Story of an arrested Bengaluru journalist: Crime show host to crime suspect
Friends and associates say the journalist’s career has been as colourful and fast-paced as the city’s underworld that he covered with aplomb.india Updated: Dec 09, 2017 21:16 IST
From the host of a popular television crime show to a crime suspect, Ravi Belagere, the headline-grabbing journalist from Bengaluru, has come a long way.
Belagere, 59, was arrested by police on Friday for allegedly having given ‘supari’ (contract) to kill a staffer at his mass-circulated tabloid, Hai Bangalore. Sources say the crime he plotted was motivated by personal enmity. Belagere had been in the news in recent months after the Karnataka assembly ordered his arrest for breach of privilege. His arrest, however, was stayed following an intervention by the Karnataka high court.
Friends and associates say the journalist’s career has been as colourful and fast-paced as the city’s underworld that he covered with aplomb. A former college teacher, Belagere switched to journalism in 1989 and achieved fame with his column, ‘Paapigala Lokadalli’ (World of Criminals), for the magazine Karmaveera. His columns provided readers with lurid details of the crime world.
Once he became a household name, Belagere launched his own tabloid in 1995 and hosted a television show, Crime Diary, narrating real-life crime stories. In between, he wrote some 50 books and even received the Karnataka Sahitya Akademi award. The Karnataka government also honoured him with the Rajyotsava award, the state’s second-highest honour.
Bengaluru residents say Belagere was a beneficiary of the city’s transition in the 1990s from a laidback garden city to a bustling high-tech metropolis. “It was a time when the city was coming to terms with the change in its identity and a fascination with crime came to the fore,” said culture critic MK Raghavendra.
Belagere courted controversy early in his journalism career. In 1994, he had briefly worked with Lankesh Patrike and thereafter had a bitter fallout with the then editor, P Lankesh, the legendary writer and father of Gauri Lankesh, the journalist killed by unknown assailants this September. P Lankesh rejected one of Belagere’s article and thereafter denounced him. In a column, P Lankesh wrote that crime reporters were in danger of becoming a part of the underworld they were reporting on.
‘Agni’ Sridhar, an underworld don-turned- newspaper owner, shared similar views. “Belagere had become very close to me around 1994-95. I told him to stay away from criminals but he did not heed my advice,” Sridar said. “There was no denying his skills as a writer. But he used these skills to glorify the underworld,” Sridhar added.
But Belagere also has his share of supporters. “I have known him from 1993, and I was one of the three founding members of Hai Bangalore. Nobody has ever been able to produce evidence of his involvement in crime. Like any good reporter, he knew his subjects well and because he was a crime reporter, his sources were involved in the underworld,” said RT Vittal Murthy, assistant editor of Hai Bangalore.
Murthy insisted Belagere was more than a mere crime reporter, having covered the Kargil conflict and then the Gujarat earthquake in 2002. “He has also reported from Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said.
At one point, Hai Bangalore reached a circulation of 275,000 per week. According to Murthy, Belagere was planning to shut down his paper and retire when the police came calling and locked him behind bars.