Police believe that hafta could have played a role in the attack on a cloth store in Mangaluru.

Hafta shootings grip Mangaluru again Police investigate gangster Kali Yogesh link
news Crime Tuesday, December 12, 2017 - 20:00

For Mahalinga Naik, it was the end of just another day of work at the M. Sanjeeva Shetty Cloth Store in Mangaluru when a man wearing a monkey cap visited the store asking for his ‘order’. When Naik replied that dealing with orders was above his paygrade, the man left without protest. Just minutes later, the man in the monkey cap took out a pistol and shot at Naik twice before fleeing the scene with an accomplice.

Naik fell to the floor clutching his left leg in pain. A bleeding Naik was immediately rushed to a nearby hospital where he is still recovering from the harrowing incident that occurred on Friday. Police are still investigating why armed assailants attacked Naik outside the cloth store he worked in. They believe that hafta, a slang used to refer to protection money paid to gangsters, could have played a role in it.

Payment of hafta or extortion money was common practice among small businesses in Mangaluru up until 2014, according to Commissioner of Police for Dakshina Kannada, TR Suresh. “We have not had a case of hafta in the last two years. Friday’s attack seems to be the first one that has a link to hafta,” said the commissioner speaking about the shooting.

The last reported case in the city was in 2014 when armed assailants opened fire at Bharathi Builders in Bejai. There have been shootouts in Puttur and Bantwal in the last two years, claimed to be by fugitives for extorting money, but no case was registered with the police.

A member of the staff at the M. Sanjeeva Shetty cloth store denied that they had received any threats before Friday’s armed attack. “Our store has a 76-year history and in the last five years we have operated out of Mangaluru. We did not receive any threats or phone calls before this. This was the first such incident,” he said. Mahalinga Naik, who is recovering at a nearby hospital, admitted that he did not see the assailants as they had covered their faces.

The police however are probing the incident from the hafta angle based on a claim made by Kali Yogesh to media houses that he was behind the attack. “It appears a news channel received a phone call from Kali Yogesh. He reportedly said that he was behind the attack and that he had previously demanded money from the cloth store and another jewellery store in Kinnigoli. We are investigating this,” confirmed the Commissioner.

Police outside the cloth store attacked by armed assailants on Friday

The incident comes just a day after an unidentified man held BD Ramachandra Acharya, owner of Rajashree Jewellers in Kinnigoli, at gunpoint on Thursday. The police confirmed that both incidents follow the modus-operandi of ‘shoot and scoot’ tactics adopted by fugitives like Kali Yogesh and Ravi Poojary.  “We have formed different teams to find out about 2-3 gangs that operate in a similar manner,” said T Suresh.

Small business owners usually receive anonymous internet calls demanding money. While few businessmen sought police protection, others continued to deny threat calls made to them. Dinesh Ulepadi, a human rights lawyer based in Mangaluru, contended that businessmen often deny threats being made to them as they believe it will hurt their reputation. “Store owners are fearful of their family’s safety and also feel that being threatened by underworld dons will affect their reputation and prestige in the city. For this reason, they often continue to deny threats made against them,” said Ulepadi.

The police made a breakthrough in 2015 when gangster Bannanje Raja, a fugitive with 16 cases registered against him in Karnataka, was extradited from Morocco to India. But other fugitives like Kali Yogesh and Ravi Poojary remain at large and the police do not rule out the possibility of other people impersonating the fugitives to scare business owners.  

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