After repeated extortion attempts by Karnataka Rakshana Vedike (KRV) members from their stores, Bengaluru-headquartered printing solutions company Printo filed a complaint against the organisation on Tuesday. The complaint was filed at the Commercial Street police station after eight KRV activists allegedly threatened to ransack the company’s Infantry Road outlet. However, an FIR itself was not filed. Printo has 14 centres in Bengaluru. KRV is a pro-kannada organisation with branches all over Karnataka.
The activists allegedly asked Andrew Abishek, Store Manager at the outlet on Wednesday night, to print 200 photos of the organisation’s former protests and another 200 copies of a four-page brochure, for free. The materials were supposed to be used for a KRV event on November 28-29.
"Three men came into the shop at around 8.30 pm when I was about to close the store and leave. They gave me the materials and said that if they were not printed by 10.30 am the following morning for free, they would ransack the building. I was alone and could see another five men standing outside," says Andrew Abishek.
But on Thursday morning, Sadashiva Reddy, Project Manager at Printo, gave a written complaint to the Commercial Street police station. The police admitted that KRV’s activists were creating nuisance in parts of the city. Sub-Inspector Chandan Gopal says that the public refrain from reporting such cases fearing backlash. "Usually the complainants back off soon. KRV is a diversified organisation, so it is difficult to take action against them, but with smaller cases like these we are taking action against its wings in many parts of the city," he says. Gopal however adds that specific cases of action taken were not available with him for inspection.
This is the fourth time KRV is demanding favours from Printo, says Reddy. The outfit initially created trouble for the company’s Koramangala outlet early this year, saying that it was not printing any materials in Kannada. "They gave us a five-page Kannada document saying it should be typed and printed. When we said that we do only printing jobs not typing, they would not understand and threatened to damage the store," says Reddy.
KRV backed off temporarily after Reddy filed a police complaint, but they started asking money after a few months. "First, they demanded Rs 10,000, but we settled for a smaller amount. For their bike rally in September, they demanded that we buy 200 flags; we gave them Rs 3500. We are an upcoming company, we cannot keep on giving money frequently," says Reddy.
After the complaint was filed on Thursday (November 25th), the police say they called one of KRV’s leaders about the issue. An activist, who at the same time was in the shop to collect the prints, backed off after he came to know about the complaint. "He was very agitated. He collected all the materials they had given us earlier and threatened to come back in another 15 minutes," says Andrew Abishek.
However, no one turned up for the rest of the day. "Printo is not going to press for an FIR since police was responsive and the situation did not escalate", said Lalana Zaveri, founder of Printo, to Citizen Matters.
Andrew Abishek says that the Vedike extorts money from other shops in Infantry road as well. Though none of the shopkeepers were ready to admit the issue openly, some employees in these shops confirmed the case. A marketing person for some shops in the area says on condition of anonymity, that around 70 shops in the lane are forced to pay money.
"There are many members in KRV’s ‘gang’; each person visits a particular shop regularly. The amounts they ask depend on their immediate need. They do this in many parts of the city, but those who pay are hardly going to speak about it," he says. A security guard in a cloth shop says on condition that he not be named, "In our shop they do not come so often these days as sales are lesser. But with reasonably well-to-do shops they ask for money in the tunes of thousands."
Citizen Matters could not reach KRV’s office at Gandhinagar over the telephone for comments at the time this article was published. ⊕