office and asked for Rs 15,000. When we said that it is too high, they said if we don’t pay we would have to face the consequences and then we will end up spending at least `1,50,000. We got scared and ended up paying them,” an HR executive from a software company in Electronics City said.
The CCB police are readying a circular asking the companies to report any such incident of extortion. CCB is also making a list of suspicious people. “We are also sending notices to all the pro-Kannada groups to ensure no such forcible collection is made,” a senior police officer said.
Hotel owner files complaint
Collin Timms, MD of Peco’s Hotels and Pubs Pvt Ltd, had lodged a complaint against a gang claiming to be from a pro-Kannada outfit. The gang members came to his restaurant MOJO on Residency Road, and allegedly asked for a donation of Rs 10,000. When refused, the outfit members threatened to ransack the place. Timms then filed a complaint with the commissioner seeking protection.