Shivajinagar police on Tuesday arrested four associates of rowdy Ameer Khan Alias Pappu who allegedly set fire to a cargo vehicle transporting fish.
Police said the main accused, Hasan, a habitual offender from D.J. Halli, has confessed to the arson saying he did it to return Pappu’s favour of helping him come out of prison on bail.
Both Pappu and Hasan were in Parappana Agrahara jail till a few months ago. He apparently told the police Pappu asked him to commit the crime to avenge the humiliation he had suffered at the hands of a fish vendor at Russell Market.
Pappu, son of the late career criminal Koli Fayaz, runs a chicken stall at the market and had had a fight with a fish vendor in a neighbouring shop.
As per his instruction, Hasan accompanied Shahrukh, Asif and Saleem Shoib, doused the lorry with five litres of petrol early last Friday and set it on fire.
However, while they were fleeing, some vendors noticed the gang and called the police who have now arrested all the gang members except Pappu, Assistant Commissioner of Police Shivamurthy told The Hindu.
While the police claim that personal rivalry between Pappu and his market neighbour led to the arson, fish vendors allege that the real reason was denial of ‘hafta’.
The vendors said Pappu, besides being the son of a slain gangster, is also the nephew of local councillor Shakeel Ahmed and tries to exercise control over the market by intimidating vendors and shopkeepers and demanding protection money.
A day before the arson, he had heated arguments with the vendors after they refused to pay him ‘hafta’, a vendor said. When the situation went out of control, the vendors informed the beat police, who intervened.
Pappu left the scene in a huff warning the vendors with dire consequences only to return in a few hours with the gang that set fire to the cargo vehicle, the vendors alleged.
Considering this is the second fire in Russell Market since February, Assistant Commissioner of Police (Pulakeshinagar Sub-division) Shivamurthy said the police have suggested installing CCTV cameras and better lighting in and around the marketplace.