Businessmen across north Karnataka, terrified by the recent daylight killing of BJP leader RN Naik, who was also alleged to be involved in illegal iron ore mining, by supari killers aligned with underworld don Bannanje Raja, are scrambling to get protection.
Raja is said to be in hiding in Dubai, and like other underworld mafiosos Dawood Ibrahim in Karachi, Ravi Poojary who is also said to be in Dubai, and Chhota Rajan in Bangkok, is remote-operating his empire.
Naik, although known to be involved with a credit cooperative society, was known to have been involved in illegal mining activity in Belekeri port, and the December 21 attack at Ankola by two shooters from Uttar Pradesh, one of whom was captured, was said to have been engineered by Raja, at the behest of Naik’s erstwhile partners in his illegal mining operations, who fell out with him.
Businessmen, particularly those whose operations have fall in the grey area between the law and illegality, have much to fear from the underworld which seeks protection money. While they can live with paying protection money, fears of supari attacks attack such as the one that took the life of that Naik that has scared them most.
As TV repeatedly telecast recordings of Raja reportedly calling from Indonesia, many businessmen began approaching security agencies to ensure their personal safety as also of their family members from underworld figures seeking protection money.
Some of them have approached police to provide security, but those whose business activities straddle the grey ground between legitimate business and and the not-so-legitimate, are depending on private security agencies for guards.
The manager of a private security agency in Hubli told dna that his firm was receiving requests for security cover are coming from many businessmen over the last two weeks.
“They say that TV channels had telecast audio recordings of Bannanje Raja stating that he had a list of businessmen involved in illegal transactions who were not giving him hafta. Though we don’t know about his statement, it is our duty to meet expectations of our customers,” he explained.
Security agencies contacted by dna said businessmen are preferring guards in civil dress to be shown off as their office assistants to avoid public and media attention. Most want locals as guards.
“Naik’s killers were from north India, and our customers do not want anyone from that region, for fear that such guards could be plants from underworld dons,” said Ramesh, a manager in an agency in Dharwad.
Ravichandra, manager of Five Force Facility Services of Bangalore, which has provided guards in north Karnataka also, said demand for personal security guards was the highest in Hubli and Bellary after Bangalore.
A police officer said the reluctance of businessmen to seek police protection could be due to fear of the illegality of their businesses being detected by law.
“A businessman has asked for gun man security on payment basis and he was provided the same from 2003 to 2011 following threat from his competitors and unknown persons’ he added.
Tapal Ganesh, mine owner from Bellary and business rival of the Reddy brothers, said Raja’s call had created panic among illegal miners.