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An insight into underworld Insight Into Underworld, Aamchi Mumbai

Updated: February 25, 2012 10:21 am

While underworld shooters are stalking Mumbai and Delhi, there is a lack of coordination between Maharashtra ATS and Delhi Police. This became evident when last fortnight, the Union Home Minister, having rapped the ATS, claimed that one of the arrested persons in July 13, 2011 Mumbai triple blasts, Naqee Ahmed Sheikh of Darbhanga, was in fact an informer who worked for Delhi Police and Intelligence Bureau (IB). Meanwhile, Portugal’s Supreme Court, rejecting CBI’s plea, upheld its lower court’s decision that extradition treaty with India was violated in Abu Salem’s case by slapping new charges against the underworld don that attract death penalty. This bolstered the under-world’s sagging morale. Against this backdrop, no wonder, that Salman Rushdie was barred from attending the Jaipur Lit Fest on grounds of security reasons. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said that he could have been targeted as some hired shooters from the Mumbai underworld had been trailing to slay him had he come to India. Further, the underworld, which may appear to be dormant, came to the fore when a senior journalist Jigna Vora, the eleventh an accused in the J Dey murder case, was sent behind bars owing to her acquaintance with underworld don Chhota Rajan.

In fact, it started again on May 17 last year. Mumbai’s Joint Commissioner of Police (crime) Himanshu Roy received a call late at night, saying the driver-cum-bodyguard of Iqbal Kaskar, brother of Dawood Ibrahim, had been shot dead on Pakmodia Street, a by-lane in which underworld boss Dawood spent his early years. That murder was the first indication that Mumbai’s underworld, dormant for the better part of a decade, was rearing its ugly head. Less than a month later, the murder of senior crime journalist Jyotirmoy Dey only confirmed that hypothesis. After the murder of Asif Khan, an aide of Shakeel and an alleged police informer, and the murder of Shahid Azmi, a lawyer, the Mumbai police stay more vigilant and keep a hawk’s eye on underworld activities. Top cops Rakesh Maria and Himanshu Rai are up with all possible endeavours to contain wannabes from branching out. Yet there are many who have joined the underworld. So how is the underworld thriving in Mumbai? Let’s have a peep into it.

Mumbai Underworld

This is the only money that leads to crime and Mumbai spins around it. With crime raising its ugly hood more often than not. The bigger the money the graver the crime is. Mumbai underworld has passed hands and lordship over the past couple of decades and a little plus as new gangs surfaced and new young boys, more Bhai wannabes with sophisticated English fire arms are on the city turfs wielding clout selling terror. The commercial capital of India has always been influenced by underworld dons since the early sixties when Vardhabhai and Haji Mastan dictated the terror in the sparsely populated the then Bombay. But the game of gun powder has undergone a sea change, population swelled up, area stretched, builders appeared on the surface. They time and time again hire goons to eliminate the business rivals or the crime syndicate who approach the builders for two obvious reasons, extortion or protection. Mumbai Police had to struggle a great deal to curb the menace that has taken root and crawled into its underbelly. As in many cases police nexus was found going smoothly hand in hand. It’s clear from the fact that five cops were video shot dancing with gangsters Tanasha and Sunil Poddar at a party thrown by DK Rao, a confidante of the underworld big shot Chhota Rajan. And also Mumbai police’s sharpshooters like Pradeep Sharma, Daya Nayak, Pradeep Sawant, Waghe and the like hogged the limelight for such a reason.

This battle of power is being pitched in the city by new faces who take up the arms to sell terror for easy money; a phone call gets money right to the doorstep. Big gangs split, their former aakaas (mentors) have changed their routes into other directions. The underdogs split from the gangs and have started working for the police as a mukhbir (informer), because they know certain loopholes, tactics and future plans of the gang they shot off.

In Mumbai alone, there are scores of such gangs operating right under the nose of the local police. Barring a new crop cutting their ‘professional’ teeth under some notorious giants who have already made turfs in Mumbai and begun dealing in terror to rake in the moolah. Some of them are Ashwani Naik, Ravi and Hemant Pujari and the list stands even taller with some more new entrants like Bunty Pandey and Bharat Nepali (gunned down in a police encounter)—his boys are doing the rounds. Bharat Nepali and Fareed Tanasha both worked for Rajan and later on parted ways in 2009 over some revenue. They then started their own. He targeted many realtors and land lords in Uttar Pradesh to generate funds to open recruitment and expand the reign—Ashok Bosmiya, a real estate entrepreneur from the suburbs, Mira Road was also threatened for extortion.

Underworld Makeover

Washing their dirty linen in public, now D Company has become a C Company (Commercial). It has morphed its trade line into new and ‘clean’ ventures, the khaki noose tightens and enmity among gangs gets bitter. Moreover, the Company was losing its prominent members one after another. But even except for Rajan and Gawli, Pathan gang from Pakistan also poses a threat to the gang.

The Company has its fingers in scores of businesses from drugs to financing regional films, running money-laundering networks, pilfering and selling oil and real estate. However, the underworld is not as active as it used to be in its control of trade unions and Bollywood. It has also almost entirely given up on the smuggling goods across borders, which is again not too regular with the exception of drugs and arms. The bread and butter business, other than smuggling, of the underworld in the 1980s was extortion. Gangs used to telephone businessmen, hoteliers or small industrialists and ask for money. For the first time, the Dawood gang started asking for such ‘protection money’ from film producers in the late 1980s.

“The split within the gangs and gang wars helped us control and lessen the crime magnitude in the city besides, new players lack that sheen and fall short of caliber to pose us a threat. Since the early 1990s police encounters and inter-gang shoot-outs have pulled the crime graph down. Pujari and Nepali gangs focused on real estate, give lesser room to violence unless the need cries aloud,” a police official said on the condition of anonymity.

“After Tanasha’s murder Nepali was left to fend for himself, though he was joined by Santosh Shetty another Rajan’s aide, he was not be termed as ‘organised’ like his peers and predecessors who had covert political support. You must have one big army equipped with arms marching behind you. Sophisticated fire arms and sharpshooters hired to execute the contract need a huge sum of money; these shooters get paid from Rs 20,000 to 100,000. So Nepali could not operate like this,” he added.

Another source said: As far as Ravi Pujari is concerned, again he is not a don. He went to Dubai in 1990 to work with Rajan but later on, he started his own. He threatened film director Mahesh Bhatt and Ashok Saraogi gangster Abu Salem’s counsel for some favours. He asked Sanjay (Karishma’s husband) to give Rs 50 crore, he even attempted at the renowned criminal lawyer Majeed Memon.”

Hemant Pujari’s name flashed after the murder of a hotelier Ratnakar Shetty in Khar, Mumbai. He capitalised on this killing and went on an extortion spree from realtors. Fat names in this circuit like Shakeel’s boys (gurge) Rafique, Faheem Machmach and Salim, besides, Lakkadwala, Anees and Saleem Kutta also controlled the extortion market.

Mumbai, a city that never sleeps and its day starts at night, comes to life after the sun dip. Mumbai’s mafia and gang wars are yet another feature the city has in its fold. The mafia’s battlefront has become nakedly communal. The attempt to kill former Mumbai Mayor Milind Vaidya by top mafia groups gained legitimacy of sorts on communal terms. The attacks on Vaidya, a Shiv Sena leader who played a key role in the anti-Muslim pogrom of 1992-1993, were carried out by members of a Dubai-based group led by Shakeel Ahmad Babu, better known as Chhota Shakeel. The Chhota Shakeel group says that its actions are aimed at avenging the murders of some persons accused of a role in the Mumbai serial blasts of 1993 and that behind these actions are members of the gang led by the Malaysia-based Rajendra Nikhalje, or Chhota Rajan.

Vaidya was sitting with six other people in the porch of his Mori Road residence in the Mahim area. A van pulled up outside the gate and gunmen opened fire from inside the van with assault rifles.Vilas Akre and Milind Chowdhury, who had come to visit Vaidya, died instantly. Vaidya, Deepak Akre, Nischal Chowdhury, Vinay Akre and Babu Mangale were seriously injured. Left behind were the echo of the gun shots and blood splattered walls and the PSO remained standing stunned.

It is said that a property dispute in the Mahim area triggered this attempt, following this four allegedly members of the Arun Gawli gang were arrested. The reason cited in this was a builder who faced extortion demands and Vaidya protected him. Some observers believe that Vaidya was targeted by the Chhota Shakeel gang only because of property disputes and not the findings in the Srikrishna Commission report.

 Tracking A TOUGH JOB

 In the mid-90 shoot-outs and encounters were as common as Friday movie release. In Mumbai there left nothing untouched by the underworld Mafiosi. No suburb was safe, no street was clean. By then the city’s crime was in full spate, as underworld gangs raged a battle of power against each other in an attempt to usurp land, power and a mammoth share of the booty. In view of this menace kept the city police tossing and turning all night, they formed a squad of encounter specialists to handle the job. Over a period of 7 years, the encounter specialists gunned down over 600 gangsters bringing the underworld to its knees.

Taking a quick look at the scenario at this very hour, underworld is in check if at all the underworld raises its ugly head the Mumbai police seem pro-active. “Every Crime Branch officer is trained and equipped to deal with gangsters and the present lot of officers are quite capable of handling this menace,” said Himanshu Roy, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime).

Yesteryears, those who got victimised by the extortionists would approach the police knowing well that the encounter squad was capable of neutralising such threats. The encounter specialists had the uncanny skill of tracking a gangster even if he went underground for months as many encounter specialists knew Mumbai’s underworld like the back of their hands. They would swing into action and go eliminating them. But as of now veteran sleuths and shooters have either grown old, retired or charged with cases like piling wealth more than their income proportion and new faces sans experience cannot track down promptly and crime stays under the radar so much so a large number of policemen do not even have the list of gangsters active in their areas. “The force has ‘broken the backbone’ of the Mumbai underworld ‘there has not been a single encounter killing in Mumbai in 2011, which indicates that the city is much safer, even extortion calls from gangsters and mafia leaders have come down to 10 per cent of the preceding years,” said Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik.

The activities and influence of gangster Santosh Shetty and his gang have been brought to ‘a grinding halt’ with his arrest and extradition from Bangkok last year. Even the absconding gangster Chhota Rajan’s gang suffered a major setback with the arrest of his key aides like DK Rao, Paulson Joseph, Vinod Chembur, Umed-ur-Rehman and Satish Kalya in major cases like journalist Jyotirmoy Dey’s murder, Chhote Miya and Asif Dadhi cases and the Pakmodia Street firing case. Another gangster, Ijaz Lakdawala was dealt a blow with the arrest of his shooters in the JJ Marg firing case, and several sharp-shooters of the Ravi Pujari gang have also been arrested. “There has been a 100 per cent detection of all shooting incidents related to the underworld,” said Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Himanshu Roy.


Police informers, who shared inside information are distancing themselves away from the hassle. They fear for life as there’s no security. Sometimes the police use them as PW (Public Witness) to testify against the gangster but then these witnesses either turn hostile or remain absent, nothing but the fear of getting killed by those whom they depose against in court later on. Now the operation without the crucial tip from the khabri network has become as difficult as hunting for a needle in a haystack. Straight from the horse’s mouth, the encounter specialists once synonymous with terror are lying neglected after the gangs were decimated. They were shunted to unimportant postings and many are exposed to the underworld and facing music for their links with them. In fact, so serious was the case that some senior officers have impounded the personal weapons of encounter specialists.

Panning Flashback

Chhota Rajan and Chhota Shakeel were Dawood Ibrahim’s lieutenants, both affiliated themselves to this crime enterprise led by Dawood Ibrahim. Later on Chhota Rajan split and formed his own gang against Dawood. What brought the rift between Chhota Rajan and Chhota Shakeel is said to be communalisation of Mumbai itself, after the demolition of the Babri Masjid, with the anti-Muslim riots in Mumbai (1992-93) followed by serial blasts.

Dawood was born on December 31, 1955. Initially Dawood worked with Dawood Ibrahim is the son of a former Criminal Investigation Department (CID) havaldar, Ibrahim Kaskar. Initially Dawood worked with Amirzada Pathan and his brother Alamzeb Pathan, two major figures in Mumbai’s underworld who associated themselves with the Karim Lala gang, and then he set out on his own after falling out with them. In 1981, Sabir his brother was shot dead by the Pathan brothers. Dawood Ibrahim soon got Amirzada slain. In 1984, braving hard the pressure from the Mumbai police and Karim Lala’s gang, Dawood decided to leave Mumbai, he moved to Dubai but Chhota Shakeel, who grew up in Mumbai’s Nagpada ghetto, stayed back to manage his mentor Dawood’s show. Despite his fine criminal record, Ibrahim earned a big name that sweats many cold even under the scorching sun. His name grew tall in the circuit so did his respect. Famed faces in Bollywood were among his guests in Dubai, and his circle of political contacts in Mumbai played good music legendary. Dawood started funding the film industry. These film interests were believed to have been managed by one of Dawood Ibrahim’s five surviving brothers, Noora. Smuggling, extortion, finance and land racketeering were the Co’s other major enterprises that reaped rich dividends.

A nightmare in 1987 shook Chhota Shakeel out of his sound sleep. The city’s heat was intolerable as the police turned more vigilant and the rival gangs would not let any chance slip away. The police tightened their noose and he was arrested in 1983 on a charge of kidnapping and illegal possession of weapons. He faced additional charges of other crimes, including extortion. He came out on bail but after sometime he was arrested on December 1, 1988 at Dongri in Mumbai under the National Security Act (NSA), and got bail from the Mumbai High Court on March 28, 1989. When the city started misbehaving with his presence in Mumbai he moved to Dubai soon afterwards. This did not hamper Dawood Ibrahim’s business in Mumbai. It continued to flourish, this time it was Chhota Rajan, Dawood’s trusted man who stayed too loyal all through the journey in running many ventures and executing business plans.

Chhota Rajan comes from Mumbai’s eastern suburb of Chembur. He started out with extortion rackets centred on the Sahyadri Krida Mandal, which organises the annual Ganesh festival at Tilak Nagar. Mumbai Police intelligence dossiers list several prominent property business houses as having contributed to the festival. At that time, the Ganesh festival served as a platform for mafia groups to project their social power and legitimacy.


If crime rate in Delhi is shooting high through the roof, swelling population and influx at an alarming pace on the other side are the culprits catapulting it upward. Borders hugging the periphery of Delhi also factor into the rate already climbing up. The Police Chief himself said addressing the annual press conference that the crime had gone up by 4 per cent as compared to that of the previous year. In the first place, FIRs are not registered unless there is some negotiation or if ever registered only with a lot of struggle and pressure by the local neta (political leader). Sensing apprehension, the SHO may lose his plum posting, he smartly plays with the sections under which the said crime is registered and dilutes the sections by either intimidating or persuading the victim. This is the only one of the reasons that shows the statistics in the official lingo tilting downward.

One appreciates the Police Commissioner BK Gupta taking the initiative to hold talks with the reporters covering the beat and also promising to reply the SMSs but that was meant mere lip service to get away from the sticky situation.

Annual press meet

After a wild goose chase, major cases like Shobhit and Neetu Solanki are still waiting to be shut in the police files but the police are in no mood to close them as blind. The probe of Delhi High Court blast is still in limbo. Incidents of crime registered with four per cent increase, cases of kidnapping for ransom, attempt to murder and rape recorded a sharp rise in the capital last year as compared to that recorded in 2010. The Delhi Police have attributed the increase to a prompt and fair registration of cases.

Taking the mathematical equations into account, a total of 53,353 cases under the Indian Penal Code were registered during 2011 as against 51,292 cases reported in the previous year. There was a rise of 3.93 per cent in heinous crimes, from 2,085 to 2,167 cases. “The increase is primarily due to fair registration of cases. We are not much concerned about the data part, but real emphasis is on public perception regarding their safety,” said Police Commissioner BK Gupta candidly at the annual press meet recently.

First timers on turf give hard time

Cases of kidnapping for ransom increased from 18 to 25 and 386 attempt to murder were reported last year (2011), as compared to 311 in 2010. Rape cases also recorded an increase of 12 per cent, from 507 to 568. Molestation cases also went up from 601 to 653, 95 per cent of which were solved. “We have taken measures like issuing direction to BPOs and other companies to ensure safety of women employees and creating women help-desks at police stations.” There was a sharp decline of 11.67 per cent in snatching cases, six per cent in robbery and over three per cent in murder cases last year. About six per cent increase was registered in detection rates, eight per cent in IPC crimes. The police arrested 1,770 snatchers as compared to those of 1,592 in 2010, but only 76 per cent cases could be solved. The police found that 86 per cent were first-time offenders. While 98 per cent of the rape cases were solved, the police found that people known to the victims were involved in almost 98 per cent cases. All but one case of kidnapping for ransom were solved and all the victims rescued.

On being asked as to why the MHA took the case of Delhi High Court blast away from the Delhi Police and then it was finally handed over to the National Investigation Agency, the CP said that the terror module had demanded the co-ordination of the police of other states that was rather instrumental. City Police Head preferred parrying the question of Special Cell not working as what it’s known for except for the fact of nabbing petty scrap dealers, drug peddlers and burglars, and it feels proud to pat itself on the back.

However, Mr Gupta appeared content with decline in vehicle thefts, from 14,966 to 14,668. In all, 20 per cent of the vehicles were recovered as against 13 per cent in 2010.The police arrested 3,988 auto-lifters compared to those of 3,258 recorded in the previous year. There was 56 per cent increase in recovery of vehicles. He expressed satisfaction over the safety of senior citizens and 4,431 new elderly persons had been registered last year, taking the number to 12,788.

Police achievement in 2011

Seven thousand more criminals were arrested last year. There was a significant jump of 172 per cent, from 1,597 to 4,347, in the arrest of POs (Proclaimed Offenders). Desperate criminals were targeted, 510 absent BCs (Bad Characters) were traced as against 128 and externment proceedings initiated against 1,035 as against 300 in 2010. New history sheets were opened in 623 cases compared to 68 the previous year. The police arrested 38 criminals under the MCOCA (Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act) and initiated 13 new proposals under the law. Stating that drug abuse was also linked to incidents of crime, Mr. Gupta said that the police had carried out more arrests and seizures. About five times more cases under the NDPS Act (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) were registered.

“Delhi has never seen any organised crime. There may have been UP-based gangsters operating with their men in Delhi but Special Cell and Crime Branch of Delhi Police have put them behind bars and to some extent liquidated them. Crime detection poses a challenge when a criminal coming from the neighbouring states commits a crime and flees hopping across the border and goes into hiding but then he is tracked down after some time. Other units of Delhi Police are braced up to foil any attempt of the sort. Undeworld has never taken root nor has it gained a foothold in Delhi,” said Amulya Patnaik, Jt. CP Southern Range, Delhi.

“In this year Delhi Crime Branch has not caught anyone having links or otherwise working for the Mumbai underworld. As you say they may have been operating in Delhi outsourcing their modules still sitting in Mumbai or a Gulf country or elsewhere, well I do not understand that anyone can do that in Delhi. Our human intelligence and electronic surveillance are more than active. We are well equipped to handle such a situation. As of now, we time and time again keep tabs on interstate activity of this nature. In Delhi there is nothing like underworld, there were other groups which have been neutralised. In the past ten months Crime Branch has had good catches on its records,” said Ashok Chand, DCP, Crime Branch.                                                      (SWA)


Dawood-rajan split

Chhota Rajan broke off with his partners after the Mumbai serial blasts, which were believed to have been organised by Dawood Ibrahim’s gang under pressure from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The mafia’s economic interests had been apparently under pressure for at least a year before the blasts. Intelligence estimates suggest that until 1991, smugglers brought around 198 tonnes of gold into India each year.

The ISI’s overtures to Dawood Ibrahim to secure his help in terrorist activity in India were believed to have been made through Pakistani smugglers Yusuf Godrawala and Taufiq Jallianwala though Dawood resisted but had to give in to the pressure. After the1992-93 episode his position is believed to have become vulnerable. Members of his gang, including his brother Anees and Mumbai builder Abdul Razzak ‘Tiger’ Memon, were believed to have demanded retaliation. In the second week of January 1993, at a late night meeting in Dubai, Dawood Ibrahim finally endorsed the serial blasts idea. Within a fortnight, explosives landed on the west coast, marking the beginning of the preparation for the worst act of terrorism in India.

In 1994, Chhota Rajan flew to Dubai after the serial blasts, left for Kuala Lumpur, took with him a large chunk of Dawood Ibrahim’s Hindu aides, including Jaspal Singh, Vijay Khufia, Sadhu Shetty, and Mohan Kotiyan. Chhota Rajan claimed that he had split with his mentor because of the serial blasts in Mumbai. Chhota Rajan’s departure sparked one of the bloodiest scenes on Mumbai turfs that writes the macabre history.

The fire began to rage after Dawood Ibrahim’s sharpshooter Salim Haddi and Raju shot Omprakash Kukreja, a builder, in September 1995. Chhota Rajan retaliated by eliminating Taquiddin Waheed, head of the East-West Airlines, in November 1995. This battle pitched between two of the gangs claimed 52 lives in 1996.

Chhota Rajan also targeted Dawood Ibrahim’s ISI links. He appeared to have entered into what might be described as a strategic partnership with Uttar Pradesh mafia leader Om Prakash aka ‘Babloo’ Shrivastav in Allahabad’s Naini Jail then shifted to Bareilly jail after his extradition from Singapore. People targeted by Chhota Rajan on Shrivastav’s behalf include Romesh Sharma, Dawood Ibrahim’s alleged point man in Delhi. Romesh Sharma is believed to have conspired with Dawood Ibrahim’s aide Abu Salem Ansari to have Shrivastav killed right inside the Naini Jail.

Anees Ibrahim, Don’s brother who is described as an aggressive and temperamental person, sparked new feuds. Anees Ibrahim is believed to have ordered the 1998 killing of Firoz Sadguru ‘Konkani’, Dawood Ibrahim’s confidant in Mumbai, and Irfan Goga. Goga, who split from the Dawood Ibrahim group along with Pakistani smuggler Shoaib Khan, Ijaz Pathan and Ali Budesh, is believed to have entered into an alliance with Shrivastav. His disappearance led the Dubai police to arrest Anees Ibrahim in November 1998. He was, however, released because no concrete evidence that Goga had indeed been killed, was found.

The battle has essentially narrowed between Rajan and Shakil with others supporting one of them. Ashwin Naik supports Shakil from London. Rajan has support from Gawli.

Chhota Rajan used to work with Dawood before the 1993 blasts in Mumbai. However, after the blasts Rajan blamed Dawood for being anti-Hindu and anti-national and vowed to kill all 180 considered guilty. Rajan formed his own gang.


In 2000, Dawood tracked down Rajan in Bangkok. Shakil led the hit. In a typical Bollywood style, Shakil’s men posed as pizza delivery men. Rajan made a daring escape by running away over the top of Bangkok rooftops. He was shot, but recovered and evaded arrest by the authorities.

Evolution Of Underworld In Mumbai

The first of mafia elements, or syndicates, perhaps had their origins in the gambling and bootleg liquor dens set up by a Pathan Ayub Khan Pathan alias Ayub Lala. He was the founder president of Pakhtun Jirga-e-Hind, an association of around 13000 Afghani nationals settled in Mumbai. Although Ayub Lala was labelled a mafia don, he had not even slapped a single person during his life time, to show off his muscle power. He controlled the gambling clubs mostly owned by Marwari, Muslim and Gujarati operators and drug cartel including spurious liquor dens in Mumbai. Ayub Lala, also owned a few Kawakhanas (a drink made from opium served with black tea) and Chandolkhanas (somewhat like hukkah parlours). He left Mumbai after the murder of his own step son Kashmiri Lala, handing over the reins of all his activities to Karim Lala who was earlier a vendor selling liquor at a den at Dongri in south Mumbai in the 1940s.

 “NO LACUNA IN POLICE MACHINERY”—Amulya Patnaik, Joint Commissioner of Police, Southern Range, Delhi

How do you draw a line differentiating between policing Delhi and other states?

Working with Delhi Police is not only a matter of pride for me and for everyone but at the same time it has a series of challenges. Here, the media is more active and keeps a hawk’s eye on everything you do. In other states, a case with small magnitude fails to even fan a spark but in Delhi it catches a big fire.

In Delhi, as it’s seen at times that the neighboring states, UP and Haryana pose a threat in the sense that a criminal enters Delhi, commits a crime and goes back hopping across the border line in a very short span of time. That becomes a little tough but then we do not let him go too far.

Here, do you feel any pressure from the MHA like the ruling party influencing in a state?

I do not feel any pressure from above; you ought to be honest to your work and more importantly to yourself. You must give your 100 per cent to the work assigned to you and that too with commitment and conviction so as to bring the desired results.

How hard is it to nail the culprit and what are the problems coming down the way particularly when a criminal from Haryana or Uttar Pradesh comes and commits a crime and absconds across the border and goes into hiding to evade arrest?

Absolutely, the offender scampers off into the other side of the city even before the message flashes around properly. But then we remain connected with the police of other states and the relevant updates from them on a daily basis which help us get to the culprit.

Does the coordination with the police of other states come down the way you want or they under some political influence dillydally the proceedings?

I appreciate the way they apprise us of the latest development whatsoever with the status of the criminal. We remain coordinated with them and exchange information that helps each other nail the wrong-doers.

Sometimes hardened and desperate criminals use the city of Delhi as their hideouts, sometimes under the guise of a student or a call centre wallah. How do you comb them out?

Within my range, I’ve given strict instructions to all the district heads to prioritise tenant verification. Combing operation we carry out time and time again to pluck the weeds out, tip-offs help us track down such elements.

Where comes the lacuna in the police machinery as crime graph has been creeping up year on year?

People’s expectations are too high; just one case tarnishes the whole image if not worked out which I think is wrong. As you are talking about the lacuna and chinks, I do not see any but then inadequate manpower may be the reason that has a tough time tackling the odds. Population is also increasing rapidly, police force per lakh population is rather less. Otherwise there’s no lacuna and there’s no laxity or lackadaisical approach either.

Why have the cases like Shobhit and Neetu Solanki not yet been worked out? Do the police dub them blind?

See, we are going to shut neither of the two. Everything takes time and we are not too far away from cornering the killers as we are getting leads. We are developing them to reach the murderer(s).

Do you see any organised crime syndicate in Delhi?

As regards an organised crime, it has never surfaced in Delhi at least. Besides, our Special Cell and Crime Branch are well equipped to handle if at all something like this ever springs up.

Delhi Police’s Special Cell, which was synonymous with terror amidst terrorists and dreaded gangsters, now appears to be a once upon a time story. After the Batla House episode, police encounters have come to a screeching halt. Is it the reason for the Cell’s pride falling from grace?

I say it again that there’s nothing like this. The Cell has been giving its best as you see the previous records. It is the only Cell that neutralised many gangs rearing their ugly hoods and nailed many interstate criminals who carried a heavy bounty on their heads. It has caught a number of terrorists belonging to different terror outfits like Jaish, HM (Hizbul Mujahideen), LeT (Lashkar-e-Toiba) and IM (Indian Mujahideen).                                                                                                                                                            (SWA)

Varadarajan Mudaliar who rose to be a mafia don in Mumbai was most active in the 1970s with Karim Lala and Haji Mastan. He enjoyed celebrity status and there are accounts that he even helped the needy and organised religious festivals. He was considered to be India’s first celebrity criminal. There was also a don named Rama Naik who hailed from Byculla a close associate of Bada Rajan and mentor of Arun Gawli. He reigned from 1970 to 1987 when he was encountered at the behest of Dawood.

In 1986, as his operations increasingly came under police scrutiny, Dawood shifted base to Dubai from where he continued to remote control the operations in Mumbai, through his lieutenants. Some of these lieutenants increasingly became powerful and would eventually form their own gangs. The first seeds of Mumbai’s gang wars were sown. Dawood also got into the drugs business in the 1990s, which continued to be lucrative. After the Babri Masjid demolition in December 1992 and the serial blasts in Mumbai in 1993, the underworld went through a schism as the gangs fractured along communal lines. Dawood and his trusted lieutenant Chhota Rajan fell apart and the latter moved to Malaysia. It led to bloody business war as both dons tried to extort money from businessmen. The film industry was caught in-between. Gulshan Kumar, founder of T-series, and Wahid Takkiuddin of East West Airlines were gunned down. Manisha Koirala’s secretary Ajit Dewani was shot dead. It was then that the Mumbai police started gunning down gangsters in ‘encounters’. And that, former cops say, resulted in a drastic reduction in crime in the city.

Underworld Beyond Mumbai

The underworld has moved beyond Mumbai. Today, it also extorts protection money from real estate developers in other cities across India like Pune and Hyderabad. Through the 1960s and 1970s, gangsters like Haji Mastan and Varadarajan Mudaliar held a strong grip on the smuggling business. They imported electronic goods, clothes, liquor and gold biscuits through the docks of Mumbai. By the 1980s, as some of these dons retired or died, the stage was set for Dawood, the son of a police constable, who is credited with ‘corporatising’ the underworld. D Company, as the criminal empire of Dawood was referred to, created the gangster-policeman nexus in Mumbai.

 Counter Encounter

Police encounters have almost coagulated against the backdrop of national-media—hyped Delhi’s L-18 Batla House encounter, Soharbuddin and Ishrat Jahan in Ahemdabad, Gujarat. These caused many fingers to go up in an accusing manner and many eyebrows climbed up a mile to sniff something fishy about these encounters. Despite all this, encounter specialists are hailed as heroes. This term elbowed into the dictionary in around 1982, when JF Ribeiro was Mumbai’s the then Police Commissioner. Men in khaki like Pradeep Sharma, a veteran encounter specialist with 113 encounters, Vijay Salasker (50) (killed in 26/11 Mumbai terror strike), Praful Bhosale (87) and Daya Nayak (90) gained iconic stature for cleaning up Mumbai’s thriving underworld. Criminals feared them; the media lionised them and filmmakers made movies based on their lives like Aab tak chhappan, Satya, Once upon a time in Mumbai and the like.

Many journalists who cover this beat say they are ferocious and foul-mouthed with criminals. They may befriend some criminals, but have no qualms about disposing them of as well. As per the sources, one of the best known encounter specialists carried a 38-calibre quick-action revolver always loaded and an AK-47 in a bag drove in his jeep with tinted glass windows, when he made his rounds for the day. Traffic rules are not meant for him, entry in no-entry zones, jump traffic signals and wrong side drive got nothing to with the likes of them. When he came after gunning someone down he would often come home around 2-3 in the morning with blood-stains on his clothes, which he would soak in a bucket of water before taking a bath and then retire for the night. It’s said that encounters were an addiction for him. Looking at the record between 1992 and 2010 more than 700 ‘criminals’ were killed in Mumbai alone.

Talking about how these encounter specialists execute the plan, they keep mental notes of at least a dozen files of hardened criminals, hunt for them on their hideouts after a tip-off and then they go for the kill. Most of them get killed with a trace of panic and shock on the face; they shoot the criminals at point-blank range.

Significantly, no encounter specialist till date has been nailed by departmental superiors. Former IPS officer- turned-activist Y P Singh points out, “If any specialist has been nailed, it’s only because of court intervention.

“Daya Nayak, Sachin Vaze and Pradeep Sharma were nailed by the courts. Nayak was under suspension and remained at home in Kandivali, many know the way out as they use their contacts and clout to settle disputes.”

 By Syed Wazid Ali

(With inputs from Zahid Ali in Mumbai)







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