The Godfather of Bangalore

A look into a real estate market controlled more by the mafia than brokers.
  1. It's a little past midnight, and a lonely parcel of farmland not far from the new international airport in Bangalore, India, is soaking up a gentle rain. At the center of the lot is a house surrounded by a low stone wall. There's a hole in the roof and a bushel of ginger drying under an awning. Large block letters painted on the wall read: this property belongs to chhabria janwani. Inside, eight men—two armed with shotguns—confer in hushed voices as they peer out the windows. Is it safe for them to go to sleep, or should they stand watch another few hours? A guard wearing a dirty work shirt is the first to notice signs of trouble. In the distance, flashlight beams sweep the roadway. The lights advance, accompanied by a chorus of voices. Then the sound of people scrambling over the wall. One of the guards makes a break for the gate, sprinting toward a police station a mile away. Before the others can do much more than scramble to their feet, 20 attackers brandishing swords and knives emerge from the shadows. Some carry buckets of blue paint. It takes them only a minute to overrun the building. Three guards who stood their ground lie bleeding on the floor. The others surrender.

    Firmly in control, the marauders shift gears. They pull out rollers and slather paint over Chhabria Janwani's claim to the land. By the time a police jeep pulls up, the sign is only a memory. The attackers have achieved their goal. Thanks to the convoluted rules surrounding land ownership, the removal o...

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