How the Gali Reddy brothers ruled Bellary with iron hand
According to detractors, the Gali Reddy brothers, who mined iron ore illegally in Bellary, were a law unto themselves before their luck ran out
By Paranjoy Guha Thakurta
What former Karnataka Lokayukta, Justice Santosh Hegde's final report on illegal mining has meticulously documented is how the Gali Reddy brothers have used their power and pelf to run the administration and subvert the rule of law.
When they ruled the roost in iron ore rich Bellary district, honest officers have been transferred and any person who dared criticise them has been sought to be ruthlessly suppressed. Despite charges of physical violence and a number of non-bailable criminal cases pending against them, the Gali Reddy brothers and their associates have operated with impunity.
One of the brothers, Janardhana Reddy, a former minister in the BS Yeddyurappa government, was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation on Monday along with his brother-in-law B V Sreenivas Reddy. (Read how their luck ran out)
Among those who dared to defy their writ and were consequently brutalised were a former employee turned whistle-blower V Anjaneya and rival mine-owner Tapal Ganesh.
A former deputy general manager with Obalapuram Mining Company (OMC) controlled by the Reddy brothers, Anjaneya, who had overseen the destruction of state boundary markers between Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, allegedly at the insistence of his superiors in the company, became a whistle-blower and divulged crucial information to the CBI.
Anjaneya's makeshift office in the mines of Bellary was destroyed by goons in anticipation of a CBI raid. The Reddy brothers hounded Anjaneya, who, together with his family members, went into hiding in Bangalore. He claimed he had attempted suicide because of the torture that had been inflicted on him by certain officers and employees of OMC.
Anjaneya lodged a complaint on 30 December 2009 with the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) of Karnataka against the management of OMC and against the police in Bellary. The SHRC recorded Anjaneya's statement on oath on the last day of December at a hospital in Bangalore.
The SHRC passed an order the following day holding police officers in Bellary and particular employees of OMC guilty of having committed serious and heinous violations of the human rights of the complainant and his family members. The Commission passed its order on the state government so that the investigation of all criminal cases and counter-criminal cases arising out of the episode were transferred from the Cowl Bazar police station in Bellary to the state government's corps of detectives (COD).
The SHRC also directed that the Superintendent of Police, Bellary, be transferred and that adequate security be provided to the complainant and his family members while the cases being investigated. The state government, however, did not act.
On 29 March 2010, Tapal Ganesh of TNR Mining Company, a rival of OMC, was beaten up by goons in Bellary when he was trying to assist a team from the Union government's Survey of India to help determine the extent of encroachment upon reserved forest areas by OMC and to verify allegations that the boundaries between the states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh had been deliberately destroyed.
Ganesh alleges that the goons attacked him at the instance of Janardhana Reddy. Ganesh is a petitioner against the Reddys in both the High Courts of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh as well as the Supreme Court. He was given police protection only after the personal intervention of HD Deve Gowda, Janata Dal (Secular) head and former Prime Minister, after Ganesh desperately called up Deve Gowda seeking his help.
In June 2009, the Gali Reddy brothers spent over Rs 40 crore on gifting a diamond-studded crown to the Tirupati temple. But they were also instrumental in destroying another temple because it came in the way of their illegal mining actitivies.
It has been contended that individuals close to Janardhana Reddy were responsible for the destruction of the 200-year-old Sugalamma Devi temple located in the mining lease area of OMC - while mines were being exploded. In September 2006, a case against the Reddy brothers was dropped despite objections from the police and the law department in the state.
How did the Reddy brothers from Bellary, the sons of a police constable, become so wealthy and politically powerful? Did ordinary people benefit from their activities? How did they successfully subvert the system of administration or governance and even the judiciary? Is the power of money so pervasive? How did the loot from Bellary and Ananthapur covertly fund two of the largest political parties in India?
Will the allegations against the Gali Reddy brothers against them be proved in a court of law? Will they be punished for their alleged misdemeanours?
The truth about their activities is slowly but surely coming out. The wheel has turned full circle for Gali Janardhana Reddy. Few believe his claim that he is as "pure as 24-carat gold", as pure as the gold seized from his home by the CBI last Monday.
(The writer is an independent educator and journalist based in Delhi whose work cuts across different media - print, radio, television, documentary cinema and the Internet. He recently produced and directed "Blood & Iron", a documentary film series on iron ore mining in Bellary and the convergence of crime, business and politics in southern India.)
A CBI special court on Friday permitted the investigation agency to interrogate former Karnataka minister and mining baron Gali Janardhana Reddy and five other accused in the case of multi-crore iron ore exports scam from Belekeri port on the state's west coast.
This week, Reddy has taken over the 50-acre Palace Grounds in Bengaluru. That is where the Vijayanagara empire will be recreated, complete with the Vijaya Vithala temple architecture of Hampi. It promises to be an out-of-this-world experience, to which only the 50,000 VIP invitees will get access.
Karnataka BJP president BS Yeddyurappa made an appearance at the wedding venue of Gali Janardhana Reddy's daughter. Does it mean that the BJP is looking to once again repair its relationship with the expelled Reddy?