Mention of mob bosses leads to political spitfire in Maharashtra

Mere mention of ganglords rakes up a political storm in politically volatile Maharashtra

Eversince its inception the Maha Vikas Aghadi has been hanging on a very delicate thread that could collapse any day, with a multitude of controversies that have roiled the political combine including the Shiv Sena. The Sena has kicked up a storm after Sanjay Raut’s remarks where he has hinted at  close connections between the Mumbai underworld of the 1980s and former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The Sena, NCP and Congress have allied as the Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition to govern Maharashtra.

In his comment the firebrand Sena leader has been quoted saying that “When (underworld don) Haji Mastan came to Mantralaya, the entire secretariat would come down to see him. Indira Gandhi used to meet Karim Lala in Pydhonie (in south Mumbai),” Raut was reportedly speaking at a function organized under the aegis of Lokmat media.

While Raut has backtracked and taken back his words, Congressman Sanjay Nirupam has expressed strong  objection to the wordage. Congress leaders Milind Deora and Abhishek Manu Singhvi slammed Raut for his “deplorable comments” asking him to “withdraw his ill-informed statement” against Indira Gandhi as per a media report.

 The comments throw open a pandora’s box attempting to expose the political and mafia nexus. As leader of opposition in Maharashtra assembly Devendra Fadnavis has demanded answers from top Congress leaders with special mention of the Gandhis. Repeated media reports have shed light on how several state-level politicians have established ties with Dagdi Chawl, Chhota Rajan and especially Dawood gang.

A native of Kunar province in Afghanistan, Karim Khan was born in 1911. Karim Lala aka Abdul Karim Sher Khan had entered Mumbai in 1930. Gaining notoreity he became a household name as a don of underworld from 1960s to 1980s. Rising the power ladder, he also connected with the likes of Mastan Mirza, known as Haji Mastan an underworld don originally from Tamil Nadu based in Bombay. Mastan and Lala came to typify the growing clout of the Mafiosi dominating every sector from crime to politics.

Karim Lala’s family settled in South Mumbai’s Bhendi Bazaar. He rose the ranks from just being an ordinary worker in Mumbai docks, only to join the gang of ethnic Pathans later. They worked for Marwari and Gujarati moneylenders, landlords and businessmen. Learning the ropes he became the chief of the “Pathan Gang”. With failing health by the late seventies, Lala transferred powers to his nephew Samad Khan taking over the hotel and transport business.

Bollywood saw a lot of characters that got inspiration from the mobster. He died on 19 February 2002 at the age of 90. Karim Lala was the first mafia don of the underworld. He became a part of the underbelly opening a gambling den in South Bombay. Demand in business prompted him to turn moneylender giving him a distinction of Lala.

Over the 1950s and 60s, Lala expanded business to extortion, liquor dens, forced eviction, smuggling gold among other illegal activities. As the clout of gangsters like Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Rajan rose, Lala faded into oblivion in the latter half of the 1980s.

Adding more spice to the controversy, adopted son of don Haji Mastan said the Shiv Sena leader was right. Sundar Shekhar said Indira Gandhi met Karim Lala and so did many other leaders. Sundar Shekhar said Sena supremo Balasaheb Thackeray was a good friend of his father, Haji Mastan.

Earlier, Karim Lala’s grandson was quoted saying Indira Gandhi met the don and there are pictures that are testimony of this fact. Haji Mastan better known as Mastan Mirza,  was born in a Muslim family in Panaikulam of modern-day Tamil Nadu  in 1926. Having migrated to Bombay at eight, the mobster ruled the underworld from the 1960s to the 1980s.

Reportedly among two Tamilian migrants he became a dreaded figure in Maximum city. Mastan gained notoriety but he was hugely popular as the Robinhood of the slums of Dharavi. Mastan commanded an iron grip on  activities like extortion, bootlegging and black marketing of movie tickets.

Known to be an ardent fan of Madhubala, Mastan married a lesser-known actress Sona, which many accounts say was due to her resemblance with Madhubala. Mastan a lover of all things white, he drove around in a Mercedes wearing smartly decked up white clothes. Ajay Devgan-starrer Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai of 2010 is said to be inspired by the mobster.

He floated his own political party All India Dalit Muslim Suraksha Mahasangh, whose main agenda was that of Dalit-Muslim unity. It is learnt, Don Dawood Ibrahim first came in touch with Mastan after a tiff with the Haji Mastan gang.  Mastan died at Mumbai’s Breach Candy Hospital due to cardiac arrest. He was 68 at the time of his death.

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