On Ugadi, a brand-new Kannada warrior emerges

The opening paragraph of the Wikipedia entry on Muthappa Rai leaves little to the imagination:

“Muthappa Rai is an underworld don currently based in a locality at the outskirts of Bangalore, Karnataka, India. He was in the most-wanted list of criminals of Karnataka. During the peak of his underworld days Rai had a well-established criminal network across major cities of Karnataka like Bangalore and Mangalore. Rai had controlled underworld activities in Bangalore for a long period with a well-established syndicate which mostly comprised gangsters from the coastal city Mangalore as also Mumbai. He was said to have links with Bombay underworld big shots like Chotta Rajan. Rai now claims to be reformed and leads a less hyped life as a real estate developer/social worker.”

A 2002 profile by Ravi Sharma in the fortnightly magazine Frontline adds a few more attributes:

“one of Karnataka’s most elusive criminals“… “allegedly operated extortion rackets, helped property developers take possession of land in prime localities and collected ‘protection money’ from business houses” … “a shark, and not a whale [according to cop turned MP, Sangliana]”

But, wait, in case you didn’t click on that Wikipedia link, here’s what else you missed:

Rai attained notoriety in the underworld with the murder of the then underworld don of Bangalore M.P. Jairaj… the first time a gun was used to kill somebody in Bangalore… he was involved in a knife attack to protect his friend… He soon came to control a number of night clubs and was involved in shady real estate deals… He was allegedly instrumental in the murder in 1996 of Robert D’Silva, a timber merchant from Madikeri. He fled to Dubai using a fake passport.

A “reformed” Rai, who set up an apolitical “socially-oriented and welfare-driven organisation” called Jaya Karnataka” to uphold and preserve Kannada culture and tradition, and reach out to the underprivileged sections of society, especially the differently-abled throughout the state”, arrived in Mysore yesterday.

According to a report in Star of Mysore, Rai arrived along with “more than 2,000 activists in about 450 cars” on the way to Hogenakal “to lay siege” to the falls that is at the centre of Karnataka’s latest water row with Tamil Nadu.

Rai was received at the toll gate by the former vice-chancellor of the University of Mysore, D. Javare Gowda, who has made it his life’s mission to secure the “classical language status” for Kannada.

Rai, accompanied by the honourable “DeJaGow”, addressed a media conference at a choultry with “well-dressed and well-positioned” security guards guarding him, according to Star of Mysore.

Although he didn’t reveal his current revenue stream, Rai said “he would be dedicating 50 per cent of his income for improving water supply, medical facilities, power supply and to prevent suicides by farmers”.


Photographs: courtesy Star of Mysore