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Friday, October 22, 2021

Behind Bengaluru stadium murder: Four killings and a gang feud over choice of funeral song

Aravind alias Lee, who was a player and coach of a local football club called the Karthick Dilip Football Club, was killed at the Bengaluru Football Stadium on September 12.

Written by Johnson T A | Bengaluru |
Updated: September 19, 2021 7:42:44 am
BengaluruAravind was hacked to death on September 12.

The killing of 27-year-old Aravind alias Lee at the Bengaluru Football Stadium on September 12 was the latest in a series of murders resulting from a gang feud between two families in east Bengaluru which began following a disagreement over the choice of a song to be played at a funeral in February 2013.

Before Aravind’s murder, four killings have been reported as a result of the ongoing feud since 2013.

On one side of the warring groups is the family and associates of a former local criminal Daniel Raj, who was killed in February 2013 in the slums of K G Halli in east Bengaluru. On the other side is a group linked to Vinod Raj, a local goon killed in November 2014 over Raj’s murder.

One of the key accused in the murder of Aravind, a player and coach of the Karthick Dilip Football Club, is Stalin Daniel, the son of Daniel Raj. Aravind himself was associated with the gang of Vinod Raj.

“The origin of this running feud is not over area domination, drugs or any other criminal activity. It started as a feud over a choice of song to be played at a funeral in 2013. These murders have occurred over petty issues,” said a police officer in the Bengaluru east division.

According to police records, Daniel, 40, a person with a criminal record, was killed during the mourning period for the death of the grandmother of Vinod’s wife on February 2, 2013. At the funeral, a drunken Daniel and an associate, Arun, reportedly created a ruckus over a song that was played. They allegedly assaulted the mother and the wife of Vinod.

On the same night, Vinod and a gang of associates, including his brother Mariya Dilip alias Bijju, allegedly attacked and killed Daniel, police and court records state. In an alleged retaliatory attack carried out by the family of Daniel, including his wife and then 19-year-old son Stalin, Vinod was murdered within the KG Halli police limits, where he lived, on November 23, 2014.

The family of Daniel and their associates were acquitted in 2015 after the main prosecution witness in the case, Mariya Dilip, the brother of Vinod, turned hostile during the trial. Police sources say it was a possible effort at striking a compromise.

In February 2019, the feud between the two gangs surfaced again when Prashant Raj alias Prashant Kumar, 30, another brother of the murdered Vinod, was killed within the Banaswadi police limits by a gang of over 20 people. The murder of Prashant was allegedly an act of revenge carried out by the killers of Vinod after he threatened to continue to seek revenge, Prashant’s wife told the police following the murder of her husband.

Incidentally, Prashant and Aravind were allegedly hired in 2017 along with a few others with criminal records by a then personal aide of the BJP leader and former CM B S Yediyurappa to kidnap a personal aide of the BJP leader K S Eshwarappa in an effort to extract a video from the phone of Eshwarappa’s aide.

In May 2020, the fourth murder in the feud between the two east Bengaluru gangs occurred when Mariya Dilip alias Bijju, 39, an accused in the Daniel Raj murder, was killed while he was playing rummy with a gang of seven to eight persons in the KG Halli police limits in Bengaluru. The case registered with cops named two sons of Daniel, Stalin and Subhash, as being among the gang that carried out the murder. The killing was allegedly carried out over fears of an impending attack by the Vinod Raj gang for the 2019 murder of Prasant.

The latest murder in the series was of Aravind alias Lee who was killed at the Bengaluru Football Stadium on September 12. Aravind had been associated with the Vinod Raj gang and his murder was reportedly an effort to prevent an attack over the 2020 Mariya Dilip murder.

Police sources said Aravind alias Lee had assaulted Stalin Daniel’s brother Subhash a few months ago and was arrested in the case. He had also allegedly assaulted other associates of Stalin. “They decided to kill him before he attacked them again,” sources said.

Although Arvind had as many as 14 cases against him and cops said he was a “goonda”, he was never accused of murder, police sources said. “Most of the cases against him were for assaults that occurred following disputes over football matches. These mostly involved causing upper body injuries to rivals during fights,” police sources said.

Incidentally, the Karthick Dilip Football Club in the soccer-crazy Pillana Garden area in east Bengaluru, which Aravind was managing and playing for, was named after gang members like Mariya Dilip who had supported the local club. In 2019, the football club emerged as the runners-up in a prestigious local “black” (unrecognized) tournament called the Independence Cup organised by the East Indian Sports Club on the grounds of the Bengaluru East Railway Station in the Cox Town area of the city.

The Independence Cup, which is called the “mini world cup’” by locals and has been held for over sixty years to coincide with Independence Day, attracts as many as 100 teams from all over south India. Local players earn as much as Rs 5,000 for every game they play in the tournament and can take home a neat sum if their teams progress to the finals in what are usually no-holds-barred games. Betting is an integral part of the tournament and stakes can run high.

In 2019, when the Karthick Dilip Football Club emerged runners-up in the Independence Cup, the tournament had opened its doors for the first time to women’s teams. On the day he was killed, Aravind had taken his team to participate in a six-a-side “black” tournament on a small ground opposite the main football stadium in Bengaluru run by the Karnataka State Football Association.

He was chased by a gang of assailants who landed up at the small football ground with knives and choppers. Aravind ran for his life into the main stadium, where a Women’s ‘A Division’ league match was set to start. He was hacked to death inside the referee’s changing room.

Police have named Stalin Daniel among the assailants in the case, and have arrested him and three others. They are looking for a few others suspected to be involved in the murder. “There may well be a local football betting angle to the crime and this has to be looked into,” police sources said.

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