At 10 am on Tuesday morning, Bijapur’s notorious gangster, Bhagappa Harijan stepped out of an SUV at the Vijayapura District Court’s parking lot. After stepping out, he was greeted by a man who wished him good morning and Bhagappa walked on to attend a hearing for a murder case in which he is the prime accused. But he never made it to the court. The man who greeted him whipped out a gun and shot Bhagappa once on his back and then came forward and shot him thrice more.
What ensued was chaos, with panicked bystanders screaming and running away. In that confusion, the assailant too managed to slip out.
The bullets, however, did not claim Bhagappa’s life and after sustaining three bullet wounds he is currently undergoing treatment at the BLDE Hospital in Vijayapura where he is said to be in a critical condition.
“One bullet has pierced his chest through the back, another near his stomach and one near his hip. We have found four bullet casings at the spot. We have launched a massive manhunt for the suspect based on accounts of the eyewitnesses,” Vijayapura SP, Kuldeep Jain said.
Shooting in court complexes is not new to the gangsters of this area. After Bhagappa’s arrest, the police recovered a 9 mm carbine machine gun used in the shooting of gangster Amin Sab in the court complex in Bijapur’s Sindagi in April 1998 based on information provided by Bhagappa himself.
Bhagappa Huchchappa Byadagihal alias Bhagappa Harijan
Bhagappa Huchchappa Byadagihal alias Bhagappa Harijan was only 29-years-old when he was arrested by the Gulbarga police in Pune on July 6, 2007. An alleged contract killer and associate of a gangster of yesteryears, Chandappa Harijan, Bhagappa is an accused in 10 murder cases.
Bhagappa’s arrest brought an end to a saga of gang wars in Bijapur which has a history going back over 50 years. The gang wars go back to Kashappa Tavarkhed who started a gang in Devangaon village in Sindagi taluk in the 1970’s.
“Soon, Kashappa’s gang got into extortion, contract killing, rioting and rape. After him, his son, Chandappa Harijan took over. He had over 55 murder cases registered against him and was killed in a police encounter in May 2000,” a retired police officer said.
Chandappa Harijan was 34-years-old when he was killed by the Gulbarga police in May 2000 in Dhotre village in Maharashtra. Bhagappa Harijan escaped that encounter. The police had come close to arresting the elusive criminal on several occasions in the past. Bhagappa, who had spread terror in Bijapur district, parts of Gulbarga district and the villages bordering Maharashtra, was always a step ahead of the police and had managed to escape from the traps laid out for him several times.
Bhagappa’s arrest was a major breakthrough for the police as the gang war which was at its peak during the 1990s came close to being non-existent after his arrest.
After Chandappa’s death, Bhagappa had taken over the leadership of the gang, leaving Chandappa’s brother Yellapppa Harijan bitter about being sidelined.
“Since then he has been considered Yellappa’s arch rival,” the retired police officer said.
According to the police, Bhagappa Harijan had, during interrogation, provided vital clues about his criminal activities and his alleged nexus with politicians, including a Gulbarga MLA.
“He has confessed to killing 10 people and admitted to having been complicit in seven other murder cases pending in Bijapur and Gulbarga court. He has also confessed to killing Chandappa’s brother-in-law Muthuraj,” SP Kuldeep said.
After Bhagappa’s shooting, Vijayapura police have registered a case of attempted murder. The police said that the attack was planned in advance.
“We have gathered information that the assailant was on a Pulsar bike. All efforts are being made to track him down,” the SP said.