Thursday December 21, 2017   |   Jyoti Shelar

Today the book… ‘The Bhais of Bengaluru’ by Jyoti Shelar is all set to be launched in Mumbai. All the best Jyoti…wishing and hoping that your book is a huge huge success…

Bookaholicanonymous is proud to present this exclusive interview!

“I did meet a lot of bhais. I met the some of the reigning dons of their times who have now turned white collar. I also met many gang members who worked for the dons” - Jyoti

Jyoti Shelar is a print journalist with ten years' work experience, she is currently working with The Hindu. In her decade-long career, she has covered various beats like crime, communities and healthcare. She has previously worked with Mumbai Mirror, Hindustan Times and Daily News and Analysis (DNA), where she first began covering crime and developing contacts with law enforcers as well as those on the other side of the law. She recently travelled to Bangkok to pursue a story on Chhota Rajan after he was deported to India in October 2016.

Bengaluru has an underbelly? How and when did you discover this aspect?

Most people find this surprising. Every city for that matter would have an underbelly. The only difference is that it lacks the kind of hype that Mumbai’s underbelly managed to create. Also, Bengaluru’s image of being the Silicon Valley of India overshadowed the city’s darker side.

How did this book come about?

Well known crime author S Hussain Zaidi was my editor in Mumbai Mirror. He always wanted to explore the crime scene outside Mumbai and Bengaluru was on the top of his list. But he was juggling with too many other projects that kept him busy and I got the opportunity to write this book. 

Tell us about your research for the book...did you meet any of the 'bhais'? Were they willing to speak to you?

I did meet a lot of bhais. I met the some of the reigning dons of their times who have now turned white collar. I also met many gang members who worked for the dons. It was not easy to get them to talk. Some of them were indifferent, some were reluctant and some were extremely suspicious about what I would write. But I kept pursuing them till they finally opened up.

I interviewed Muthappa Rai and Agni Sreedhar who have ruled the underworld in the 1990’s. Rai was a bank clerk who went on to become a don. He is now a social activist cum businessman. Sreedhar was a law student who veered into the crime world. He now runs a newspaper and is also a filmmaker. I also met Tanveer, who reigned the Muslim mafia after his mentor Koli Faiyaz was murdered.

What is the difference between the 'bhais' of Mumbai and Bengaluru? Any connection?

I would say that the Bengaluru dons were much shrewder than Mumbai dons. They indulged in all kinds of crimes but most of them charted plans to go legit. What makes them stand out is that they actually succeeded in doing so. Rai and Sreedhar had multiple criminal charges including murder on them. But they got away from the clutches of the law by hiring the best of lawyers. Both these dons have turned a new leaf and now live life king size. On the other hand, most Mumbai dons have fled the country and still remain the country’s most wanted men.

Bengaluru and Mumbai underworld has had important connection. In 1989, a notorious don named MP Jayaraj was murdered. For this murder, men from Mumbai were called to Bengaluru and it was the first-time guns were used in the city. Before that, the Bengaluru criminals always used swords and machetes. Jayaraj’s murder brought the gun culture to Bengaluru.  

When Mumbai don Chotta Rajan was attacked in Bangkok, we only read that Dawood Ibrahim had orchestrated it. But the crucial information of Rajan’s hideout was passed on to the D gang by a Bengaluru don.

Any interesting incident you would like to share with us while researching/writing this book?

I can tell you the interesting aspects in the book. I have attempted to trace the rise of rowdyism in the early days besides focusing on the main mafia dons. Several events in the city played an important role in bringing the rowdies to the forefront. For example, Bengaluru’s kushti culture gave the city its pehelwans but some of them gradually started using their muscle power to extort and threaten. Another example would be how the Kannada language movement and the Rajkumar’s fandom led to several street protests. Many of these events acted as training ground for criminals who later went on to join gangs.

 What sort of influence/hold do these dons have on Bengaluru?

At present, Bengaluru’s underworld mostly consists of punters of the earlier dons. The bigger players play it smart as the police machinery has cracked down on the mafia heavily.

Were you inspired by any book/author/writer while writing this book?

I closely followed Hussain’s ‘Dongri to Dubai’, ‘Byculla to Bangkok’ and ‘Mafia Queens’ while writing my book. Hussain feels that this book will be to Bengaluru what ‘Dongri to Dubai’  is for Mumbai.

Are you already researching for your next book? If so what is it about?

There are a couple of subjects but I haven’t finalised any one as yet. ‘The Bhais of Bengaluru’ and its promotion is my focus right now.

Jyoti Shelar can be reached at:

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