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Deccan Herald » Sunday Herald » Detailed Story
Don at Dusk
Muthappa Rai, who continues to be on the website of the CBI as one of India’s ‘most wanted’, claims he was never a don. He tells Bala Chauhan that all he needs now is to be left in peace.

The house is less lived but celebrated with wealth that buys opulence and invests it in dry and cold trappings of security gadgets, walky talky, mobile phone that is tuned only to voice mail, unlisted land phones, clocks that are wound to international timing, bouncers and a home theatre, which is switched on - not to entertain - but to inform any crackdown on the D company, his nemesis.

Muthappa Rai looks far from being comfortable. His eyes gauge as his advocate K Diwakar does the initial introduction.

He reaches out for a Davidoff and tries to cover his discomfort in the smoke. “My life is not a normal life but I have accepted it. I live in Bidadi. I am involved in real estate business on a limited scale since I can’t personally go and inspect sites. I buy only those properties, which are not under litigation. I go out only if it is absolutely necessary,” he says.

Was it worth it? One asks. “I was never a don. I never played dirty - no role calls or extortions. I was tough from a very young age, and gave instant justice to people of Puttur in Dakshin Kannada where I lived with my parents. I was different from my father, who was a softie and took days to take a decision. I took spot decisions. Once two people, who, for years were fighting for the fruits of a jackfruit tree in front of their houses, came to me for justice. I hacked the tree and ended the case. The people who used to come to my father started coming to me. He couldn’t handle my popularity. He forced me to get into bank services. I joined Vijaya Bank in 1977. The chairman called me to support the management versus the union,” recounts Rai, stubbing the cigarette butt on a crystal ashtray.

Stepping stone

He met his wife Rekha there. Since their families didn’t agree to their marriage (he is a Bunt and she a Coorgi), they eloped to Mumbai and had a registered marriage. Later, Rai’s father called him back to Puttur. “I sought a transfer to Puttur. There I got involved in politics. A friend Vinay Kumar Sorke got a Congress ticket and he wanted me to support him. This was in 1985. Puttur used to be a BJP stronghold. I helped him and he won by 25,000 votes. One man lost his arm, and I was booked in two-three election cases. My father was livid. I again sought a transfer, this time to Bangalore,” says the man, who continues to be on the website of the CBI under red corner notice as one of India’s ‘most wanted.’

Rai’s life in Bangalore took a turn when he joined a night club, Omar Khayyam on Brigade Road. In his own words, “The owner of the club (cabaret joint) asked me to take over his club because he couldn’t handle the goons, who used to frequent it and create a racket. Within days of my taking over, I cleansed the place. I kept 10-15 of my people in the club. I used to beat the rowdies, who dared to come in the bar and handed them over to the Ashok Nagar police station. Slowly, the police started using me to chastise other rowdies who used to frequent the 10 odd bars and night clubs on Brigade Road and MG Road. They would threaten me with the names of then underworld dons of Bangalore - M P Jairaj, Koli Faiyaz, Kotwal Ramchandra etc. I cared a damn, and would insult them,” he says.

Did he share his escapades with his wife Rekha? “No. It would have created problems at home. I know getting involved with night clubs and dance bars was a mistake but I was young,” he doesn’t meet the eye.

Though Rai had long logged into the State’s crime records, he gained prominence in the underworld with his night club. A year later, the scared owner of Omar Khayyam asked him to hand back the keys of the club. “My life was spoilt by the police. What should I say? If I say the truth, I’ll get into trouble. My life is tragic. They made me a don,” he stands up.

The next moment he relives the incident that made him notorious. The 1987 lawyer Rasheed lock-up death case where DCP K Narayan was arrested on charges of murder. Reportedly, the then don M P Jairaj took advantage of the situation creating a vertical split in the police. “The police were desperate and asked me for help. I helped them,” says Rai. “How?” is an obvious question. “Jairaj died. My life was gone. Muthappa Rai became the underworld don,” he puts off the last spark on the second cigarette butt and meets the gaze.

The bloodied sheafs of crime open in his mind. He recalls the incident when the police raided Brindavan Hotel on M G Road, where Rai was “playing jackpot” with his friends.

He fled to Madras leaving behind his nine-month pregnant wife to fend for herself. From there he went to Delhi where he was arrested and later released.

“We left Bangalore and went to H D Kote to live on a 40-acre farm. However, the police raided my house and found a bomb.” From then on his story runs into police raids, his implication in the murders of the then don Oil Kumar alias Shiva Kumar alias Boot House Kumar, rowdy Kolya Uday and later, realtor Subbaraju; his fleeing the country to Dubai in 1996 where he took shelter with Sharad Shetty, Rai’s “acquaintance” and a “friend” of Dawood Ibrahim.

“I saw Dawood at Sharad’s house. Later I parted ways with Sharad. I had my own friends’ circle. Dawood’s circle was at a different level. He moved around with arms dealers and racers. I shifted my base to Muscat. Around that time two people were murdered. I was in trouble once again. Meanwhile, Sharad was also murdered. By then I had decided to give up this line and give information about the D company to the Indian Intelligence. Because of my inputs, the lives of some important people in Karnataka were saved,” he pulls out a third Davidoff and exchanges a glance with his lawyer.

Rai was held by the Dubai police in early May 2002 on charges of travelling without relevant travel documents. He was handed over to the Interpol in Dubai. He was later brought to India.

A caged life

“I wanted to come back to India and start a new life. Though I have been acquitted of all charges and there are no cases against me, it’s a caged life. There’s constant threat. I still help the Intelligence, and was recently given an award by the Narcotics Control Bureau for helping them in seizing some contraband,” he says.

He has two sons - one is a management graduate from an American University and is settled abroad, the other is a student here.

His wife Rekha is involved in various social activities. He has plans to develop the Tonnur lake in Pandavpur taluk in Mandya district into an international tourist spot. The proposal is already with the government.

Rai watches films but finds them far from reality. “They show a pistol has 10 bullets! One man hits 10 people. Jigar chahiye maarne ke liye. Hero kabhi maar nahi khata! (You need a heart to kill. The hero never gets beaten up),” he smiles with authority.

Today, he says, he hates no one. “But if someone tries to attack me, at least they will have to pay with four to five lives,” he says while answering a call. He adds, “I have applied for the renewal of my passport. I want to go to Kailash Mansarovar.”

The vermillion on his forehead is the trademark of this Shiva devotee, who asks his God to punish him for the crimes he has done but spare him the pain of those, he has not shed blood upon.

The truth is with him.


Muthappa Rai’s car collection: Bullet proof Mercedes - blast proof 500 SL, S320, E270

His best drink: Black Label, restricted to two small pegs a day

Best cigarette: Davidoff

Role models: Anna Hazare, Mother Teresa, former Lokayukta Venkatachala

Property: in Devanahalli and Bidadi

Tax assessee: Rs 81 lakh paid to Income tax.

Best quote: I have many fans who want my autograph.

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