The don-turned-activist succumbed to cancer after a year-long battle.

Former underworld don Muthappa Rai dies in Bengaluru at 68
news Death Friday, May 15, 2020 - 09:31

Former Bengaluru underworld don-turned-activist, and the founder of Jaya Karnataka, Muthappa Rai passed away on Friday morning after a year-long battle with cancer. He was 68. Muthappa Rai had been suffering from brain cancer for the last one year. He was admitted to Manipal Hospital in Bengaluru on April 30, according to hospital officials.

“After a prolonged illness and hospitalization, we regret to inform the demise of 68-year-old Mr Muthappa Rai. He breathed his last at 1.43 am today. Manipal Hospitals expresses condolence to his entire family in this moment of grief,” a hospital spokesperson said.

The police had interviewed Muthappa Rai on April 15 at his residence in Bidadi, after the extradition of Ravi Pujari, as at that point too, he was unwell.

Muthappa Rai was interviewed in connection with a builder’s murder which took place in Bengaluru in 2001.

Rai had begun his professional career as a clerk in Vijaya Bank. Later on in his life, he came to Bengaluru to start his own business, and apparently had first taken to crime to protect his business interests. 

He was also infamously held responsible for the murder of erstwhile Bengaluru don MP Jayaraj in 1990, which reportedly marked his entry into the underworld. His ascent in the criminal world subsequently even took him to Mumbai where he was linked with Dawood Ibrahim. 

In 2002, Rai was deported to India from the United Arab Emirates. On arrival, he was questioned by various investigation agencies such as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Intelligence Bureau (IB), and by the Karnataka police. He was later acquitted due to the lack of evidence.

He is survived by a wife and two sons. The last rites will reportedly be held on Friday afternoon in Bidadi.

Murder of MP Jayaraj

In 1989, Bengaluru’s underworld don MP Jayaraj had become a dreaded personality in public and among police circles. Muttappa Rai, who had built contacts with Dawood Ibrahim’s gang in Mumbai, was the person who had several vested interests and was approached in a bid to kill Jayaraj. For a hardened don like Jayaraj, being too cautious was not a new thing. So it fell in Muttappa Rai’s shoulders to kill Jayaraj. Rai had decided that the machetes and knives used by the men in the city’s underworld would not suffice to kill Jayaraj, who had by then become one of the most feared people in Bengaluru.

The first attempt on Jayaraj’s life was made outside the Mysuru Jail. It was for this murder attempt that several prominent gangsters like Oil Kumar and Bekkinakannu Rajendra came together to help Rai. While Oil Kumar funded the plan, it was Bekkina Kannu Rajendra, who was to fire a gun at Jayaraj. Rai has used the money provided by Oil Kumar to buy guns from his contacts in Bombay.

Guns were new to Bengaluru and Rajendra, who was inexperienced in firing the weapon, missed his target. Despite nine people surrounding Jayaraj, the fear he had instilled in the minds of fellow gangsters had hindered the execution of the murder attempt.

Rai was again entrusted the task of killing Jayaraj, this time, when the don was admitted to KR Hospital in Mysuru. Shockingly for Rai, Jayaraj has learned of the plan to kill him and had crude bombs handy when the gang of men entered the ward to kill him. Jayaraj hurled the crude bombs at his attackers and escaped.

However, in November 1989, when Jayaraj got bail and was out of prison, Muttappa Rai planned to kill him during his daily visit to Siddapura Police Station.

The murder was executed after Muttappa Rai hired sharp shooters from the Mumbai Underworld. Jayaraj, who was travelling in an ambassador car, was shot at near Lalbagh. His lawyer Vardhamanya was shot dead first. Although Jayaraj used Vardhamanya’s body as a shield, he was killed by several bullets that pierced his body. His brother, who was in the back seat of the Ambassador car, was the only one who survived the attack.

The bloody murder of Bengaluru’s don in broad daylight turned Muttappa Rai into one of the most feared persons in the city’s underworld. By killing Jayaraj, he rose to the position of don.

Foundation of Jaya Karnataka and later life

In the early 2000s, after an alleged attempt on his life in which his driver was killed, Rai, who had seemingly put aside his gangster past, set up a social services organisation, Jaya Karnataka. According to the Jaya Karnataka’s Facebook page, the organisation, “aims at improving the quality of life of the people of Karnataka. A truly democratic, non-political organization that has originated in response to the ever-increasing problems of the people of this state.”

He had made headlines in 2018 when he held an Ayudha pooja for his weapons: a display of guns, knives and machetes, which resulted in the Central Crime Bureau sending him a notice over the display.

In 2013, director Ram Gopal Verma met with Muthappa Rai for an entire day and had seemingly decided to make an Indian version of ‘The Godfather’ with Muthappa Rai’s story at the centre. However, the movie has not seen the light of day, even though Vivek Oberoi was cast to play Muthappa Rai in this film.

Rai appeared in Tulu film Kanchilda Baale in 2011 and Kannada film Katari Veera Surasundarangi in 2012.

With inputs from Theja Ram

With PTI inputs