A man accused of murdering two prominent Bajrang Dal leaders and his close associate were killed inside the Mangalore prison on Monday morning by a gang of inmates acting at the behest of Dubai-based gangster Vicky Shetty.
Claiming responsibility for the hit, Vicky Shetty called reporters in Mangalore and said the real target was Madur Yusuf, a hitman for the hard-line Islamist outfit, Popular Front of India, and that Ganesh Shetty was killed by mistake. He said that Yusuf was killed to avenge the murders of Hindus.
Vicky Shetty aka Balakrishna Shetty, who has been absconding for several years, is close to underworld dons like Chhota Rajan and Ravi Poojary who have recently started projecting themselves as ‘patriots’ and ‘protectors of Hindus’.
Ganesh, who a friend of Yusuf, was killed when he tried to save him from the assassins. At least a dozen others were injured in the clash and have been admitted to the Government Wenlock Hospital in Mangalore.
A Bengaluru-based central intelligence officer told HT, “The entire underworld in the country is in a state of churn following the arrest of Chhota Rajan. There are massive realignments happening in the crime world right now and we fear that there will be similar attacks and counter attacks in the coming days.”
In a brief interview to this reporter at the Mangalore prison in March 2013, Yusuf confirmed not just his links to the PFI but also to organising the murder BJP and Bajrang Dal leader Sukananda Shetty in December 2006. He also said he was part of the gang that killed another Bajrang Dal leader Polali Ananthu in June 2005.
Although he showed no remorse over the killings and tried to justify the crimes saying Ananthu and Shetty had targeted many innocent Muslims, Yusuf had sounded bitter about his association with the PFI. He said the outfit had abandoned him after getting him to do their dirty work.
He appeared keen to return to a normal life and was planning to open a shop after his release. He denied links to Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Shakeel and but said he was arrested in Riyadh days before he was to have his first meeting with Shakeel.
The interview happened by chance when this reporter went to meet journalist Naveen Soorinje who was lodged in the same prison on charges that were later proved to be false. Soorinje’s arrest had come in for international condemnation and led India to slide in the press freedom rankings compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
India and Pakistan inside the prison
This is not the first time that Hindu and Muslim inmates have clashed inside the Mangalore prison where dozens of men belonging to Hindu and Muslim extremist outfits are lodged. In fact, following repeated fights, the prison authorities had built a new high-security prison in October 2012.
Muslims along with a few non-communal Hindus and Maoists were lodged in Block-A and Hindus were lodged in Block-B of the new prison complex. Monday’s daring murder, however, happened in the old section of the prison.
According to Mangalore Police, Yusuf and Ganesh Shetty were shifted to that section, along with Akashbhavan Sharan and his associates, just a few days before the murder. Sharan and Yusuf had brawled several times when they were lodged in the old prison as well.
Initial investigations suggest the murder was carried out by Sharan, an associate of Vicky Shetty.
“I was initially placed in the Hindu side of the prison. I was shifted to the Muslim section after some Bajrang Dal activists recognised me as a reporter who had written stories against the Sangh and threatened to kill me. The two sections were never referred to as Block A and B. They were called India and Pakistan,” Soorinje told HT after hearing the news about Yusuf’s murder.
He said that Ganesh Shetty and Yusuf became great friends in prison because they both had enemies in the Hindu section.
Their murders have now raised questions about the role of jail authorities.
Asked why prisoners with a history of enmity were put together in the same section of the prison, Mangalore Police commissioner R Murugan said it was too early to answer this question. He also said it was too early to explain how the murder weapons entered the prison.